UK Film Review June 1995
Look back in Angora
PICTURE THE SCENE, if you will. In one of the scummiest parts of West Los Angeles, Johnny Depp is being put through his acting paces by director Tim Burton. The air is as thick and grimy as an unserviced U-bend. The ambience as comforting as a shower of warm sweat. As the cameras grind slowly into motion, Depp steps out into the light… wearing high heels, black nylons, a blue dress, a beige corset, a pink blouse and red lipstick.
“It’s strange, but it really doesn’t feel so bad,” Depp says about his stint in the frillies. Will his reputation ever be fully restored in the town of Tinsel?
The actor is playing Edward D Wood, arguably the worst director in the history of Hollywood, who lived and worked during the ’40s and ’50s. Wood directed Z-grade features such as Plan 9 from Outer Space, Bride of the Monster and Glen or Glenda, a movie which became a bizarre plea for understanding of his own penchant for cross-dressing.
The role is a bold move for the former teen idol who kicked started his career in the TV series 21 Jump Street, moved on to the silver screen with the original Nightmare on Elm Street movie, and gained celebrity status as the lead in John Waters’s outrageous spoof Cry Baby. However, a shrewd Depp nevertheless expanded artistically in a number of wayward character roles in offbeat movies; the fairy tale fantasy Edward Scissorhands, the romantic drama Benny and [oon, and the rural rites-of-passage piece What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
Each role has revealed much more of a depth in Depp than you would have expected from an actor of his calibre. He has been attached to a number of worthy future projects including a powerful drama called It Only Rains At Night and an untitled new movie from Jim Jaramush.
So what was the attraction – if that is the right word – of playing Edward D Wood?
“Essentially, you really can’t refuse anything that Tim [Burton] asks you to do,” Depp explains. “You know he has a solid belief in you, and even if you do have any reservations about the part, he will talk you through them. Sure, it’s a kinda weird role for me, but would you expect anything else from Tim?
“There was such a great ensemble of people working on the movie, too. I’ve turned parts down and regretted them in the future, and I think I would have been sick as a dog if I’d walked away from this one, I don’t think I’ve worked on anything where everyone was so close-knit.”
The twisted family of performers who bring Ed Wood to life are as outrageous as the story itself. Martin Landau plays Bela Lugosi, the morphine-addicted Horror star regarded by most as being well past his sellby date. Bill Murray is outrageous supporting actor John ‘Bunny’