Shivers, December 1999 – Johnny Depp Acting in Character for Sleepy Hollow
Title: Johnny Depp Acting in Character for Sleepy Hollow
Author: Jean Cummings
Issue: December 1999
JOHNNY DEPP has always chosen roles that are different, and his newest film Sleepy Hollow he displays his talent for humour and drama in a film reminiscent of the Horror films of the ’50s and ’60s. Depp has the starring role in this new version of Washington Irving’s fable The Legend of Sleeply Hollow but the success of the film comes from the multi-faceted character of Ichabod Crane.
American-born Depp now lives with his wife Vanessa and their young daughter in France, but he had to adopt an English accent for the role of Crane. It is something he worked hard to develop.
“You know what I did?” he responds to our inquiry. “I watched a lot of old Horror films. People like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.” The inspiration for the character, he says, was in fact three people. “Number one was Basil Rathbone from the old Sherlock Holmes movies. Number two was a very great friend of mine that recently passed away, Roddy McDowell. He was a great man, a great actor and he was a very important model for the character. In a way this was my opportunity to tip my hat to him, to thank him, to salute him. The third was a terrific actress, Angela Lansbury, she was a great model for the character. I just tried to hold on to those three people and out of that came the accent.”
Depp is too modest to admit that the success of the character may have had something to do with his own talent as an actor, but whatever talent he has, he says, it is something he’s nurtured through constant education.
“I’ve been blessed to know certain people who have been great teachers to me,” he says. “I think that every film you do is a kind of continuation of your education. You meet great teachers along the way. Marlon Brando was one, and he became a great friend. Al Pacino was another, Martin Landau, the list goes on. You learn from everybody.”
He pauses momentarily, before continuing. “Acting is a strange job. What’s at the heart of it for me is my fascination with human behaviour. I think the main thing for any actor when he’s starting out, before you go to class, before you read a book, is just to watch. Just observe people. And if you can take that on board, if you can learn from that and put it in a drawer somewhere, you can use it later to play a character. You’ll show how people do behave, and try to do it as honestly as possible.”
“We present a certain image of ourselves to the public, or to other people in life but in fact there is usually something going on underneath.