US, February 1994 – Johnny Depp
Title: Johnny Depp
Author: Leslie Van Buskirk
Issue: February 1994
JOHNNY DEPP APPEARS TO BE IN A TRANCE. HIS EYES ARE GLAZED, registering something halfway between panic and pure bliss; his arms twitch in a kind of slow motion; his famously bowed lips are frozen in a secretive semi-smile.
This is how Depp behaves when he’s really happy. He is standing in his favorite store, the Heritage Book Shop, on Melrose Avenue, in Hollywood, staring at a stack of letters — unpublished correspondence between two well-known writers (whose names Depp has requested be kept off the record in case he buys them) — on a desk. Moments before, Depp’s arrival caused a cheery flutter of greetings from the staff, all of whom the actor knows by name. “This is where he gets into trouble,” says owner Lou Weinstein with a wink.
The 30-ycar-old actor has been coming here since he arrived in L.A. from Miramar, Fla., some 10 years ago as a high school dropout who thought playing guitar in a rock and roll band was his destiny. “I didn’t have any money, but they were always nice to me,” he says. Though Depp probably looks the same as he did back then — today he’s wearing chinos and a black jacket so frayed it gives new meaning to the word threads — now he can afford the pricey first editions and rare manuscripts that put him over the moon: He’s a movie star.
In the hierarchy of young Hollywood, Depp stands alone. While other actors in his age group compete for the privilege of toting tommy guns, swashbuckling on horseback and diving from planes, he has managed to find roles in movies remarkably free of such clichés. Instead, Depp’s body of work consists of playing innocents who wander quirkier roads: He was the ultimate juvenile delinquent in John Waters’ sublime teen sendup, Cry-Baby (1990), an exploited orphan in Tim Burton’s suburban fairy tale, Edward Scissorhands (1990), and a love-struck dyslexic with Buster Keaton tendencies in last year’s Benny &Joon. Currently he’s onscreen as a grocery delivery boy who has to care for his retarded younger brother and 500-pound mother in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. And mere days ago, he wrapped Ed Wood, his second collaboration with Tim Burton, in which Depp stars in the title role as the legendary bad-movie director with a penchant for wearing women’s clothes.
Depp’s been turning down high-profile, big-studio pictures for some time now. For example, a few years back when he was TV’s actor du jour via 21 jump Street and Dawn Steel was running Columbia Pictures, she tried convincing him to take a leading role in Point Break. It should have been his big break, but he passed, and it went to Patrick Swayze. “And I’ve just offered him another movie and an enormous amount of money,” confesses Steel,