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July 1, 1991   Articles No Comments

The other half of Hollywood’s hippest couple, Johnny Depp is better known here as Winona Ryder’s boyfriend. Now with Edward Scissorhands, their first film together, he also shows he can act: but its not a pretty sight…

“My lips are so fucked.” Johnny Depp groans and reaches for some vitamin E cream. He’s right. His pretty-boy pout is in trouble. Dry and cracked, burnt red raw in places. The result of another day’s work in the boiling hot 100-degree entre of nowheresville, Arizona. Depp’s here to shoot The Arrowtooth Waltz, a magically off-beat coming-of-age comedy which also stars Jerry Lewis and Faye Dunaway, and the first American film by Yugoslav director Emir Kusturica of Time Of The Gypsies fame. The last outpost of civilsation – a one-laundromat, two-street town called Patagonia – is an hour’s drive away. Along with his blasted lips, it’s another indication of just how far Johnny Depp will got leave behind the heart-throb image given to him by the US TV cop show 21 Jump Street.

In last year’s Cry Baby, he let John Waters have his wicked way with him. In Tim Burton’s upcomingEdward Scissorhands, he wears a Robert Smith wig and hides his face behind white paint and scars. Yesterday, he was stuck in the hottest spot in a very hot place, on top of a ranchhouse in the middle of a sun-smoked stretch of prairie, doing reaction shots as a microlight biplane looped and swerved a few feet over his head. Today, he’s been repeatedly pushed at a barn door while perched on top of a bicycle with wings. There are several more weeks of surreal routines and slow dehydration to come. “Since I’ve been to Arizona, I’ve had dry lips, dry hands. Everything’s so dry. The cowboys must have been masses of flaking, chafing skin.”

It’s probably worth the pain – the film, in which Depp plays an innocent on the run from the “real world” of his uncle’s Cadillac dealership – sounds great. Anyway, he wears his battle scars pertty well. Pre-pubescent fans might disagree, but he looks even better dried up. And though the sun may have cracked his lips, it’s thankfully left his mind, or rather his temper, alone.

There have been reports that Depp has been “difficult” in the past, but there’s no sign of that today. Cooling off in his trailer, crunching a rock-hard Snickers bar straight from the freezer in between frequent cigarettes, he’s charm itself, apologising for delays and introducing me first to his pet pig, then to Faye Dunaway. (The pig ignored me; Faye Dunaway shook my hand, offered me a sweet she’d just made, and asked me earnestly what was happening in London.)

Relaxed and thoughtful, down to earth, and possessed of a sense of humour that, like everything else, is dry, he chats affably about favorite books (the Beats, Salinger, Hunter S. Thompson, John Fante’s appropriately-named Ask The Dust), his favorite actors (Richard E Grant – rates highly), even his one go in a flotation tank (“I fell asleep, then I woke up, couldn’t find the door and panicked”). But the main topic of conversation is Edward Scissorhands, out here at the end of the month. In his second starring role, Depp plays the eponymous Edward, a leather-clad boy robot whose inventor/father (Vincent Price) dies before finishing him off, leaving him with bristling sets of scissors where his hands should be.

Rescued from his gothic castle home by Avon Lady Peg Boggs (Dianne Wiest), Edward is transported to an abnormally normal archetypal TV suburbia of pastel-tinted exteriors and trimmed lawns, trash interiors and polyester daywear. There he cuts something of a figure, first as a hedge trimmer with big ideas, then as a high rise hairdresser. Treated as an exotic real-life toy boy, passed around like a new consumer fad, patronised with feel-good banality (“Son, you’re not handicapped – you’re gifted”), Edward is desperate to fit in and win the heart of blonde cheerleader Kim Boggs (Winona Ryder in a very unconvincing blnde wig). But in true, doomy fairy-tale style, the course of true love never runs smoothly.

GIVEN THAT IT’S made by Tim Burton of Batman fame, Edward‘s cartoon visual excess, trashy surreal surfaces and balance of naive charm with dark intelligence should all come as no surprise. What does is how good Depp is. The talent for physical comedy that emerged in cry Baby’s campy routines is brought out in some well-judged slapstick, and is balanced by a calculated restraint and an affecting simplicity. Depp says that as soon as he read the script, he had to play the part. “I connected with it really well. I sort of already knew the character and what he represented. Edward seemed more a feeling than a person. The metaphor of the scissors is about wanting to touch, but if you touch, you destroy. Nothing you do seems right. It’s the feeling you get when you’re growing up, very adolescent. I felt that way. I think everyone did.”

Did he really base his portrayal of Edward on a dog? “Kind of. It’s like, if a dog is trying to please the master. It breaks something, you scold it, and it goes to the corner. But as soon as you call it, it comes right back. It forgets everything. There’s this unconditional love. I thought Edward would be like that.”

So did he go method and hang around kennels? “No, but I did look at babies, to get the way Edward gazes at things.” He also watched old Chaplin films to get Edward’s “handicapped” clockwork waddle, something accentuated by the restrictive leather body-suit he wore.

Pre-shoot practice with the scissors – which were actually plastic – helped him turn them into expressive instruments and avoid too many on-set accidents, although Anthony Michael Hall (the bad-guy jock and Edward’s competitor for Kim’s affections) did get spiked twice. Depp apparently became adept enough with the clippers to hold his gags between takes. As to what else he managed to drip without a slip … is he getting tired of all the cracks about how Edward goes to the bathroom? He grins. “That was the first thing I asked. No one could say. I decided he would sweat it out.” Not having that particular option, despite a shoot in Florida that was almost as hot as Arizona, Depp decided to cut down on his water consumption during filming.

He wasn’t the studio’s first choice for Edward. Tom Cruise was interested, but pulled out, allegedly worried by the character’s lack of masculinity. “I heard that,” Depp smiles and shakes his head. “What’s Edward going to do – pull out an Uzi? I doubt Tom Cruise really thought that.” Certainly, it wouldn’t fit with the filming which, as in most of Tim Burton’s movies, “real men” are grotesque, destructive or plain useless, like Bill Boggs, the suburban dad as human black hole, superbly played in the film by Alan Arkin. There were also suggestions that Cruise wanted Edward to be transformed at the end into a handsome young blade. “That would have been a different movie. Let’s just say I’m real glad they didn’t pick Tom Cruise.”

One person who’d agree is Depp’s fiancee Winona Ryder who became available to shoot Edward after falling ill on the set of Godfather III. It is the first film they’ve starred in together. What was it like playing opposite his wife-to-be? “I was nervous. It’s like another level of exposing yourself to someone. You know you can be together, but then to act together, be different people, especially someone like Edward … it was scary at first. She was nervous too. But it was great. Besides the fact that I love her and everything, she’s a great actress, very giving and considerate. It was really easy working with her, because stuff automatically happens. You don’t have to try. Stuff comes out.”

It goes without saying that Depp is a man in love. Visibly. His romance with Winona has been consummated and consumed in public. The details are well known. Their eyes met at the premiere of Great Balls of Fire, but they didn’t. A few months later, they were introduced by a mutual friend. Going on for two years later, they’re engaged and Depp has “Winona Forever” tattooed on his arm.

THE HOLLYWOOD publicity machine has always thrived on star romance, but it seems that in the post-Aids age, with Warren Beatty-style bedhopping publicly frowned on, big-name couples are a real item. Yet amid all the usual sleaze about Bruce and Demi and Julia and Kiefer, the youthful Depp and Ryder have been treated with kids gloves so far, cast as hip, romantic innocents. A recent fashion shoot in Vogue, which showed the couple embracing, packed them as a “fairytale couple” – a symbol of “Hollywood Romance” – along with Pretty Woman and Green Card.

Not surprisingly, it irritates Depp to see his love-life diagnosed like a cultural symptom. Still, isn’t he scared once their press honeymoon is over, the scandal rags will go all out to break them up? “We’ve already had rumours we’re splitting up. Such bullshit. Things like People magazine don’t really bother me – it’s like the flies buzzing around this trailer. I can deal with their presence if I have to, but I’d much rather squash them like a pea.” Another problem they face are all the dodgy team-up scripts they get sent. “They’re so obvious. Like, they offered us a gangster movie together. I’m a mobster and Winona’s my moll.”

DEPP AND RYDER seem so well-suited that you forget that she’s 20 and he’s nearly 28. Depp seems younger, in looks and attitude. In fact, he’s difficult to place in time. Tim Burton says that Depp reminds him of the classic movie stars of the Thirties and Forties (in fact, he’s called Johnny and Winona a dark Tracy and Hepburn), yet with his Anglophile dress sense and tastes in music, he comes on like a post-punk hipster. Then, with his easy-going drawl and thoughtful cool, you start to think of him alongside the better actors on the fringes of the aging Brat Pack. But he missed all that. Whereas Matt Dillon has nearly 20 films to his name, Depp has five or so.

The reason is that he was never a Hollywood teen. Growing up in Kentucky, then Florida, he never wanted to be an actor: “I just wanted to play guitar.” He played in a local band, supporting acts like Iggy Pop, Talking Heads and The Ramones when they came to town. The band went to LA, but nothing came of it. So Depp tried his hand at acting in Nightmare on Elm Street, in which he suffered an iconic teenage death, eaten alive by his bed while listening to the stereo and watching TV at the same time. He followed it up in 1986 with a sint as a grunt in Oliver Stone’s Vietnam odyssey, Platoon. Then came 21 Jump Street, which took four years out of his life.

A hysterical piece of Eighties trash, the show cast Depp as a baby-faced cop whose youthful looks allow him to work undercover in that den of iniquity, the high school, and dealt in stereotypical moral panics (school bully crack dealers). From a distance, it looks quite camp. It didn’t at the time. Depp was so embarrassed by the show, he couldn’t watch it. What irked most was being a teen heart-throb.

“I got angry because it wasn’t me and I couldn’t control it, all these publicity fuckers from Fox TV trying to market me like I was a box of cereal. In that position, it’s up to you. You go with it, make more money than you could ever want, are really famous for two years. Or you fight it. I was lucky in that at least I had half a brain cell, so I fought it.”

Hence his reputation for being “difficult”. “For myself, I felt it was kind of a fascist thing to have undercover cops busting kids for half an ounce of weed. Like, he’s a real bad kid, he needs a lot of therapy and time in jail to straighten out.” Depp has even used a cameo role in Elm Street 6 to work off his anti-Jump Street feelings. “I’m a public service announcer on TV. I hold up this egg and say, ‘Now this is your brain.’ Then I crack it into a frying pan, it starts to sizzle and I say, ‘This is your brain on drugs.’ Then Freddie smashes me in the face with the pan. It says everything I wanted to say.

So he won’t be doing any more TV? “I’d rather dig a hole through the center of the earth with my tongue.”

DEPP’S FIRST POST-TV break came with John Waer’s Cry Baby. “The daughter of his best friend suggested me. He asked what I looked like, she told him to buy any teen magazine. So he did. Then he wrote the script.” Aside from the pastiche of teen pics, Wasters slyly reworks Depp’s heart-throb image, presenting his baby-faced tough guy moves as an object of gay as well as straight desire. It seems pretty clear that Waters fancies the pants off Depp – he even got him down to his Y-fronts at one point. Depp assures me they’re just good friends. Still, Waters has said that he was born to play a sexy mass-murderer. “John said that? Wow! If he writes it, I’ll do it. We share a fascination with mass-murders. It’s the sickness of it. You can’t believe people have done these things. We’re all ambulance chasers.”

But not everyone owns paintings by serial killers. Like Waters, Depp bought a clown painting by convicted murderer John Wayne Gacy. He has since sold it, but the memory still troubles him. “Before he was caught, Gacy used to go around dressed as Pogo the Clown. Now on death row, he paints clowns. And if you send him a photo, he’ll paint you. Really sick.” So you haven’t been tempted? “No way! The clown painting was enough. Just looking at a clown fucks me up bad, but to know who painted it, what was behind the mask, sent me into shock.”

On the subject of clowns, thanks to Depp, he Pope of Trash is now Reverend John Waters. Depp got him ordained in the Universal Life Church and wants him to do the honours at the marriage. The big day will have to wait, though. After Depp finishes here, Ryder is due to start doing Draculawith Francis Coppola. “We’ll do it when we have a chunk of time and we can do it quietly with a three-month honeymoon. I’ve heard about places in Australia, islands where you can be dropped off and there’s nothing there at all. I geuess you just run around eating coconuts and foliage and bugs.”

NOW THAT THE SUBJECT has come up again, it’s perhaps time to broach the touchy matter of proposing. There have been suggestions that the holes in Depp’s jeans could ahve come from the number of times he’s been down on his knees to the various women in his life. Apart from Winona and his first wife (he’s now divorced), he’s been engaged to Dirty Dancing‘s Jennifer Grey and Twin Peaks‘ Sherilyn Fenn.

“That’s not true, quite. I was sort of engaged. But if you haven’t made some mistakes by 28, it’s abnormal. People do whatever they do for whatever reasons, and it’s not for anyone else to understand. And basically, it’s none of their business. If some guy came up to me on the street and said, ‘I understand this and this about you,’ I would fucking club him – in a second. But because people know you and you have a past, the attitude is, ‘Let’s dissect the fucker.’” As in all the pseudy-psychological suggestions that Depp is trying to make up for his parents (divorced when he was 16).

So does he believe in marriage as an institution? “I believe in marriage if that’s what feels right. If you feel something, do it. Why regret later? But it’s true you really never know until you hit that one. Believe me, when I met Winona and we fell in love, it was absolutely like nothing ever before, ever.”

Interview over, Depp offers me a ride back to his motel with the assistant director, KC. As we gun through the prairie twilight in a big white Cadillac, occasionally slowing so as not to scare the cows, he chats about his taste in music – The Clash, Pistols, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, The Replacements, Alex Chilton, old blues, some newer independent rock, especially The La’s, but not much post-Stone Roses indie dance. “But I’d like to go to a rave. They sound interesting. They tried to do them in LA, but someone told me they weren’t the same.” Despite his past, he has no plans to form a band and release a record, and grimaces when I mention would-be rock stars such as River Phoenix. “It’s just kind of uncool. If you’re doing one thing, you should do that. I’m acting now.”

Back at the motel in Patagonia, I’m out of questions, but Depp is keen to carry on. “Ask anything,” he says. “The dumber the better.”

OK. Would he do a nude scene? “I don’t think so … there isn’t enough money.”

Did his tattoos hurt? “Yeah, but I liked the pain. It was electric, kind of nice.”

Who does the dishes, you or Winona? “We live in hotels, so it’s not our responsibility. But I’ve done some dishes. We’ve actually done dishes together. I washed, she dried.”

Who were you in your past lives? “I think I was an animal, a ferret maybe, or an insect.”

Does fame turn people int oassholes? “I think it reveals what people are rather than changes them. I’m pretty sure I’m not an asshole, although I could be wrong. But fame does fuck with you. I’ve become more paranoid.”

What did you do with the pubic hair that one fan sent you? “I threw it away. I didn’t touch it. I thought about burning it, but I didn’t want to inhale the air. You never know, it may have been poisoned, cyanide pubic hair.”

He pauses. “Hey, I’ve got one! Someone once asked me which three things I would take on a desert island. What I said was cigarettes, matches and an ashtray.”

He’s joking, but if the immensely likable Johnny Depp does have a problem (which is arguable), it’s that he’s a little too coll for his own good. He’d love to be in a Jim Jarmusch film, and he’s probably much better suited to it than he realises. Blame 21 Jump street. It’s stills shaping his career. After suffering what he sees as a four-year embarrassment, he’s determined only to do things he likes. And, he admits, he’s picky, and not too keen to co-operate with the business. After Jump Street, Fox was so interested in keeping him interested, it gave him a production deal, but Depp didn’t really approach it like one of the new breed of actor operators. “I was doing it with my brother. We took them ideas for films, but they didn’t bite. I guess I took them stuff I knew they wouldn’t do. But I did get a year’s supply of free phone calls and an office. It was quite funny.”

In fact, since Jump Street, Depp has gone from being a teen idol to cultivating a poised idleness and a rigorous quality control. After Arrowtooth Waltz he doesn’t have anything solid lined up, although there are vague plans for a f ilm of Ask The Dust, which may involve Winona Ryder.

Obviously, it’s admirable that he doesn’t want to bash things out for money. It’s great that there’s a young American actor who doesn’t seem Tom Cruise as a role model, who would rather make hip, eccentric choices than smart choices, would rather do off-the-wall arty comedies than blockbuster team-ups. But it would also be nice to see him work more. The thing is, he really can act.

But, then again, acting isn’t the only thing on his mind. At heart, he’s a regular homeboy. “I’d love to have kids. I’m rapidly approaching 30. I want to put down roots, have kids, dogs, pigs. When I’m 50 or 60, I want to have all gold teeth, a big fat belly, a big thick beard. I’m working on my belly.” He rolls up his shirt to reveal not even the beginnings of a gut. “Maybe I should drink a few beers or something. Once I get to a certain age, I want to be this big, fat, ugly American.” Despite the cracked lips, he has some way to go.

August 6, 1990   Uncategorized No Comments

CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE DEPP KIND

I had begun working in NYC in early May while on break from school. Well 3 of my close friends happened to be in the city on the day of the Fear and Loathing premiere, although I had no idea it was going on. Well they got wind of it mid-day and hurried down (camera in hand) to capture the whole thing for me.

My friend Jesse, a sometimes over zealous fellow, somehow got into the press box at the premiere. He said that it had been getting late and he thought that maybe Johnny wasn’t coming. However, out from the last limo to arrive, stepped Johnny himself.

I will now tell the story as Jesse told it to me:

Johnny stepped from the limo wearing a dark suit and the appropriate dark sunglasses and began to walk the red carpet. By now the photographers and on-lookers were whipped up into a frenzied excitement. Jesse said that people were climbing all over each other, shouting his name. Jesse, who is usually calm, said that at this point even he was star struck. I guess he was swept up in the moment or something but he became obsessed with getting Johnny’s attention.

Jesse started taking pictures and shouting his name but did not think he could be heard over the photographers who were doing the same thing. Well just as Jesse was sure that Johnny was about to pass him–Johnny stopped with his back facing Jesse for the photographers. Jesse started shouting for Johnny’s autograph–and with that Johnny turned around–lowered his sunglasses, and as Jesse tells it looked “intensely” into his eyes. Jesse repeated his request and Johnny was polite and took his time signing an advertisement for Fear and Loathing that Jesse had taken from a magazine. Jesse thanked him and Johnny said “your welcome” and that concludes the close encounter—although I made Jesse tell it over a few times to make sure I had savored every detail.

I realize that this is not the most action packed meeting and although it comes to me second hand, I did make out with a few crazy little souvenirs (photos, autograph, etc.) that I enjoy. My favorite, however, is the blue sharpie marker Johnny used to sign with. He had put one end in his mouth and bit down when pulling off the cap leaving his teeth marks clearly defined on the other end. Ah…the little things that make me happy!

June 1, 1990   Articles No Comments

Title: Baby Face

Author: Tony Fletcher

Publication: SKY

Issue: June 1990

 

Photo1At the top of Johnny Depp’s lean and muscu­lar right arm, above the fading tattoo of an Indian chief’s headdress, are two words that were etched into the actor’s skin for all eternity only months ago. They read “Winona Forever”. A public and permanent declaration of the 26-year-old’s love for his pregnant fiancée, actress Winona Ryder.

But if Depp hopes that the tattoo will per­suade his legion of young female followers to search elsewhere for a hero, he is mistaken. The previous evening, at the premiere in Balti­more of the new John Waters movie Cry Baby, a high-camp musical comedy in which Depp has the title role, the star was mobbed by hordes of screaming girls. Waters’ decision to base all his films in his home city of Baltimore has made him something of a local hero, but on this occasion it was Depp who stole the lime­light. Even the sight of Winona Ryder clinging happily to his arm failed to deter the teeny-boppers from screaming out their undying love for this high school dropout and failed rock musician.

Depp’s co-stars in Cry Baby,a send-up of the teen rebel movie genre of the 50s that has Depp as a delinquent “Drape” determined to win the love of a stunning “Square” – are no less subtle in their admiration of his physique. Amy Locane, an innocent 18-year-old from a Catholic girls’ school in suburban New Jersey who plays his leading lady Allison, confesses that she almost fainted when required to do a love scene with Depp during the second day of rehearsals; Kim McGuire, who plays a convincingly ugly Drape called Hatchet Face, makes no secret of her desire to have been in Locane’s place. And Rikki Lake -the amiably hefty actress who found overnight success as Tracey Turnblad in Waters’ previous movie Hairspray – simply describes Depp as, “One of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen”.

“Wow!” laughs Depp when confronted with these compliments. “I guess I must owe them money!” In torn jeans and T-shirt, his dishevel­led hair partly hidden by a bandanna, his face unshaven and his lips curled around a cigarette, Depp’s casual appearance only emphasises his desirable street-tough image. He seems out of place in the plush surround­ings of Baltimore’s luxury Harbor Court Hotel, where he is undertaking an arduous pro­motional schedule for Cry Baby, but as he relaxes on a sofa in a private suite he is the perfect gentleman; polite, attentive, modest and forthright.

The TV series 21 Jump Street has now enjoyed four stunningly successful seasons in the States, much of which is attributed to Depp’s role as Officer Tom Hanson, one of a group of young undercover cops assigned to watch over (and frequently infiltrate) high schools, youth clubs and gangs. Playing Han­son, Depp comes across as a younger, scruffier version of Miami Vice star Don Johnson, a good-looking tough guy with his finger on the trigger and one eye on the girls. It is a perform­ance that apparently garners around 10,000 fan letters a week, but one that Depp, frus­trated with his pin-up status, was determined not to perpetuate in his first starring role on the big screen.

Yet the majority of scripts he was presented with were designed for Hanson the character rather than Depp the actor. They were, he says, “the same thing that’s been done a hundred-and-fifty times over, which is the gun-toting, Lycra-bodysuited, girl-kissing, posing, action, fast cars blowing up, fighting, coiffed hair-type of guy. I just knew I didn’t want to do that.”

As Depp was despairing of being offered a decent role, far away from Los Angeles in the hip east coast community of Baltimore John Waters was searching for his very own James Dean. Waters, whose credits as a writer/ director include such bad taste cult classics as Mondo Trasho and Pink Flamingos (in which the late drag artist Divine achieved infamy by swallowing dog turds on camera), had finally entered the mainstream with the delightful Hairspray in 1988. Now he wanted to step further back in time from that film’s early 60s setting to 1954, when the seeds of rock ‘n’ roll were being sown by the first juvenile delinquents. For the leading role of Cry Baby, a rockabilly-obsessed, guitar-playing teenager who sheds a tear each day for his father (a crazed bomber sent to the electric chair). Waters wanted a genuine pin-up. While he was search­ing through the proliferation of American teen mags for inspiration, he was continually confronted by one face: that of Johnny Depp.

“I thought, ‘This guy looks great’,” recalls Waters, who was even more delighted to see Depp described in the teen press as a “juvenile delinquent”. When the pair met to discuss the part, Depp’s appearance sealed the role with­out the need for an audition. “He came in dres­sed completely in rags,” says Waters, “with Levi’s ripped to his underpants, boxer shorts hanging out through the holes, hair completely askew.. .and he looked really like a movie star.”

An enormous fan of Waters’ happy-go-lucky kitsch films, Depp’s only fear when offered the chance to star in one was that Cry Baby’s char­acter as the local tough guy and sex symbol was uncannily close to the public persona that he was determined to shake off.Photo2

“I said. If you want to get rid of it, make fun of if,” Waters explains. It was the same advice he had given ex-porn star Traci Lord, who plays a tough, sexy Drape in the movie. (In an inspired bout of casting, Cry Baby also includes former kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, and punk grandfather Iggy Pop.) “All of them have to make fun of themselves a little bit to be in my movies,” Waters says.

Depp says he relished the opportunity to send up, “the labels and the image … that manufactured thing”, but admits that much of his younger audience might not appreciate the parody. The advertising campaign in particular seems to polish, rather than demolish, Depp’s image.

“It would seem that way, wouldn’t it,” the actor acknowledges, studying a promotional poster in which his face, accentuated by sharp cheekbones, embellished with a tear and rounded off by a dripping lock of greased hair, rests on Amy Locane’s reclining chest, her 50s-style torpedo bra jutting towards his chin. “Maybe it’s just the pastels – the pink and the turquoise together,” he says lightheartedly, while admitting that the catchphrase – “He’s a doll, he’s a dreamboat, he’s a delinquent” -also plays up his looks. “Yeah, it would appear that I’m doing ‘teen guy’ stuff,” he concludes. “But it’s really all a very big joke. And last night, at the premiere, I found out that we achieved what we wanted to achieve, which is that it was a joke, that it was funny. It reeks of John Waters, which is what I wanted. To me, Cry Baby is like Grease on psychedelics.”

Without knowing it, Depp has been in train­ing for the part of Cry Baby all his life. Born in Kentucky in 1963, his family moved to south Florida when he was eight. Four years later, his mother bought him his first guitar, from which point, “that was my whole life”. After fooling around with local garage bands, Depp and friends formed The Kids, a punk-influenced group who supported such established bands as U2, The Ramones, The B-52s, REM and Depp’s future uncle in Cry Baby, Iggy Pop.

His search for rock ‘n’ roll glory caused him to drop out of high school at the age of 18, but The Kids’ determination proved to be their very downfall. “We got caught up in that ‘big fish in a small pond syndrome’ and decided we weren’t really getting anywhere in Florida,” recalls Depp. So in 1983 they moved to LA. Despite the occasional decent support slot, The Kids, now called Six Gun Method and play­ing a U2/Big Country hybrid, were suddenly mere minnows in a very large pond, and Depp had to resort to selling ink pens over the phone to pay his rent. Even his hasty marriage, to a girl called Lori whom he met on his arrival in LA, collapsed within two years.

It was the classic Hollywood fairy tale gone wrong, but Depp had established a clique of friends, and one of them, the actor Nicolas Cage, suggested he meet his agent. She in turn immediately sent Depp out to audition for a low-budget horror movie by Wes Craven and, to his surprise, Depp landed a major part in A Nightmare On Elm Street as Glen, the heroine’s boyfriend who is swallowed up by his bed and spewed out as “a-hundred-and-ten gallons of cow blood, red dye and paint”.

The film was a roaring success, but more so for its memorable villain Freddy Krueger than Depp’s performance. A bit part in the award-winning Platoon followed, but still Depp’s sights remained firmly set on music. Six Gun Method had split up in anger over Depp’s burgeoning acting career, so Depp played in a Stray Cats-style band called Rock City Angels before landing the role of Hanson in the new TV series 21 Jump Street.

At the time of its launch, Jump Street was considered radical, tackling “real” issues such as AIDS and racism and refusing to conform to television’s conventional “happy ending” syn­drome. Now, as Depp waits to hear about a fifth series – he is contractually obliged to appear in two more seasons if asked to – he seems determined to bad mouth the show into drop­ping him.

“It’s been great for me, it’s put me on the map, it’s given me a following of sorts, and I’m happy with that,” he says as a precursor to his attack on Jump Street. “But in my opinion, I feel that I’ve run the gamut of anything you can possibly do on that show. I don’t think I have anything more to offer on the show. I’ve had six nervous breakdowns – I’ve lost my father on the show, I’ve lost girlfriends who’ve been killed on the show, I’ve supposedly murdered a cop and went to prison for it… I don’t know that people wouldn’t have found me out after all that stuff! We’re heading into Fellini. And also, I don’t really agree with the idea of cops in high schools. Morally I don’t agree with it. I think it’s slightly unjust, I think it’s borderline fascism.”

Hastening to add that this is “just my opin­ion”, Depp acknowledges that his stubborn artistic nature – he has refused to appear in episodes that have conflicted with his per­sonal and political beliefs-has not endeared him to the show’s producers.

“The one thing I don’t think they like about me is that I’m honest about it. That type of hon­esty can make for problems. But I do respect them, and I do respect what the show has done. At the same time, if it gets repetitive it could be dangerous. If they’re going to tackle issues like racism they should really do it, instead of beating around the bush.”Photo3

Depp evidently also feels bitterness towards the show for creating the teen idol image he is now burdened with. “The people who wear the ties and sign the cheques needed to put a label on the product, so they went for the thing that would sell. And basically what they did was they took the personality of the character that I was playing on the TV series, associated it with my name, exploited that, and gave people this sold-and-stuffed-down-the-throats-of-America idea of what they thought I was. And they [Americans] bought it. And it’s not me at all.”

If Cry Baby sends up that image without quite destroying it, at least it has demon­strated the lucrative rewards of being such hot property, bringing Depp a million dollars up front for the chance to work with his heroes. “If they want to pay me that, I’ll take it,” he says with a wry grin. “But I couldn’t have paid for a better vacation.”

“All through the movie, he’d say John Waters made me a millionaire – whoever would have thought it?'” recounts Waters himself, who started out shooting black and white movies for under $10,000 on 8mm film. With an eight million budget, Cry Baby cost more than all his other 10 movies put together, but Waters has no qualms about working with Hol­lywood companies and million dollar stars. Depp “deserved every penny”, says Waters. “I’m completely for movie stars. That’s why I started making movies, and that’s why people go to the movies. I like the surrealness and the fakeness of being a movie star. I tell Johnny, keep working so much and eventually you’ll never be able to go out of the house.’ And that’s the goal.”

In Waters’ warped view of celluloid infamy, that might well be the goal, but in Depp’s sub­dued, reluctant acceptance of fame and for­tune, it definitely isn’t. “I don’t think any of us would have gotten into this business if we weren’t in one way or another starved of atten­tion,” he admits. “But it’s an uncomfortable feeling to be on display at all times. I try and keep my head down and not look at it. I figure if you don’t see it, it’s not there.”

Naturally, this approach fails completely. Depp is mobbed almost everywhere he goes. Rikki Lake says she understands why: “His persona is that of a movie star. He’s got that charisma. It’s plain to see.” But, perhaps as a result of his struggling rock’n’roll past, his actual personality is far from your typical spoilt movie brat. “He’s very much a man’s man,” says Traci Lords. “He doesn’t act like a star. He’s not egotistical, he’s not hung up, he’s not an idiot. He’s just very relaxed, very easy to work with, and very much in love right now.”

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder’s affair is the sort of romance that tabloid newspapers dream of. The pair met on the set of Batman director Tim Burton’s new movie Edward Scissorhands, which Depp describes as, “a classic fable, almost like Beauty And The Beast or Pinocchio, about a guy who has scissors for fingers and his first steps in suburban life.” Once more Depp plays the title role, and by the time the film is released in the States this Christmas, he will be married to his leading lady and father of her child.

“They’re the perfect couple,” says Rikki Lake. “Physically, they look so similar, it’s amazing.” 21-year-old Lake, who plays Depp’s perpe­tually pregnant younger sister in Cry Baby, says she feels like his sibling in real life too. A friend of both Depp and Ryder she played a part in hooking the new family up.

“Rikki was definitely a cupid of sorts,” Depp acknowledges. “When we were doing Cry Baby she told me about Winona, and besides, she had also talked to Winona about me, which was pretty great of her.”

Discussion of Winona, who in the brilliant Heathers also starred in a send-up of the teen movie genre, gets Johnny Depp positively glassy-eyed. “I love her more than anything else in the whole world,” he says quite unashamedly. Which is just as well; with the new tattoo that he proudly shows off to all who ask, he will be living with Winona forever whether he likes it or not.

March 1, 1990   Articles No Comments

Johnny Depp – tough guy or cry baby?

baby face

 Johnny Depp is 26 but looks 18. The cop show 21Jump Street has made him America’s most  famous TV teen idol – so famous in fact that cult director John Waters paid him a million dollars for his first starring movie role, in Cry Baby, out this summer. Rock star good looks aside, Depp also boasts an intriguing bad boy past perfect credentials for another ready-made movie hero. Tony Fletcher meets him in Baltimore. 

At the top of Johnny Depp’s lean and muscular right arm, above the fading tattoo of an Indian chief’s headdress, are two words that were etched into the actor’s skin for all eternity only months ago. They read “Winona Forever”, a public and permanent declaration of the 26- year-old’s love for his pregnant fiancee, actress Winona Ryder.

But if Depp hopes that the tattoo will persuade his legion of young female followers to search elsewhere for a hero, he is mistaken. The previous evening, at the premiere in Baltimore of the new John Waters movie Cry Baby, a high-camp musical comedy in which Depp has the title role, the star was mobbed by hordes of screaming girls. Waters’ decision to base all his films in his home city of Baltimore has made him something of a local hero, but on this occasion it was Depp who stole the limelight. Even the sight of Winona Ryder clinging happily to his arm failed to deter the teenyboppers from screaming out their undying love for this high school dropout and failed rock musician.

Depp’s co-stars in Cry Baby, – a send-up of the teen rebel movie genre of the 50s that has Depp as a delinquent “Drape” determined to win the love of a stunning “Square” – are no less subtle in their admiration of his physique. Amy Locane, an innocent 18-yearold from a Catholic girls’ school in suburban New Jersey who plays his leading lady Allison, confesses that she almost fainted when required to do a love scene with Depp during the second day of rehearsals; Kim McGuire, who plays a convincingly ugly Drape called Hatchet Face, makes no secret of her desire to have been in Locane’s place. And Rikki Lakethe amiably hefty actress who found overnight success as Tracey Turnblad in Waters’ previous movie Hairspray – simply describes Depp as, “One of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen”.

“Wow!” laughs Depp when confronted with these compliments. “I guess I must owe them money!” In torn jeans and T-shirt, his dishevelled hair partly hidden by a bandanna, his face unshaven and his lips curled around a cigarette, Depp’s casual appearance only emphasises his desirable street-tough image. He seems out of place in the plush surroundings of Baltimore’s luxury Harbor Court Hotel, where he is undertaking an arduous promotional schedule for Cry Baby, but as he relaxes on a sofa in a private suite he is the perfect gentleman; polite, attentive, modest and forthright.

The TV series 21 Jump Street has now enjoyed four stunningly successful seasons in the States, much of which is attributed to Depp’s role as Officer Tom Hanson, one of a group of young undercover cops assigned to watch over (and frequently infiltrate) high schools, youth clubs and gangs. Playing Hanson, Depp comes across as a younger, scruffier version of Miami Vice star Don Johnson, a good-looking tough guy with his finger on the trigger and one eye on the girls. It is a performance that apparently garners around 10,000 fan letters a week, but one that Depp, frustrated with his pin-up status, was determined not to perpetuate in his first starring role on the big screen.

Yet the majority of scripts he was presented with were designed for Hanson the character rather than Depp the actor. They were, he says, “the same thing that’s been done a hundredand-fifty times over, which is the gun-toting, Lycra-bodysuited, girl-kissing, posing, action, fast cars blowing up, fighting, coiffed hair-type of guy. I just knew I didn’t want to do that:’

As Depp was despairing of being offered a decent role, far away from Los Angeles in the hip east coast community of Baltimore John Waters was searching for his very own James Dean. Waters, whose credits as a writer/ director include such bad taste cult classics as Mondo Trasho and Pink Flamingos (in which the late drag artist Divine achieved infamy by swallowing dog turds on camera), had finally entered the mainstream with the delightful Hairspray in 1988. Now he wanted to step further back in time from that film’s early 60s setting to 1954, when the seeds of rock ‘n’ roll were beingsown by the first juvenile delinquents. For the leading role of Cry Baby, a rockabilly-obsessed, guitar-playing teenager who sheds a tear each day for his father (a crazed bomber sent to the electric chair), Waters wanted a genuine pin-up. While he was searching through the proliferation of American teen mags for inspiration, he was continually confronted by one face: that of Johnny Depp.

“I thought, ‘This guy looks great’;’ recalls Waters, who was even more delighted to see Depp described in the teen press as a “juvenile delinquent”. When the pair met to discuss the part, Depp’s appearance sealed the role without the need for an audition. “He came in dressed completely in rags;’ says Waters, “with Levi’s ripped to his underpants, boxer shorts hanging outthrough the holes, hair completely askew … and he looked really like a movie star.”

An enormous fan of Waters’ happy-go-lucky kitsch films, Depp’s only fear when offered the chance to star in one was that Cry Baby’s character as the local tough guy and sex symbol was uncannily close to the public persona that he was determined to shake off.

“I said, ‘If you want to get rid of it, make fun of it’;’ Waters explains. It was the same advice he had given ex-porn star Traci Lord, who plays a tough, sexy Drape in the movie. (In an inspired bout of casting, Cry Baby also includes former kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, and punk grandfather Iggy Pop.) “All of them have to make fun of themselves a little bit to be in my movies;’ Waters says.

Depp says he relished the opportunity to send up, “the labels and the image … that manufactured thing”, but admits that much of his younger audience might not appreciate the parody. The advertising campaign in particular seems to polish, rather than demolish, Depp’s image.

“It would seem that way, wouldn’t it;’ the actor acknowledges, studying a promotional poster in which his face, accentuated by sharp cheekbones, embellished with a tear and rounded off by a dripping lock of greased hair, rests on Amy Locane’s reclining chest, her 50s-style torpedo bra jutting towards his chin. “Maybe it’s just the pastels – the pink and the turquoise together;’ he says lightheartedly, whi Ie adm itting that the catchphrase – “He’s a doll, he’s a dreamboat, he’s a delinquent” – also plays up his looks. “Yeah, it would appear that I’m doing ‘teen guy’ stuff;’ he concludes. “But it’s really all a very big joke. And last night, at the premiere, I found out that we achieved what we wanted to achieve, which is that it was a joke, that it was funny. It reeks of John Waters, which is what I wanted. To me, Cry Baby is like Grease on psychedelics:’

TOUGH GUISE: Depp in his new film, Cry Baby

Without knowing it, Depp has been in training for the part of Cry Baby all his life. Born in Kentucky in 1963, his family moved to south Florida when he was eight. Four years later, his mother bought him his first guitar, from which point, “that was my whole life”. After fooling around with local garage bands, Depp and friends formed The Kids, a punk-influenced group who supported such established bands as U2, The Ramones, The B-52s, REM and Depp’s future uncle in Cry Baby,lggy Pop.

His search for rock’n’ roll glory caused himto drop out of high school at the age of 18, but The Kids’ determination proved to be their very downfall. “We got caught up in that ‘big fish in a small pond syndrome’ and decided we weren’t really getting anywhere in Florida,” recalls Depp. So in 1983 they moved to LA. Despite the occasional decent support slot, The Kids, now called Six Gun Method and playing a U2/Big Country hybrid, were suddenly mere minnows in a very large pond, and Depp had to resort to selling ink pens overthe phone to pay his rent. Even his hasty marriage, to a girl called Lori whom he met on his arrival in LA, collapsed within two years.

It was the classic Hollywood fairy tale gone wrong, but Depp had established a clique of friends, and one of them, the actor Nicolas Cage, suggested he meet his agent. She in turn immediately sent Depp out to audition for a low-budget horror movie by Wes Craven and, to his surprise, Depp landed a major part in A Nightmare On Elm Street as Glen, the heroine’s boyfriend who is swallowed tip by his bed and spewed out as “a-hundred-andten gallons of cow blood, red dye and paint”.

The film was a roaring success, but more so for its memorable villain Freddy Krueger than Depp’s performance. A bit part in the awardwinning Platoon followed, but still Depp’s sights remained firmly set on music. Six Gun Method had split up in anger over Depp’s burgeoning acting career, so Depp played in a Stray Cats-style band called Rock City Angels before landing the role of Hanson in the new TV series 21Jump Street. 

At the time of its launch, Jump Street was considered radical, tackling “real” issues such as AIDS and racism and refusing to conform to television’s conventional “happy ending” syndrome. Now, as Depp waits to hear about a fifth series – he is contractually obliged to appear in two more seasons if asked to – he seems determined to bad mouth the show into dropping him.

“It’s been great for me, it’s put me on the map, it’s given me a following of sorts, and I’m happy with that;’ he says as a precursor to his attack on Jump Street. “But in my opinion, I feel that I’ve run the gamut of anything you can possibly do on that show. I don’t think I have anything more to offer on the show. I’ve had six nervous breakdowns – I’ve lost my father on the show, I’ve lost girlfriends whdve been killed on the show, I’ve supposedly murdered a cop and went to prison for it … I don’t know that people wouldn’t have found me out after all that stuff! We’re heading into FelIinLAnd also, I don’t really agree with the idea of cops in high schools. Morally I don’t agree with it. I think it’s slightly unjust, I think it’s borderline fascism:’

Hastening to add that this is “just my opinion”, Depp acknowledges that his stubborn artistic nature – he has refused to appear in episodes that have conflicted with his personal and political beliefs – has not endeared him to the show’s producers.

“The one thing I don’t think they like about me is that I’m honest about it. That type of honesty can make for problems. But I do respect _ them, and I do respect what the show has done. ~ At the same time, if it gets repetitive it could be dangerous. If they’re going to tackle issues like racism they should really do it, instead of beating around the bush:’

Depp evidently also feels bitterness towards the show for creating the teen idol image he is now burdened with. ‘The people who wear the ties and sign the cheques needed to put a label on the product, so they went for the thing that would sell.And basically what they did was they took the personality of the character that I was playing on the TV series, associated it with my name, exploited that, and gave people this sold-and-stuffeddown-the-throats-of-America idea of what they thought I was. And they [Americans] bought it. And it’s not me at all:’ 

If Cry Baby sends up that image without quite destroying it, at least it has demonstrated the lucrative rewards of being such hot property, bringing Depp a million dollars up front for the chance to work with his heroes. “If they want to pay me that, I’ll take it;’ he says with a wry grin. “But I couldn’t have paid for a better vacation:’

“All through the movie, he’d say ‘John Waters made me a millionaire – whoever would have thought it?” recounts Waters himself, who started out shooting black and white movies for under $10,000 on 8mm film. With an $eight million budget, Cry Baby cost more than all his other 10 movies put together, but Waters has no qualms about working with Hollywood companies and million dollar stars. Depp “deserved every penny”, says Waters. “l’rn completely for movie stars. That’s why I started making movies, and that’s why people go to the movies. I like the surrealness and the fakeness of being a movie star. I tell Johnny, ‘Keep working so much and eventually you’ll never be able to go out ofthe house: And that’s the goal:’ .

In Waters’ warped view of celluloid infamy, that might well be the goal, but in Depp’s subdued, reluctant acceptance of fame and fortune, it definitely isn’t. “I don’t think any of us would have gotten into this business if we weren’t in one way or another starved of attention,” he admits. “But it’s an uncomfortable feeling to be on display at all times. I try and keep my head down and not look at it. I figure if you don’t see it, it’s not there:’

Naturally, this approach fails completely.

Depp is mobbed almost everywhere he goes. Rikki Lake says she understands why: “His persona is that of a movie star. He’s got that charisma. It’s plain to see:’ But, perhaps as a result of his struggling rock’n’roll past, his actual personality is far from your typical spoilt movie brat. “He’s very much a man’s man;’ says Traci Lords. “He doesn’t act like a star. He’s not egotistical, he’s not hung up, he’s not an idiot. He’s just very relaxed, very easy to work with, and very much in love right now:’

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder’s affair is the sort of romance that tabloid newspapers dream of. The pair met on the set of Batman director Tim Burton’s new movie Edward Scissorhands, which Depp describes as, “a classic fable, almost like Beauty And The Beast or Pinocchio, about a guy who has scissors for fingers and his first steps in suburban life:’ Once more Depp plays the title role, and by the time the film is released in the States this Christmas, he will be married to his leading lady and father of her chi Id.

“They’re the perfect couple;’ says Rikki Lake.

“Physically, they look so similar, it’s amazing:’ 21-year-old Lake, who plays Depp’s perpetually pregnant younger sister in Cry Baby, says she feels like his sibling in real life too. A friend of both Depp and Ryder she played a part in hooking the new family up.

“Rikki was definitely a cupid of sorts;’ Depp acknowledges. “When we were doing Cry Baby she told me about Winona, and besides, she had also talked to Winona about me, which was pretty great of her:’

Discussion of Winona, who in the brilliant Heathers also starred in a send-up of the teen movie genre, gets Johnny Depp positively glassy-eyed. “I love her more than anything else in the whole world;’ he says quite unashamedly. Which is just as well; with the new tattoo that he proudly shows off to all who ask, he will be living with Winona forever whether he likes it or not.

copied from Johnny-Depp.org

September 6, 1989   Uncategorized No Comments

I had the pleasure to make small talk with Johnny a few years back, while waiting for a beer to arrive from a, lucky for me, “Slow as Moses” bartender. The talk was an amusing attack on the bar’s population all looking exactly the same (fake tits and bleached blonde hair, mixed with the polished GQ Smooth look of fancy hotel toilet bowl)! I guess you had to be there to really savor the statement’s full impact. In any event, he ended up buying my beer and, after my cigarette lighter failed to spark a flame, he lit a match and shared the flame with me.

After sharing his match with me, and going our seperate ways, Johnny and I bumped into each other again that same night as we, and the people we were with, were leaving. He asked if I had a good time, I said I did, then introduced my guests to him, which he shook their hands, then he patted me on the back and handed me his book of matches which are “VIPER ROOM” issue (Black book, with a green pair of dice and a female serpent woman on the cover). Telling me that “it might be a long night, and a night without fire should be a crime.” On the inside of the cover, a hand written message reads “Call Tim, Monday”.

August 6, 1989   Uncategorized No Comments

When my family lived in California, my brother and I both did some acting. I was hopeless and managed only a few small parts in commercials and stuff. My brother was the one with the talent and to this day I think that if we hadn’t move to New Zealand, he would have made it big.

A few days after my seventeenth b-day, we both got a call saying we were to be extras in the movie Cry Baby! At first I was bumbed cause I wanted a big part, but I got over that and was all psyched to be in a big movie! OF course, I didn’t know Johnny Depp was in it until just before filming started.

I was supposed to be a drape, so was my bro, but at the last minute they dropped me saying they had ‘over casted’. My brother got to keep his role, and when he came home and told me who was in the movie I almost died! My bro is in heaps of scenes. The part were Cry Baby sings ‘Tear Drops are Falling’ and he’s in the crowd when he does the cry baby song. In fact he is in a lot more than that, but you don’t see him in the others. He met Johnny heaps of times, and they even had a smoke together while waiting for filming to start one day.

On the last day of filming, I was spilling over with stories about Johnny my bro had told me. Like how when at the end were Alison comes to the jail and they are doing that bit were she’s rubbing up against the glass, Johnny kept on laughing and the chick got really pissed off! I think that’s so cool! And also the rumours about Johnny and the woman playing Alison falling in love was complete bull, because they didn’t really get along at all, in fact, apparently when they were filming, they hardly said a word to each other!

But on the last day of filming, the whole cast, including extras, were invited to a little party to say thanks and goodbye. I was so jealous he got to go socialize with the spunkiest guy ever, until he told me I could go!! Apparently he had told the director, and Johnny about how I had been dropped, and how disappointed I was, so they said I could come and meet every body!!!AHHHH!

Now be honest, wouldn’t you spend half a year trying to make your self look gorg so one look and Johnny would fall madly in love with you? Well I would have liked to, but my darling brother told me about three seconds before he left, so I left the house in a pair of baggy, holey jeans, and a little tank top! I must have looked like crap but I probably would have gone in a pair of PJs to meet Johnny-god-how-could-he-be-that-fine-Depp!

When we got there, it wasn’t like I had thought it would be, all there was was a few tables set out under a tent thing, with heaps of food and drink. I was the only one there who wasn’t dressed to kill, well, out of the girls anyway! They must have had the same thing, or person, on their minds, and were using all their acting ability to try not to act like they were drooling over Johnny who sat quietly in the corner with the director. We stood around a few minutes, then the director said a few words which I didn’t really care about considering I was in the same room with the love of my life!*S*(Hey, I was seventeen!)

Just before we left, everyone went around shaking hands with cast, and producers etc, including me because I guess they just thought I was one of the extras they hadn’t noticed before. We shook hands with the stars, like the woman who played Hatchet Face (who’s not so bad looking in real life by the way) and Alison, who was really nice and said ‘hi how are you’s’ to every one.

When Johnny was like a meter away from me I started panicking, if he shock my hand I would never be able to love another because I would always compare them to Johnny! But nevertheless as he got closer I decided I would have to take that chance!*S* To my surprise, when he got to my brother he proved that he hadn’t been full of it when he said he had talked to him. JOHNNY DEPP SHOCK MY BROTHERS HAND AND GOES: “Hey Jake(My bro), how’s it going man…” My brother didn’t even flinch, just turned to me and goes. “This is my sister…” I could have killed him! I thought he was going to say some thing like “She’s such a loser she made me bring her”. But instead Johnny smiled at me! AHHHH!!! And goes. “Nice to meet you. Your brother told me you got kicked off the extras list…” He held out his hand and I felt about two feet tall. Yah, I thought, this is a good impression. I took his hand and he added; “Don’t worry about it, this business can be shit like that, just keep your foot in the door, and some one will notice you…” Then he said some thing else to my bro that I didn’t hear cause he said it softly and the room was noisy, but my brother recons he goes… “She’s pretty, she’ll go far” But I think he’s full of it. Still, wouldn’t it be cool if it was what he said?

As he was about to walk off he goes “Remember, keep trying okay…?” I nodded, and all I could think of to say was “Yeah, okay, thanks…” He smiled again and was lost in the crowd. Just like that. That was the most romantic experience I thought I could ever have at seventeen, but as I stood there like a moron looking after him, my brother goes “He knows your name, and the director has our number, so maybe he’l call you!” I turned to him and scouled. “Shut up! As if Johnny Depp is going to call me, he doesn’t even know me!’ Then he told me what he had supposedly said and I almost passed out. For like two months after that ever time the phone rang I dived at it, and answered it in my most sophisticated voice. However, he never called, and to this day, when the phone rings I have to be the first to answer it! 🙂

Jessy

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June 26, 1989   Articles No Comments
US Magazine, June 26, 1989
By Steve Pond
Photos by Greg Gorman

Depp Perception

He has been compared to James Dean, Marlon Brando, all those tough-but sensitive outsider guys. He has a hit TV series (21 Jump Street) on which he plays an undercover cop. He wears battered clothes and combat boots. He has two tattoos. He rides a Harley-Davidson.

But forget about all that tough-guy stuff for now. On a warm afternoon in the San Fernando Valley, Johnny Depp is tapping his foot, chain-smoking, eating a slice of pepperoni pizza, drinking a Coke and talking about one of his favorite movie stars, and it’s not James or Marlon or anyone known for driving fast or wearing tight T-shirts. Right now, Johnny Depp is talking PIA.

As in Zadora. As in The Lonely Lady, the flick Entertainment Tonight’s movie critic, Leonard Maltin, calls “rock-bottom stuff, not even fun on a trash level.” “I think we can learn from the movie,” Depp says.

Sure he has a little grin on his face as he’s praising the movie, but at the same time he’s clearly got a real fondness for this stuff. “You know,” he says with a shrug, “people trash Pia Zadora and make fun of her. But
I think she’s got a lot of balls. I saw her sing live once, and I was very impressed. She’s Pia.”

As he goes on about Pia, it becomes clearer why Depp, who probably could have had his pick of several high-profile Hollywood movies (“Movies where I play this tough guy or I pull out a handgun and shoot at people”), is spending his summer hiatus making a small film called Cry-Baby. The movie’s writer/director is John Waters, the cultster who made his name with aggressively trashy films such as Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living before the more mainstream success of last year’s Hairspray (in which Zadora had a cameo as a poetry-spouting beatnik chick).

Waters, who wrote the role of bad boy Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker with Depp in mind, doesn’t think he and his star make for an odd artistic pairing. “I don’t think there’s anyone else who could play it,” he says. “Johnny’s not a bad boy in real life, but he’s had some wild moments in the past which come in handy.”

As the title character, the leader of a gang of Fifties hoodlums, Depp, 26, has his first major movie role since becoming a TV star. It puts him under a lot of pressure, but he swears that he is looking forward to spending his summer in Waters’ considerably less glamorous (next to L.A., that is) hometown of Baltimore. “The big thing is crab cakes and thrift stores,” he says happily. “So I’m pretty excited.”

 Depp, of course, doesn’t need crab cakes and thrift stores; he can afford to eat fancier foods and shop in more upscale environs. His $45,000-per-episode deal with Jump Street and the cool million he is pulling in for Cry-Baby could conceivably buy truckloads of caviar and designer duds. But today he is dressed de rigueur for Depp: torn jeans, black boots and a plaid shirt unbuttoned far enough to show off a chain from which a cross and a medallion hang (actually, it’s a pop top from a Japanese Coca-Cola can). Glamorous, he’s not.

But he is something else: He doesn’t like to think about it or talk about it and he would rather journalists didn’t write about it, but Depp is indeed a full fledged sex symbol, and a teen idol to boot. Jump Street turned the trick. Each week, he comes on screen with his perpetually disheveled, offhand cool. As undercover cop Tom Hanson, he’s the tough kid who looks a little lost underneath the cool.

“When I first saw Johnny,” says 21 Jump Street producer Joan Carson, “he had a felt hat pulled down and these deep brown eyes peering out, with a coat that went to the floor. He was cute as a bug’s ear, but he looked like a waif. And I think that is part of his appeal: He can be waiflike, but his charisma comes through.

Waters concurs. “First of all, he’s a good actor, ” he says, “but secondly, he’s handsome in a real way. He’s just got that thing that makes a star.”

Talk like this makes Depp nervous, although sitting on a couch in the den of his publicist’s Sherman Oaks, California, house, he initially seems comfortable and relaxed. Perhaps that’s because he spent most of last summer on this very couch after subletting his own L.A. digs. A year later, he still doesn’t have an apartment; nor does he own a house. And while he once lived in his best friend’s car when they were teenagers, that option isn’t open to him today because? You guessed it. He doesn’t own a car (his vintage Harley-Davidson sits idle in Vancouver, British Columbia).

He is friendly and talkative when the conversation concerns rock & roll, his occasionally wild teen years or his dissatisfaction with some recent Jump Street episodes. But when the talk turns to his stardom, and especially the sex symbol/teen idol stuff, he fidgets more and says less, the pauses get longer, the answers shorter.

“After we’d shot the first season, it got a little strange,” he says quietly, lighting another cigarette and running a hand through his trademark tangled hair. “I don’t hate it; I don’t mind it; it’s not an ugly thing,” he says, perhaps considering the fluttery girls who show up at his personal appearances and the sacks of fan letters (more than 10,000 a month). “But it’s a little strange. I’m still not used to it.”

Nor is he used to the invasion of privacy that comes with having a recognizable mug. As a result, Depp said little during his three-year (1985/88) engagement to actress Sherilyn Fenn of Two Moors Junction fame; or of his most recent engagement to Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey. When the relationship with Grey ended this spring, he admitted it was over but declined to elaborate. (Friends attribute the breakup to geography; with Depp in Vancouver and Grey in Los Angeles, they simply didn’t see each other very often.)

“It’s like when you’re in high school,” he allows, “and you’re going steady with someone, and your friends say, ‘Hey, man, are you seeing this girl?’ and they start razzing you. If you love this girl, you’re not gonna tell your friends. I think you have to shield things; otherwise we’d all be out there cutting our arms open and showing you. ‘Here’s my blood. Have a vein.'”

Ask the private Johnny Depp to discuss his love life, and you get the impression that this is one young man who doesn’t like to wear his heart on his sleeve. But when he rolls up that sleeve, a heart is exactly what you see: a bright red, lavishly decorated heart bedecked with a banner that says Betty Sue. It is the latest of Depp’s two tattoos (a large Indian head adorns his other biceps; he is part Cherokee), and it’s a tribute not to any of Depp’s girlfriends, but to his mother.

“She’s the greatest lady in the world,” says Depp, proudly hiking up his sleeve. “Best friend, coolest thing in the world . . . just unbelievable. Her whole life she’s been a waitress, but I won’t let her wait tables anymore.”

For a while, Depp moved his mother to Vancouver to be closer to him while he was shooting 21 Jump Street. Now, she is back in South Florida, where Johnny’s dad, John Christopher Depp Sr., an engineer, moved his family from Kentucky in 1970, when John Christopher Depp Jr. was only 7. Though they are divorced and have remarried, both his parents still live in that area, as do his two older married sisters, Debbie, 33, and Christie, 28. Brother Danny, 35, is a writer who lives in Kentucky.

“Man, family is the most important thing in the world,” says Depp softly. “Without that, you have nothing. It’s the tightest bond you’ll ever have. When you’re in your teens, family’s family. You think it’s always gonna be there. You think, ‘I want friends and I want cars and I wanna do things different.'” He laughs. “But there’s a certain age you hit when you realize, ‘What am I doing? This is my family.'”

And when did he realize that? “When my parents split up was when I think I realized these are the most important people in my life, and you know, I’d die for these people. I was 15, and it just sort of happened. You just deal with it, but there’s no escaping the hurt. I mean, it definitely hurts, man.”

Before that, Depp had been more concerned with keeping himself entertained than staying close to home. The entertainment took some serious forms: He started taking drugs at age 11, got involved in petty theft and vandalism around the same time and had his first sexual experience at 13.

 “Everybody puts a label on it and calls me a bad boy or a delinquent or a rebel or one of those horrible terms,” he says. “But to me, it was much more curiosity. It wasn’t like I was some malicious kid who wanted to kick an old lady in the shin and run, you know? I just wanted to find out what was out there.

“The only reason why any of my past came out is because I brought it out,” he continues. “And the reason is that, hopefully, people can learn from it. Kids can say, ‘Jesus, he went through the same thing I’m going through now. Maybe I’m not a bad kid like everybody says.'”

Depp’s “bad kid” phase was mostly over by the time he was about 16. But all the same, after his parents’ divorce he dropped out of high school in his junior year and devoted more of his time to his real passion, rock & roll. A self-taught guitarist and occasional singer, he moved through a succession of garage bands before becoming part of the Kids, one of the most successful bands in South Florida. In 1983, when Depp was 20, the group pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles in search of the big time.

Instead, they found a club scene chock-full of bands in similar circumstances, all of them desperately scrambling for a few low-paying gigs. To support himself–and his new wife, Lori Allison, the sister of a musician friend?- he sold ballpoint pens over the phone.

He grins and says: “I got very good at it. But guilt started to get me; I felt like I was ripping people off. The last couple of times I did it I just said, ‘Listen, you don’t want this stuff, man.'”

Depp’s marriage didn’t last much longer than the job: Married at 20, he was divorced at 22. But he and his exwife stayed in touch, and when she later dated actor Nicolas Cage (Moonstruck), Depp and Cage became friends. Cage then suggested that the struggling musician meet his agent, Ilene Feldman.

Once again it was his looks that impressed. “He came in with long hair and an earring and a T-shirt with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve,” says Feldman. “He was not what someone usually looks like when they’re coming in to look for an agent, which is what was so great about him: He just wasn’t into it.”

She sent him to see horror director Wes Craven, then casting the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Craven, who had been auditioning beach-boy types, took notice when Depp walked in. “Johnny was a chain-smoker; he had yellowish skin,” he recalls. “But he really had sort of a James Dean attraction-?that quiet charisma that none of the other actors had.” The director’s daughter and a friend were also at the auditions, and when Craven casually asked the girls whom he should cast, they both said, “Johnny Depp.” That clinched it.

While he was shooting Elm Street, Depp’s band members went their separate ways, and he figured, ” ‘Well, I have no band, I’ve had some pretty good luck with this, so why don’t I see what this acting stuff is about and just give it a shot?'”

Sure enough, he quickly won the lead in another movie, the ghastly teen sexploitation comedy Private Resort. His costar New York-based actor Rob Morrow says that although Depp still had a lot to learn about the movie business, he displayed a natural talent. “He had no idea what he was doing,” recalls Morrow. “Yet he had an understanding of how people operate. He had obstacles, but he was aware of them.”

While neither actor looks back on the movie as one of life’s most memorable moments, they had a few good times together. Take, for instance, their scam to get into a test screening of the picture. “Nobody affiliated with the film could go, but Depp and I heard about it and wanted to see it,” Morrow explains. “So we dressed up in the weirdest possible way. He had dorky glasses and a knit hat on and I put cotton in my mouth so my face puffed out. We walked right past all the execs who knew us.”

Depp may have hated the movie, but it was when he was making Private Resort that he began to think seriously about his acting future. “It wasn’t like I ever kissed the guitar good-bye,” he explains, “but I seemed to be having more steam with acting.”

He took some acting lessons, read a lot of books on the subject, went looking for work and didn’t find much–one episode of Hotel, another of Lady Blue, the made-for-cable movie Slow Burn and an American Film Institute student film. Just as he started to wonder if he had made the right decision after all, director Oliver Stone cast him as the interpreter, Lerner, in Platoon. The experience was great, he befriended costars such as Charlie Sheen, the movie won lots of awards, including 1986’s Best Picture Oscar, and Depp figured his career was back on track.

And then 21 Jump Street came calling. The first time the show’s creator, Patrick Hasburgh, approached Depp, the young actor declined without ever reading the script: on the heels of prestigious Platoon, the last thing he wanted to do was a TV series. “It wasn’t that I was snubbing television or anything,” he insists, “but I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment.”

So Hasburgh hired an actor named Jeff Yagher (from TV’s V series) for the role, while Depp sat around and waited for better offers. But he discovered that even an appearance in a prestigious movie didn’t make him a hot property. Luckily for him, destiny intervened. Yagher didn’t work out on Jump Street and Hasburgh approached Depp a second time. Suddenly, Depp was more receptive to the idea.

“People weren’t banging my door down with scripts,” he admits, “and the pilot was very good, had a lot of strong possibilities. Plus, the average life of a TV series is not a long one, you know?” He laughs. “So I decided to do it.”

To the surprise of many, the show turned into a hit, and Depp found himself signed to a show that looked as if it would stay on the air for years. And now, at the end of the third season, that longevity is beginning to bother him.

“The first season we hit a lot of good issues,” he says, “The second season, the same. We dealt with AIDS, sexual molestation, child molestation, things like that. Unfortunately, Patrick [Hasburgh] left the show after the second season, and the direction seemed to change.”

“I don’t wanna bite the hand that feeds me or anything,” he adds quickly, “and the show has done a tremendous amount for me. It put me on the map. But in a lot of instances the people pushing the pens have been very irresponsible. And that’s scary.”

For instance, he says, one episode showed a student building an electric chair in shop class. In another, a high school student is murdered because he was wrongly suspected of being a narc; Johnny’s character, the actual narc has to prove to the students he is not the narc. “I wanted no part of that one,” says Depp, who refused to appear in the episode. In his place, the producers brought in new cast member Richard Grieco (who plays Dennis Booker).

“I don’t always agree with him, but I see where he’s coming from,” says Jump Street producer Carson. “He fights hard for what he believes in, and he has a tendency to fight for other people as well, which sometimes puts another strand of gray in my hair.”

Depp is still under contract to do the show next season, and despite rumors to the contrary, says he doesn’t plan to break the contract. All the same, he sounds a cautionary note: “If they want to make the show I signed up for three years ago, I’ll be there. And if not . . . I’ll definitely be there to talk about it.”

Depp, of course, has made his feelings known on the Jump Street set. Late in the season, gossip columns were suddenly full of reports of Depp’s on-set tantrums, misbehavior and egotism. If one were to believe the reports, Depp was not a well-liked man in Vancouver. In March he was arrested and charged with assault and mischief in conjunction with a noisy party he attended; the charges were dropped.

According to Depp, one ought not to believe the reports. “I have a couple of ideas where they came from. I think that there are a couple of people,” he leans forward and speaks directly into the tape recorder, “and you know who you are, who don’t like the fact that I am outspoken about certain things. But, as far as temper
tantrums and throwing punches at my producers, it’s such bulls that it’s hilarious.”

Carson agrees that Depp’s fights on the set have all been over the work, that there is little truth to the reports that he has turned into a prima donna. And not surprising, Depp concurs.

“I don’t think my ideas or my principles have changed,” he claims. “But I’ve learned a lot about this business, how political it is, and how people manipulate other people. It’s scary, man. Power is a scary thing.”

If movie stars wield more power than TV stars, Depp should be scared to death when Cry-Baby hits the screens early next year. The movie is his first real chance to break out of the image he created via Jump Street. It is perhaps a surprising choice of role; at the very least, it is not the accepted path for a youngster in his position.

“Given a certain amount of luck and opportunity,” he says with a shrug, “I think anybody could do movies and continue to play the same character and make tons of money and buy a big old house in Bel Air and, like, smoke cigars and eat eggs all the time. But, you know, I’m not so much interested in that.”

Instead, he’ll star in an offbeat John Waters film and dream about making movies from Jack Kerouac’s Beat era travelogue, On the Road, and Danny Sugarman’s recent autobiography about sex, drugs and rock & roll, Wonderland Avenue.

For now, of course, Johnny Depp can fall back on his 21 Jump Street success, family, money, movies, motorcycles and, oh yeah, those Pia Zadora videotapes. And, it seems, an idyllic vision of the distant future.

“I made a point, I wrote it down when I got this tattoo,” he says, fingering the Betty Sue art on his left biceps. “When I’m 90, and I’m sitting around with, like, my grand kids and my great grand kids, and they go, ‘Gramps, when did you get that?’ I want to be able to say, ‘May 31, 1988.'”

He pictures the scene, and laughs. “And then they can go, ‘Wow, Gramps! You’re really old!'”

May 1, 1989   Articles No Comments

Teen Beat, May 1989

A Day on the Set of Johnny Depp’s New Movie

(Baltimore, MD) Have you ever wondered what if would be like to spend a day on the set of a new movie? Would you like to spend an entire day with Johnny Depp? Of course! You’ve dreamed about these things. Well, TEEN BEAT recently spent a day with Johnny on the set of his new movie, Cry-Baby, and we knew you’d like an inside look.

6:00 pm There is a general buzz of excitement among the cast and crew as Johnny arrives on the Baltimore, Maryland set. He is the star of writer/director John Waters’ “1950s juvenile delinquent rock musical” and, from the moment he arrives on the set, it is obvious that Johnny is a true professional. It would generally take the film’s makeup crew about 30 minutes to grease and style Johnny’s hair for his role as Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker, the leader of a tough Baltimore street gang. Yet, today, Johnny has fixed his own hair before leaving the hotel where he lives during the filming. He is obviously getting into the part!

6:30 pm Johnny emerges from his private, air-conditioned trailer on the set. Nearby, the girls on the set giggle nervously as he walks by, giving them a smile. For today’s scenes, Johnny is wearing tight blue jeans, a white t-shirt, black leather motorcycle boots, and a black leather jacket. Fonzie never looked so good!

7:30 pm On the set for rehearsals. Johnny and the cast walk through the first of three scenes they will be shooting today. The other actors in this scene include Ricki Lake (from Hairspray), Traci Lords and punk rocker Iggy Pop, and, as they prepare to shoot the scene, the actors often refer to their scripts. But not Johnny. He has already memorized his lines before he arrived!

8:00 – 10:10 pm The first scene shows “Cry-Baby” and his friends at a dance, and takes over two hours to film even though the scene is only seven minutes long! The director and crew must get every shot just right, and they sometimes take as long as 20 minutes to set up a single shot. The highlight of the scene occurs at the end of one song, when everyone at the dance grabs their partner for a passionate kiss. While Johnny’s character is not featured in this part of the scene, we can tell you it is exciting and hilarious to watch. Some of the actors were really getting into it! They didn’t even mind when the director made them shoot the scene five times!

10:10 – 10:30 pm While the crew quickly sets up the second scene, most of the actors return to their private trailers. Not Johnny. He stays on the set. As you’ve probably heard, some stars demand the spotlight at all times, but Johnny isn’t like that. He never uses the “star’s” chair reserved for him; instead, he prefers sitting alone on a picnic table. As the crew sets up the next scene, many people walk by and speak with Johnny. It seems like everybody on the set wants to sit down next to him, to talk with him…just to be near him. Even though he would prefer to sit alone and prepare for his next scene, he takes time to smile and joke with everyone. It is clear that this is one star who does not think he is more important than other people!

11:00 pm – 12:45 am The second scene, featuring an electrifying dance solo by rocker Iggy Pop is easier to film and goes much more quickly than the first scene. Even though Johnny has no lines in this shot, he remains energetic and in character. Some actors only give 100% when their characters are “on,” but Johnny always gives it his all.

1:00 – 2:00 am While the rest of us are asleep, dreaming of our favorite stars, Johnny and the Cry-Baby crew are taking a break for LUNCH! A fully catered meal is available for everybody on the set, including a variety of chicken, burgers, sandwiches and drinks, as well as fruit juices and vegetables. Today, Johnny takes some fruit and spring water back to his trailer, where he prepares for the final scene of the day.

2:30 am There is elaborate preparation for the third scene (the technicians must simulate a “moon”), forcing a delay on the set, and most of the actors return once more to rest in their trailers. On the way to his trailer, however, Johnny passes a crew member arriving on a brand new, shining black Harley motorcycle. An avid cyclist himself, Johnny and the technician spend the entire break talking excitedly about their motorcycles. Johnny even sits on the big black machine. Astride the motorcycle, with his slicked-back hair and black leather jacket, Johnny looks like a young James Dean–tough, but sensitive…and so very sexy!

3:15 -5:30 am Johnny shoots the final scene of the day with actresses Ricki Lake and Traci Lords. By this time everyone on the set is very tired…and a little slap-happy. When Ricki and Traci keep messing up their lines, Johnny and the crew find it difficult to stop laughing, and the four-minute scene takes over two hours to film! By the time the scene is complete, Johnny has been on the set for nearly twelve hours! While most of you are getting out of bed for school, Johnny’s day on the set has just ended. He heads home to the nearby Baltimore hotel suite provided for him by the film’s producers.

Tomorrow will be more of the same, as the cast and crew will film the big fight scene between the “Drapes” (Johnny’s gang) and the “Squares” at a local high school. In fact, Johnny is scheduled to be on the set again from 1:00 pm to 2:00 am.

The long hours and hard work will be worth it, though, as Johnny’s fans will be treated to his exciting starring role as Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker! Although he has been seen in small parts in Nightmare On Elm Street, Private Resort, and Platoon, this is definitely the part that will make the world realize what teens already know: Johnny Depp is an exciting and talented young actor!

Cry-Baby is scheduled to be released around February 1990. We can’t wait!

January 1, 1989   Articles No Comments

Title: Has Johnny Caught Your Eye?

Publication: Super Teen Super Special

Issue: 1998

 

Photo1Johnny Depp always had an inkling that he would be famous. But when he was signed to co-star on the hot new TV series 21 Jump Street last year, he was astounded. Johnny had expected that his route to renown would be through rock n roll, not through acting!

It was music that had been Johnny’s lifelong passion. Born In Kentucky in 1963. Johnny found early on that he had a sharp, solid instinct for rock “n” roll. His family moved to Miramar. Florida when Johnny was 6, and it was in that town that he learned to play the guitar. Soon his dreams came to center around that instrument and the band that he and his friends formed, called The Kids. Well these particular “kids” were very grown up when it came to big plans, and after they had all graduated from high school, the guys pooled their resources and moved to Los Angeles. Visions of instant stardom flashed bright in each pair of eager eyes. It was 1983, and Johnny Depp felt ready for the Big Time.

But the Big Let Down is what Johnny and his fellow band members experienced. In order to keep going, Johnny had to take any job he could get. The one he took? 1 sold pens over the telephone. I guess it’s called telemarketing. I needed the money to pay the rent—on an awful, shabby place I was renting.” he recalls.

Weary and increasingly disillusioned, the Kids played on. One of the people who heard them, actor Nicholas Cage, became first a fan, and then a friend One day Nicholas took Johnny aside and said. “Why don’t you give acting a chance?” Stunned. Johnny replied that he didn’t know how to go about it. In short order. Nicholas found Johnny an agent—and the agent found Johnny a job. He was sent to audition for a role in Nightmare on Elm Street even though I figured there’s no way in the world I’m going to get a part in this movie! “Nightmare on Elm Street if you don’t already know, became Johnny first acting role!

The gorgeous brown-eyed guy then quickly went on to roles in Platoon, Private Resort and the cable TV movie Slow Burn. He was asked to read for the part of undercover police investigator Tommy Hanson on 21 Jump Street by a producer who saw him in Private Resort By that time, The Kids had broken up, and Johnny future was clearly (and happily!) re­routed to acting. He related to “Tommy” from the beginning: “1 can understand the difficulties the show deals with because I was always getting into mischief when I was in high school!” But beyond that, Johnny loves the music on each show (it’s always a different, hot new album), the super-trendy clothes, and the warmth and friendship of Jumps four young co-stars.

Johnny divides his time between his family’s home in Florida, an apartment in LA. and a new place he bought in Vancouver Canada, where the series is filmed. He’s also back to playing in a band (the Rock City Angels), when he’s in LA. He’s become serious about his acting—and not yet serious about settling down. But why should he— Johnny Depp’s potential is only Just beginning to be explored. Stay tuned, fans!

December 1, 1988   Articles No Comments

“I hope this isn’t going to be about that teen-idol bullshit. We’re really sick of that shit.”~ Jeff Ballard, press agent for Johnny Depp

Bobby Sherman. David Cassidy. Davy Jones. Shaun Cassidy. Each name is a step in the funeral march of burned-out television heartthrobs. Johnny Depp, 25, currently holds the pole position in budding fantasies all over North America, thanks to his lead role on the Fox Broadcasting Company’s baby-cop show 21 Jump Street. As Tom Hanson, a cop who goes undercover in high schools to break up drug gangs and pornography rings, Depp is a sexy guidance counselor, the older guy in every neighborhood who takes you around and shows you the ropes but keeps you out of real trouble. And he has everything that makes little girls wriggle: a forest of eyelashes, sensitive eyes, spiked locks stiffened with several hair-care products of the Eighties, dangly earrings.

But Depp doesn’t want to be a teen idol. “I don’t want to make a career of taking my shirt off,” he says. “I’d like to shave off all my hair, even my eyebrows, try it that way. I don’t fault the TV stars who do teen magazines. They took a hold of their situations, took offers that gave them the big money fast, but they were dead in two years. I don’t want that.” The ironic thing is that Depp didn’t have to do TV. Four years ago, with no acting experience or training, two days after his first audition ever, he got a lead role in A Nightmare on Elm Street, followed by a small part in Platoon. So why TV?

“I’ve been asking myself that question for a long time,” Depp says. “To be honest, I took Jump Street because I thought it would only last a year. I liked the pilot, and I wanted to work with Frederic Forrest [who was in the original cast], so I said yes.” Surprise, surprise, the show is a hit, Forest leaves the first season, and Depp is locked into a contract. “I wouldn’t do another TV series,” he says, “but at least this one means something. It’s not another three-kids-sit-in-a-bathroom sitcom. The scripts help people. But the minute they make a Jump Street lunchbox, I’m gone.”

“Historically, when a show becomes really popular, actors turn into giant assholes, but not Johnny,” says Patrick Hasburgh, creator of Jump Street. “He once lit his underwear on fire in the middle of the set, but that was because no one had cleaned up his motor home in a long time. The show’s success may prevent Johnny from taking features offers, but he’s being cool about it, cooler than I’d be in his shoes. And if I were his age and looked like he does, I’d be dead by now. Girls follow him everywhere, screaming.”

Boys buy posters of their idols. Girls put it in writing. “More than Mike Fox, more than Charlie Sheen, more than Rob Lowe, Johnny Depp gets the greatest volume of mail of any of our clients,” says Spanky Taylor of Fan-Handle, a Los Angeles mail service. “I’d say 10,000-plus pieces a month. Of course, TV guys always get more than film guys.”

It’s not all pictures of girls in their underwear (or less), though Depp has gotten a few of those. “I’ve also gotten weird letters, suicide letters, girls threatening to jump if I don’t get in touch with them. So you think, ‘This is bullshit,’ but then you think, ‘What if it’s not? Who wants to take that chance? I write them back, tell them to hang in there’, if things are that bad, they have to get better. But I’m not altogether stable myself, so who am I to give advice?”

“I lost my virginity somewhere around age thirteen. I did every kind of drug there was by fourteen, swiped a few six-packs, broke into a few classrooms, just to see what was on the other side of that locked door. Eventually you see where it’s headed and you get out.”

Born in Kentucky, raised in Florida by an engineer father and a housewife mother (now divorced), Depp bought a guitar at age twelve, joined his first band at thirteen, dropped out of school at sixteen, took his fifteenth band, the Kids, to Los Angeles, survived a failed marriage (“It wasn’t working out, so we took care of it”) and lucked into the movies. Now he hangs out with Nicolas Cage and Charlie Sheen, sleeps late, wears motorcycle jackets and ripped jeans and bangs out “loud, raunchy blues” on his guitar. His answering machine message recently was a hung-over-sounding voice mumbling, “I’m out out out out out out out out.”

But Jeff Ballard is right: ultimately, this teen-idol shit isn’t very interesting. The really big question about Johnny Depp is whether he can ride it out, whether he can be Frank Sinatra instead of Frankie Avalon. “Everybody compares everyone to James Dean these days,” Depp says. “If you’re lucky, they mention Brando or De Niro or Sean Penn. It’s like they have to compare you to somebody. They invite you to put on an instant image.”

For now, Depp seems content to date around, hang out, work on the show and reject bad offers. “It’s easy to make a million bucks in this business doing stuff that would exploit the piss out of you,” he says. “It’s like fast food. Get in frame, get the product out there, and sell it quick.” Instead, he directs public-service announcements (his first ran after an AIDS-related Jump Street), and he is about to make his first film, a fifteen-minute short titled Every Cake, Neil, from a script he co-wrote; it’s about “the things people can do to screw each other up.” He wants to make a movie of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and eventually cut a record. “I could do a Bruce Willis thing and make a record now,” Depp says, “but it would just milk my teen-boy, pop-idol image. I’d rather do nothing than do that.”

Maybe all those dreamy little girls are on to something. Somehow they sense that in an unpretentious, unself-conscious way, Depp doesn’t mind what anybody thinks. He likes himself, something most long-term adolescents never do. “My face,” he says. “I see it in the mirror when I wash it every morning. It’s an okay face.” And it’s not all bad, this teen-idol bullshit. “Budding fantasies, huh?” Depp says slowly, not unhappily. “Yeah, budding fantasies.” If starring in the restless daydreams of a thousand fourteen-year-old girls will get Depp where he’s going, then that’s what he’ll do. It’s all just part of the job.