US Magazine, June 26, 1989
US Magazine, June 26, 1989
By Steve Pond
Photos by Greg Gorman
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.