Month: June 1997

Film Review, June 1997 – Depp Undercover

Title: Depp Undercover

Publication: Film Review

Issue: June 1997

Photo1DON’T EXPECT Donnie Brasco to have any of the inno­cent charm of Edward Scissorhands or the kitsch sensi­bility of Ed Wood – Johnny Depp’s latest film is as far removed from these as is possible. The 33-year-old actor stars as Joe Pistone in the almost unbelievable true tale of an FBI agent who manages to infiltrate a Mafia ring for six years in the 1970s. Starring with Al Pacino – who plays Joe’s mentor and guide through the Mafia world, Lefty Ruggiero – Depp is astonishing as the FBI agent whose double life threatens to tear him apart. And while Depp isn’t exactly renowned for being typecast, if he were to find himself a comfortable niche in other films that are as unflinch­ing and graphic as Donnie Brasco, the likes of Brad Pitt would be looking over their shoulders.

The Mafia men in Donnie Brasco are not the sort that a mother-in-law would welcome with open arms. They can appear to be friendly enough but running through them is a streak of vicious ruthlessness. In their world it’s often kill or be killed. Amazingly, Depp managed to meet Mafia men before shooting the film.

“Yeah, well, we spent some time with some guys,” he says almost nonchalantly. “You know, all I can say really is that it’s not exactly what we’ve come to know in the movies – that sort of wise-guy persona. I found the majority of them to be good guys – real gentlemen, family men, good fathers, good husbands. I had the utmost respect for the guys that I met.”

Not exactly the response that you would expect from someone meeting the Mafia. We’ve all seen The Godfather!

Depp continues. “I never asked them about their business and they never volunteered any information. I wouldn’t really have been ready to receive that! I just got to know them and found them to be very, very good guys.” He pauses for a moment. “What they do for a living is a mystery to me. Again, I don’t believe it’s exactly what they portray in the majority of the movies. I think it’s closer to what happens in Donnie Brasco.”

It’s true that you don’t find a horse’s head in anyone’s bed but if the film is even remotely true to life, the Mafia men that Joe Pistone met were cold killers.

“ I don’t think they’re serial killers,” says Depp of those he met. ‘There’s a circle in which they live, and within that circle there’s a game of survival. You know, you can tag this to anyone who has a pulse: ‘If it’s him or me, he’s going down’. I mean, I can’t be more plain than that. That’s just the way it is. If somebody’s going to get you, you’re going to try and get them first.”

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