Month: April 2001

Not just another pretty face

Johnny Depp was supposed to be another TV idol. But the beautifully underplayed roles — like the voracious dealer in “Blow” — are adding up to a career – By Stephanie Zacharek.

April 19, 2001 | Johnny Depp, so often described as androgynously beautiful, is really more like a male cat, a creature so sure of himself that his more masculine traits aren’t the first things you notice about him. You can see it in the way he underplays every role. Sometimes you look at him and you think he’s not doing much at all; then you realize that what he’s doing is so economical and so understated that you can’t afford to take your eyes off him for an instant. He wastes no line, expression or arc of movement. Like those ancient inky creatures painted on Japanese scrolls with just two or three strokes, he’s both the suggestion and the essence of feline masculinity, all implied muscle and Zen intelligence.

It takes that kind of muted confidence to forge a career the way Depp has. In the late ’80s, after a few tiny film roles, he emerged seemingly out of nowhere to become a teenage heartthrob on the TV series “21 Jump Street,” the kind of taint that some actors, no matter how talented they are, never recover from. Forget the fact that TV actors are so often viewed (wrongly) as movie actors’ less significant second-cousins; when you’re as good-looking as Depp, it’s a given that you’re going to be written off as nothing more than a pretty face. It’s the most unoriginal charge that critics and audiences can level at an actor, and yet particularly in Depp’s case, it was intoned in the press as if it were an unassailable fact determined by a team of brilliant research scientists. No one had much faith that Depp could develop into anything special. While the press busied itself with preconceived notions of the type of actor Depp was and always would be, no one saw that he was ready to pounce.

Copyright 2005 Salon.com

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