US Magazine, June 26, 1989

US Magazine, June 26, 1989
By Steve Pond
Photos by Greg Gorman

Depp Perception

He has been compared to James Dean, Marlon Brando, all those tough-but sensitive outsider guys. He has a hit TV series (21 Jump Street) on which he plays an undercover cop. He wears battered clothes and combat boots. He has two tattoos. He rides a Harley-Davidson.

But forget about all that tough-guy stuff for now. On a warm afternoon in the San Fernando Valley, Johnny Depp is tapping his foot, chain-smoking, eating a slice of pepperoni pizza, drinking a Coke and talking about one of his favorite movie stars, and it’s not James or Marlon or anyone known for driving fast or wearing tight T-shirts. Right now, Johnny Depp is talking PIA.

As in Zadora. As in The Lonely Lady, the flick Entertainment Tonight’s movie critic, Leonard Maltin, calls “rock-bottom stuff, not even fun on a trash level.” “I think we can learn from the movie,” Depp says.

Sure he has a little grin on his face as he’s praising the movie, but at the same time he’s clearly got a real fondness for this stuff. “You know,” he says with a shrug, “people trash Pia Zadora and make fun of her. But
I think she’s got a lot of balls. I saw her sing live once, and I was very impressed. She’s Pia.”

As he goes on about Pia, it becomes clearer why Depp, who probably could have had his pick of several high-profile Hollywood movies (“Movies where I play this tough guy or I pull out a handgun and shoot at people”), is spending his summer hiatus making a small film called Cry-Baby. The movie’s writer/director is John Waters, the cultster who made his name with aggressively trashy films such as Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living before the more mainstream success of last year’s Hairspray (in which Zadora had a cameo as a poetry-spouting beatnik chick).

Waters, who wrote the role of bad boy Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker with Depp in mind, doesn’t think he and his star make for an odd artistic pairing. “I don’t think there’s anyone else who could play it,” he says. “Johnny’s not a bad boy in real life, but he’s had some wild moments in the past which come in handy.”

As the title character, the leader of a gang of Fifties hoodlums, Depp, 26, has his first major movie role since becoming a TV star. It puts him under a lot of pressure, but he swears that he is looking forward to spending his summer in Waters’ considerably less glamorous (next to L.A., that is) hometown of Baltimore. “The big thing is crab cakes and thrift stores,” he says happily. “So I’m pretty excited.”

 Depp, of course, doesn’t need crab cakes and thrift stores; he can afford to eat fancier foods and shop in more upscale environs. His $45,000-per-episode deal with Jump Street and the cool million he is pulling in for Cry-Baby could conceivably buy truckloads of caviar and designer duds. But today he is dressed de rigueur for Depp: torn jeans, black boots and a plaid shirt unbuttoned far enough to show off a chain from which a cross and a medallion hang (actually, it’s a pop top from a Japanese Coca-Cola can). Glamorous, he’s not.

But he is something else: He doesn’t like to think about it or talk about it and he would rather journalists didn’t write about it, but Depp is indeed a full fledged sex symbol, and a teen idol to boot. Jump Street turned the trick. Each week, he comes on screen with his perpetually disheveled, offhand cool. As undercover cop Tom Hanson, he’s the tough kid who looks a little lost underneath the cool.

“When I first saw Johnny,” says 21 Jump Street producer Joan Carson, “he had a felt hat pulled down and these deep brown eyes peering out, with a coat that went to the floor. He was cute as a bug’s ear, but he looked like a waif. And I think that is part of his appeal: He can be waiflike, but his charisma comes through.

Waters concurs. “First of all, he’s a good actor, ” he says, “but secondly, he’s handsome in a real way. He’s just got that thing that makes a star.”

Talk like this makes Depp nervous, although sitting on a couch in the den of his publicist’s Sherman Oaks, California, house, he initially seems comfortable and relaxed. Perhaps that’s because he spent most of last summer on this very couch after subletting his own L.A. digs. A year later, he still doesn’t have an apartment; nor does he own a house. And while he once lived in his best friend’s car when they were teenagers, that option isn’t open to him today because? You guessed it. He doesn’t own a car (his vintage Harley-Davidson sits idle in Vancouver, British Columbia).

He is friendly and talkative when the conversation concerns rock & roll, his occasionally wild teen years or his dissatisfaction with some recent Jump Street episodes. But when the talk turns to his stardom, and especially the sex symbol/teen idol stuff, he fidgets more and says less, the pauses get longer, the answers shorter.

“After we’d shot the first season, it got a little strange,” he says quietly, lighting another cigarette and running a hand through his trademark tangled hair. “I don’t hate it; I don’t mind it; it’s not an ugly thing,” he says, perhaps considering the fluttery girls who show up at his personal appearances and the sacks of fan letters (more than 10,000 a month). “But it’s a little strange. I’m still not used to it.”

Nor is he used to the invasion of privacy that comes with having a recognizable mug. As a result, Depp said little during his three-year (1985/88) engagement to actress Sherilyn Fenn of Two Moors Junction fame; or of his most recent engagement to Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey. When the relationship with Grey ended this spring, he admitted it was over but declined to elaborate. (Friends attribute the breakup to geography; with Depp in Vancouver and Grey in Los Angeles, they simply didn’t see each other very often.)

“It’s like when you’re in high school,” he allows, “and you’re going steady with someone, and your friends say, ‘Hey, man, are you seeing this girl?’ and they start razzing you. If you love this girl, you’re not gonna tell your friends. I think you have to shield things; otherwise we’d all be out there cutting our arms open and showing you. ‘Here’s my blood. Have a vein.'”

Ask the private Johnny Depp to discuss his love life, and you get the impression that this is one young man who doesn’t like to wear his heart on his sleeve. But when he rolls up that sleeve, a heart is exactly what you see: a bright red, lavishly decorated heart bedecked with a banner that says Betty Sue. It is the latest of Depp’s two tattoos (a large Indian head adorns his other biceps; he is part Cherokee), and it’s a tribute not to any of Depp’s girlfriends, but to his mother.

“She’s the greatest lady in the world,” says Depp, proudly hiking up his sleeve. “Best friend, coolest thing in the world . . . just unbelievable. Her whole life she’s been a waitress, but I won’t let her wait tables anymore.”

For a while, Depp moved his mother to Vancouver to be closer to him while he was shooting 21 Jump Street. Now, she is back in South Florida, where Johnny’s dad, John Christopher Depp Sr., an engineer, moved his family from Kentucky in 1970, when John Christopher Depp Jr. was only 7. Though they are divorced and have remarried, both his parents still live in that area, as do his two older married sisters, Debbie, 33, and Christie, 28. Brother Danny, 35, is a writer who lives in Kentucky.

“Man, family is the most important thing in the world,” says Depp softly. “Without that, you have nothing. It’s the tightest bond you’ll ever have. When you’re in your teens, family’s family. You think it’s always gonna be there. You think, ‘I want friends and I want cars and I wanna do things different.'” He laughs. “But there’s a certain age you hit when you realize, ‘What am I doing? This is my family.'”

And when did he realize that? “When my parents split up was when I think I realized these are the most important people in my life, and you know, I’d die for these people. I was 15, and it just sort of happened. You just deal with it, but there’s no escaping the hurt. I mean, it definitely hurts, man.”

Before that, Depp had been more concerned with keeping himself entertained than staying close to home. The entertainment took some serious forms: He started taking drugs at age 11, got involved in petty theft and vandalism around the same time and had his first sexual experience at 13.

 “Everybody puts a label on it and calls me a bad boy or a delinquent or a rebel or one of those horrible terms,” he says. “But to me, it was much more curiosity. It wasn’t like I was some malicious kid who wanted to kick an old lady in the shin and run, you know? I just wanted to find out what was out there.

“The only reason why any of my past came out is because I brought it out,” he continues. “And the reason is that, hopefully, people can learn from it. Kids can say, ‘Jesus, he went through the same thing I’m going through now. Maybe I’m not a bad kid like everybody says.'”

Depp’s “bad kid” phase was mostly over by the time he was about 16. But all the same, after his parents’ divorce he dropped out of high school in his junior year and devoted more of his time to his real passion, rock & roll. A self-taught guitarist and occasional singer, he moved through a succession of garage bands before becoming part of the Kids, one of the most successful bands in South Florida. In 1983, when Depp was 20, the group pulled up stakes and moved to Los Angeles in search of the big time.

Instead, they found a club scene chock-full of bands in similar circumstances, all of them desperately scrambling for a few low-paying gigs. To support himself–and his new wife, Lori Allison, the sister of a musician friend?- he sold ballpoint pens over the phone.

He grins and says: “I got very good at it. But guilt started to get me; I felt like I was ripping people off. The last couple of times I did it I just said, ‘Listen, you don’t want this stuff, man.'”

Depp’s marriage didn’t last much longer than the job: Married at 20, he was divorced at 22. But he and his exwife stayed in touch, and when she later dated actor Nicolas Cage (Moonstruck), Depp and Cage became friends. Cage then suggested that the struggling musician meet his agent, Ilene Feldman.

Once again it was his looks that impressed. “He came in with long hair and an earring and a T-shirt with cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve,” says Feldman. “He was not what someone usually looks like when they’re coming in to look for an agent, which is what was so great about him: He just wasn’t into it.”

She sent him to see horror director Wes Craven, then casting the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Craven, who had been auditioning beach-boy types, took notice when Depp walked in. “Johnny was a chain-smoker; he had yellowish skin,” he recalls. “But he really had sort of a James Dean attraction-?that quiet charisma that none of the other actors had.” The director’s daughter and a friend were also at the auditions, and when Craven casually asked the girls whom he should cast, they both said, “Johnny Depp.” That clinched it.

While he was shooting Elm Street, Depp’s band members went their separate ways, and he figured, ” ‘Well, I have no band, I’ve had some pretty good luck with this, so why don’t I see what this acting stuff is about and just give it a shot?'”

Sure enough, he quickly won the lead in another movie, the ghastly teen sexploitation comedy Private Resort. His costar New York-based actor Rob Morrow says that although Depp still had a lot to learn about the movie business, he displayed a natural talent. “He had no idea what he was doing,” recalls Morrow. “Yet he had an understanding of how people operate. He had obstacles, but he was aware of them.”

While neither actor looks back on the movie as one of life’s most memorable moments, they had a few good times together. Take, for instance, their scam to get into a test screening of the picture. “Nobody affiliated with the film could go, but Depp and I heard about it and wanted to see it,” Morrow explains. “So we dressed up in the weirdest possible way. He had dorky glasses and a knit hat on and I put cotton in my mouth so my face puffed out. We walked right past all the execs who knew us.”

Depp may have hated the movie, but it was when he was making Private Resort that he began to think seriously about his acting future. “It wasn’t like I ever kissed the guitar good-bye,” he explains, “but I seemed to be having more steam with acting.”

He took some acting lessons, read a lot of books on the subject, went looking for work and didn’t find much–one episode of Hotel, another of Lady Blue, the made-for-cable movie Slow Burn and an American Film Institute student film. Just as he started to wonder if he had made the right decision after all, director Oliver Stone cast him as the interpreter, Lerner, in Platoon. The experience was great, he befriended costars such as Charlie Sheen, the movie won lots of awards, including 1986’s Best Picture Oscar, and Depp figured his career was back on track.

And then 21 Jump Street came calling. The first time the show’s creator, Patrick Hasburgh, approached Depp, the young actor declined without ever reading the script: on the heels of prestigious Platoon, the last thing he wanted to do was a TV series. “It wasn’t that I was snubbing television or anything,” he insists, “but I wasn’t ready for that kind of commitment.”

So Hasburgh hired an actor named Jeff Yagher (from TV’s V series) for the role, while Depp sat around and waited for better offers. But he discovered that even an appearance in a prestigious movie didn’t make him a hot property. Luckily for him, destiny intervened. Yagher didn’t work out on Jump Street and Hasburgh approached Depp a second time. Suddenly, Depp was more receptive to the idea.

“People weren’t banging my door down with scripts,” he admits, “and the pilot was very good, had a lot of strong possibilities. Plus, the average life of a TV series is not a long one, you know?” He laughs. “So I decided to do it.”

To the surprise of many, the show turned into a hit, and Depp found himself signed to a show that looked as if it would stay on the air for years. And now, at the end of the third season, that longevity is beginning to bother him.

“The first season we hit a lot of good issues,” he says, “The second season, the same. We dealt with AIDS, sexual molestation, child molestation, things like that. Unfortunately, Patrick [Hasburgh] left the show after the second season, and the direction seemed to change.”

“I don’t wanna bite the hand that feeds me or anything,” he adds quickly, “and the show has done a tremendous amount for me. It put me on the map. But in a lot of instances the people pushing the pens have been very irresponsible. And that’s scary.”

For instance, he says, one episode showed a student building an electric chair in shop class. In another, a high school student is murdered because he was wrongly suspected of being a narc; Johnny’s character, the actual narc has to prove to the students he is not the narc. “I wanted no part of that one,” says Depp, who refused to appear in the episode. In his place, the producers brought in new cast member Richard Grieco (who plays Dennis Booker).

“I don’t always agree with him, but I see where he’s coming from,” says Jump Street producer Carson. “He fights hard for what he believes in, and he has a tendency to fight for other people as well, which sometimes puts another strand of gray in my hair.”

Depp is still under contract to do the show next season, and despite rumors to the contrary, says he doesn’t plan to break the contract. All the same, he sounds a cautionary note: “If they want to make the show I signed up for three years ago, I’ll be there. And if not . . . I’ll definitely be there to talk about it.”

Depp, of course, has made his feelings known on the Jump Street set. Late in the season, gossip columns were suddenly full of reports of Depp’s on-set tantrums, misbehavior and egotism. If one were to believe the reports, Depp was not a well-liked man in Vancouver. In March he was arrested and charged with assault and mischief in conjunction with a noisy party he attended; the charges were dropped.

According to Depp, one ought not to believe the reports. “I have a couple of ideas where they came from. I think that there are a couple of people,” he leans forward and speaks directly into the tape recorder, “and you know who you are, who don’t like the fact that I am outspoken about certain things. But, as far as temper
tantrums and throwing punches at my producers, it’s such bulls that it’s hilarious.”

Carson agrees that Depp’s fights on the set have all been over the work, that there is little truth to the reports that he has turned into a prima donna. And not surprising, Depp concurs.

“I don’t think my ideas or my principles have changed,” he claims. “But I’ve learned a lot about this business, how political it is, and how people manipulate other people. It’s scary, man. Power is a scary thing.”

If movie stars wield more power than TV stars, Depp should be scared to death when Cry-Baby hits the screens early next year. The movie is his first real chance to break out of the image he created via Jump Street. It is perhaps a surprising choice of role; at the very least, it is not the accepted path for a youngster in his position.

“Given a certain amount of luck and opportunity,” he says with a shrug, “I think anybody could do movies and continue to play the same character and make tons of money and buy a big old house in Bel Air and, like, smoke cigars and eat eggs all the time. But, you know, I’m not so much interested in that.”

Instead, he’ll star in an offbeat John Waters film and dream about making movies from Jack Kerouac’s Beat era travelogue, On the Road, and Danny Sugarman’s recent autobiography about sex, drugs and rock & roll, Wonderland Avenue.

For now, of course, Johnny Depp can fall back on his 21 Jump Street success, family, money, movies, motorcycles and, oh yeah, those Pia Zadora videotapes. And, it seems, an idyllic vision of the distant future.

“I made a point, I wrote it down when I got this tattoo,” he says, fingering the Betty Sue art on his left biceps. “When I’m 90, and I’m sitting around with, like, my grand kids and my great grand kids, and they go, ‘Gramps, when did you get that?’ I want to be able to say, ‘May 31, 1988.'”

He pictures the scene, and laughs. “And then they can go, ‘Wow, Gramps! You’re really old!'”

Teen Beat, May 1989

Teen Beat, May 1989

A Day on the Set of Johnny Depp’s New Movie

(Baltimore, MD) Have you ever wondered what if would be like to spend a day on the set of a new movie? Would you like to spend an entire day with Johnny Depp? Of course! You’ve dreamed about these things. Well, TEEN BEAT recently spent a day with Johnny on the set of his new movie, Cry-Baby, and we knew you’d like an inside look.

6:00 pm There is a general buzz of excitement among the cast and crew as Johnny arrives on the Baltimore, Maryland set. He is the star of writer/director John Waters’ “1950s juvenile delinquent rock musical” and, from the moment he arrives on the set, it is obvious that Johnny is a true professional. It would generally take the film’s makeup crew about 30 minutes to grease and style Johnny’s hair for his role as Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker, the leader of a tough Baltimore street gang. Yet, today, Johnny has fixed his own hair before leaving the hotel where he lives during the filming. He is obviously getting into the part!

6:30 pm Johnny emerges from his private, air-conditioned trailer on the set. Nearby, the girls on the set giggle nervously as he walks by, giving them a smile. For today’s scenes, Johnny is wearing tight blue jeans, a white t-shirt, black leather motorcycle boots, and a black leather jacket. Fonzie never looked so good!

7:30 pm On the set for rehearsals. Johnny and the cast walk through the first of three scenes they will be shooting today. The other actors in this scene include Ricki Lake (from Hairspray), Traci Lords and punk rocker Iggy Pop, and, as they prepare to shoot the scene, the actors often refer to their scripts. But not Johnny. He has already memorized his lines before he arrived!

8:00 – 10:10 pm The first scene shows “Cry-Baby” and his friends at a dance, and takes over two hours to film even though the scene is only seven minutes long! The director and crew must get every shot just right, and they sometimes take as long as 20 minutes to set up a single shot. The highlight of the scene occurs at the end of one song, when everyone at the dance grabs their partner for a passionate kiss. While Johnny’s character is not featured in this part of the scene, we can tell you it is exciting and hilarious to watch. Some of the actors were really getting into it! They didn’t even mind when the director made them shoot the scene five times!

10:10 – 10:30 pm While the crew quickly sets up the second scene, most of the actors return to their private trailers. Not Johnny. He stays on the set. As you’ve probably heard, some stars demand the spotlight at all times, but Johnny isn’t like that. He never uses the “star’s” chair reserved for him; instead, he prefers sitting alone on a picnic table. As the crew sets up the next scene, many people walk by and speak with Johnny. It seems like everybody on the set wants to sit down next to him, to talk with him…just to be near him. Even though he would prefer to sit alone and prepare for his next scene, he takes time to smile and joke with everyone. It is clear that this is one star who does not think he is more important than other people!

11:00 pm – 12:45 am The second scene, featuring an electrifying dance solo by rocker Iggy Pop is easier to film and goes much more quickly than the first scene. Even though Johnny has no lines in this shot, he remains energetic and in character. Some actors only give 100% when their characters are “on,” but Johnny always gives it his all.

1:00 – 2:00 am While the rest of us are asleep, dreaming of our favorite stars, Johnny and the Cry-Baby crew are taking a break for LUNCH! A fully catered meal is available for everybody on the set, including a variety of chicken, burgers, sandwiches and drinks, as well as fruit juices and vegetables. Today, Johnny takes some fruit and spring water back to his trailer, where he prepares for the final scene of the day.

2:30 am There is elaborate preparation for the third scene (the technicians must simulate a “moon”), forcing a delay on the set, and most of the actors return once more to rest in their trailers. On the way to his trailer, however, Johnny passes a crew member arriving on a brand new, shining black Harley motorcycle. An avid cyclist himself, Johnny and the technician spend the entire break talking excitedly about their motorcycles. Johnny even sits on the big black machine. Astride the motorcycle, with his slicked-back hair and black leather jacket, Johnny looks like a young James Dean–tough, but sensitive…and so very sexy!

3:15 -5:30 am Johnny shoots the final scene of the day with actresses Ricki Lake and Traci Lords. By this time everyone on the set is very tired…and a little slap-happy. When Ricki and Traci keep messing up their lines, Johnny and the crew find it difficult to stop laughing, and the four-minute scene takes over two hours to film! By the time the scene is complete, Johnny has been on the set for nearly twelve hours! While most of you are getting out of bed for school, Johnny’s day on the set has just ended. He heads home to the nearby Baltimore hotel suite provided for him by the film’s producers.

Tomorrow will be more of the same, as the cast and crew will film the big fight scene between the “Drapes” (Johnny’s gang) and the “Squares” at a local high school. In fact, Johnny is scheduled to be on the set again from 1:00 pm to 2:00 am.

The long hours and hard work will be worth it, though, as Johnny’s fans will be treated to his exciting starring role as Wade “Cry-Baby” Walker! Although he has been seen in small parts in Nightmare On Elm Street, Private Resort, and Platoon, this is definitely the part that will make the world realize what teens already know: Johnny Depp is an exciting and talented young actor!

Cry-Baby is scheduled to be released around February 1990. We can’t wait!

Super Teen Super Special, 1998 – Has Johnny Caught Your Eye?

Title: Has Johnny Caught Your Eye?

Publication: Super Teen Super Special

Issue: 1998


Photo1Johnny Depp always had an inkling that he would be famous. But when he was signed to co-star on the hot new TV series 21 Jump Street last year, he was astounded. Johnny had expected that his route to renown would be through rock n roll, not through acting!

It was music that had been Johnny’s lifelong passion. Born In Kentucky in 1963. Johnny found early on that he had a sharp, solid instinct for rock “n” roll. His family moved to Miramar. Florida when Johnny was 6, and it was in that town that he learned to play the guitar. Soon his dreams came to center around that instrument and the band that he and his friends formed, called The Kids. Well these particular “kids” were very grown up when it came to big plans, and after they had all graduated from high school, the guys pooled their resources and moved to Los Angeles. Visions of instant stardom flashed bright in each pair of eager eyes. It was 1983, and Johnny Depp felt ready for the Big Time.

But the Big Let Down is what Johnny and his fellow band members experienced. In order to keep going, Johnny had to take any job he could get. The one he took? 1 sold pens over the telephone. I guess it’s called telemarketing. I needed the money to pay the rent—on an awful, shabby place I was renting.” he recalls.

Weary and increasingly disillusioned, the Kids played on. One of the people who heard them, actor Nicholas Cage, became first a fan, and then a friend One day Nicholas took Johnny aside and said. “Why don’t you give acting a chance?” Stunned. Johnny replied that he didn’t know how to go about it. In short order. Nicholas found Johnny an agent—and the agent found Johnny a job. He was sent to audition for a role in Nightmare on Elm Street even though I figured there’s no way in the world I’m going to get a part in this movie! “Nightmare on Elm Street if you don’t already know, became Johnny first acting role!

The gorgeous brown-eyed guy then quickly went on to roles in Platoon, Private Resort and the cable TV movie Slow Burn. He was asked to read for the part of undercover police investigator Tommy Hanson on 21 Jump Street by a producer who saw him in Private Resort By that time, The Kids had broken up, and Johnny future was clearly (and happily!) re­routed to acting. He related to “Tommy” from the beginning: “1 can understand the difficulties the show deals with because I was always getting into mischief when I was in high school!” But beyond that, Johnny loves the music on each show (it’s always a different, hot new album), the super-trendy clothes, and the warmth and friendship of Jumps four young co-stars.

Johnny divides his time between his family’s home in Florida, an apartment in LA. and a new place he bought in Vancouver Canada, where the series is filmed. He’s also back to playing in a band (the Rock City Angels), when he’s in LA. He’s become serious about his acting—and not yet serious about settling down. But why should he— Johnny Depp’s potential is only Just beginning to be explored. Stay tuned, fans!


“I hope this isn’t going to be about that teen-idol bullshit. We’re really sick of that shit.”~ Jeff Ballard, press agent for Johnny Depp

Bobby Sherman. David Cassidy. Davy Jones. Shaun Cassidy. Each name is a step in the funeral march of burned-out television heartthrobs. Johnny Depp, 25, currently holds the pole position in budding fantasies all over North America, thanks to his lead role on the Fox Broadcasting Company’s baby-cop show 21 Jump Street. As Tom Hanson, a cop who goes undercover in high schools to break up drug gangs and pornography rings, Depp is a sexy guidance counselor, the older guy in every neighborhood who takes you around and shows you the ropes but keeps you out of real trouble. And he has everything that makes little girls wriggle: a forest of eyelashes, sensitive eyes, spiked locks stiffened with several hair-care products of the Eighties, dangly earrings.

But Depp doesn’t want to be a teen idol. “I don’t want to make a career of taking my shirt off,” he says. “I’d like to shave off all my hair, even my eyebrows, try it that way. I don’t fault the TV stars who do teen magazines. They took a hold of their situations, took offers that gave them the big money fast, but they were dead in two years. I don’t want that.” The ironic thing is that Depp didn’t have to do TV. Four years ago, with no acting experience or training, two days after his first audition ever, he got a lead role in A Nightmare on Elm Street, followed by a small part in Platoon. So why TV?

“I’ve been asking myself that question for a long time,” Depp says. “To be honest, I took Jump Street because I thought it would only last a year. I liked the pilot, and I wanted to work with Frederic Forrest [who was in the original cast], so I said yes.” Surprise, surprise, the show is a hit, Forest leaves the first season, and Depp is locked into a contract. “I wouldn’t do another TV series,” he says, “but at least this one means something. It’s not another three-kids-sit-in-a-bathroom sitcom. The scripts help people. But the minute they make a Jump Street lunchbox, I’m gone.”

“Historically, when a show becomes really popular, actors turn into giant assholes, but not Johnny,” says Patrick Hasburgh, creator of Jump Street. “He once lit his underwear on fire in the middle of the set, but that was because no one had cleaned up his motor home in a long time. The show’s success may prevent Johnny from taking features offers, but he’s being cool about it, cooler than I’d be in his shoes. And if I were his age and looked like he does, I’d be dead by now. Girls follow him everywhere, screaming.”

Boys buy posters of their idols. Girls put it in writing. “More than Mike Fox, more than Charlie Sheen, more than Rob Lowe, Johnny Depp gets the greatest volume of mail of any of our clients,” says Spanky Taylor of Fan-Handle, a Los Angeles mail service. “I’d say 10,000-plus pieces a month. Of course, TV guys always get more than film guys.”

It’s not all pictures of girls in their underwear (or less), though Depp has gotten a few of those. “I’ve also gotten weird letters, suicide letters, girls threatening to jump if I don’t get in touch with them. So you think, ‘This is bullshit,’ but then you think, ‘What if it’s not? Who wants to take that chance? I write them back, tell them to hang in there’, if things are that bad, they have to get better. But I’m not altogether stable myself, so who am I to give advice?”

“I lost my virginity somewhere around age thirteen. I did every kind of drug there was by fourteen, swiped a few six-packs, broke into a few classrooms, just to see what was on the other side of that locked door. Eventually you see where it’s headed and you get out.”

Born in Kentucky, raised in Florida by an engineer father and a housewife mother (now divorced), Depp bought a guitar at age twelve, joined his first band at thirteen, dropped out of school at sixteen, took his fifteenth band, the Kids, to Los Angeles, survived a failed marriage (“It wasn’t working out, so we took care of it”) and lucked into the movies. Now he hangs out with Nicolas Cage and Charlie Sheen, sleeps late, wears motorcycle jackets and ripped jeans and bangs out “loud, raunchy blues” on his guitar. His answering machine message recently was a hung-over-sounding voice mumbling, “I’m out out out out out out out out.”

But Jeff Ballard is right: ultimately, this teen-idol shit isn’t very interesting. The really big question about Johnny Depp is whether he can ride it out, whether he can be Frank Sinatra instead of Frankie Avalon. “Everybody compares everyone to James Dean these days,” Depp says. “If you’re lucky, they mention Brando or De Niro or Sean Penn. It’s like they have to compare you to somebody. They invite you to put on an instant image.”

For now, Depp seems content to date around, hang out, work on the show and reject bad offers. “It’s easy to make a million bucks in this business doing stuff that would exploit the piss out of you,” he says. “It’s like fast food. Get in frame, get the product out there, and sell it quick.” Instead, he directs public-service announcements (his first ran after an AIDS-related Jump Street), and he is about to make his first film, a fifteen-minute short titled Every Cake, Neil, from a script he co-wrote; it’s about “the things people can do to screw each other up.” He wants to make a movie of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and eventually cut a record. “I could do a Bruce Willis thing and make a record now,” Depp says, “but it would just milk my teen-boy, pop-idol image. I’d rather do nothing than do that.”

Maybe all those dreamy little girls are on to something. Somehow they sense that in an unpretentious, unself-conscious way, Depp doesn’t mind what anybody thinks. He likes himself, something most long-term adolescents never do. “My face,” he says. “I see it in the mirror when I wash it every morning. It’s an okay face.” And it’s not all bad, this teen-idol bullshit. “Budding fantasies, huh?” Depp says slowly, not unhappily. “Yeah, budding fantasies.” If starring in the restless daydreams of a thousand fourteen-year-old girls will get Depp where he’s going, then that’s what he’ll do. It’s all just part of the job.

Model December, 1988 – HERE’S JOHNNY!

Two teenagers are standing in front of the Daley Plaza government building in Chicago, whimpering and waiting. On this murky, muggy Saturday morning, Trish and Rhonda – all of 15 years old – clutch ripped, jagged-edged magazine pages in vice grips. “But do you really think we’ll get close enough to touch him?” Trish whispers, knowing full well that the odds are hovering around slim-to-none. Rhonda is shaking her head in mock angst. “Maybe we’ll get an autograph,” she laments, “but face it. We’ll never get to touch Johnny Depp.”

It’s 10:30 a.m. “Who do you want?” shouts local Fox-TV anchor Robin Brantley to some 7,000 high school and college females who have gathered in an otherwise deserted part of down-town Chicago.

They chant in unison. Welcome to the Windy City’s yearly “Be Good. Go to School. Say No to Drugs!” youth pep festival which today seems like some weird religious event. “Johnny who?” taunts Brantley, buying some time while the cast of Fox’s 21 Jump Street – Depp, Holly Robinson, Dustin Nguyen, Peter DeLuise and Steven Williams – waltz out of the Daley Center high rise and onto a makeshift stage flanked by police and two-ton security guards.

“Hello, I’m Johnny Depp,” he says, approaching the mike to a roar of applause. “My basic message is simple: Protect your mind. Protect your heart. And take care of yourself.” He runs a hand through longish ink-black hair and smiles.

Time out, please. Let the record show that anchor Robin Brantley had a valid question when she asked, “Johnny who?” In a nutshell, Depp is a failed musician who once upon a time sold ballpoint pens over the phone to pay the rent on his meager Los Angles digs. That was only five years ago, and since then he has appeared in one critically acclaimed film, Platoon, and a gaggle of low-budget features, including A Nightmare on Elm Street. But now Depp stars on 21 Jump Street, which is one of the Fox Network’s two hits (Married With Children is the other), but was ranked just 140th on A.C. Nielsen’s list of the 163 highest-rated shows of last season. So, put all the pieces together: No movie career; no hit television show; no singing career. Yet Johnny Depp is a star. His face is plastered on teen magazines from coast to coast. Us magazine voted him one of Hollywood’s hottest bachelors. And more and more Jump Street episodes are featuring heavy doses of Depp and less of the other up-and-comers.

Johnny Depp has arrived. Sort of. If you spend the entire day in Chicago on his tail, it’s easy to conclude that “arriving” – in the most basic sense of the word – is not on his top ten list of accomplishments.

Flashback to sometime in June when the creative minds at the Fox Network decided that hauling the cast members of Jump Street to select cities would be an exciting, hip way to boost ratings. From the start, Robinson, Nguyen, DeLuise and Williams wanted in. Depp wasn’t so sure.

After all, Depp has been pegged as television’s latest rebel, and was taking the role to heart. The rest of the cast arrived in Chicago on a bleak, dismal Wednesday night for advance promo interviews. Depp had made it known earlier in the week that he might not attend this fest. But, then again, he might. Just when Las Vegas wouldn’t touch these odds, he hopped a Red Eye on Friday night, causing several publicists to advance to the intermediate stages of text-book nervous breakdown. “Yeah, Chicago,” Depp said in his best James Dean-esque tone. “I decided it might be fun.” That was night one.

9:30 a.m. Saturday morning. In an un-air-conditioned, stuffy government planning room, flanked by dark wooden paneling and the necessary spread of donuts, cast members are schmoozing with Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer and other local luminaries. Everyone is there except Depp.

10:15 a.m. Grumblings are heard over the publicist’s walkie-talkie and members of the Fox Network start slapping each other high-fives. Johnny is finally here. In the flesh. Of course, he manages to vanish into thin air for another nervous five minutes, but all is instantly forgiven when he comes popping through the elevator doors to greet Mayor Sawyer with a surprise: Her name is Jennifer – as in Dirty Dancing’s Jennifer Grey. In an army green T-shirt and worn jeans with Depp’s baseball cap in the back pocket, Grey steps out of the elevator half smiling. Depp, in all his virgin-rebel wonder stares at his toes.

“It’s absolutely true,” he says in a throaty voice, about his clothing which is strictly L.A. chic (a white cut-off T-shirt with a strange arrangement of black skulls, a tattered red plaid shirt wrapped around his waist and a handsome black leather jacket). “I always dress like this,” he says proudly. “This is Johnny Depp.” In the flesh.

Why should someone who walks and breathes the mystery-rebel image want to associate himself with an event – heck, forget the event; how about a show – that spreads such grounded sentiments? Don’t drink. Don’t do drugs. Don’t cut class. For God’s sake, practice safe sex.

For those who eat out on Sundays, here’s Jump Street’s story line: A group of young cops infiltrate circles of nasty teenage criminals by posing as students themselves. Depp’s Tom Hanson really feels for these kids on the rocks. His character is fond of such phrases as, “Man, do we really have to bust the kids” “Is busting them necessary?” “I guess it’s really for the best.”

Depp also feels for his audience. “I really do appreciate the audience,” he says with conviction. “Our show deals with important themes like drugs, suicide, life and death. The most important thing is telling the kids to stay away from drugs,” he says. “Drugs are the worst. I just tell people to stay far away from them. I would also like to tell people to stay in school. That’s equally important.”

It might seem strange for Depp to be handing out all this free, solid advice. Some might say that at age 25, he isn’t old enough to know about life. But those critics couldn’t be more wrong. Depp’s childhood wasn’t exactly an episode of Leave It to Beaver. Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Depp’ s family relocated to Miramar, Florida when he was six. Depp’s own teenage years could be the model for a rip-roaring Jump Street episode, with Depp firmly on the other side of the law.

“I experimented with drugs and I experimented with everything that little boys do,” Depp has told the press. “Vandalism, throwing eggs at cars, breaking and entering schools and destroying a room. But I finally got to a point where I looked around and said, ‘This is not getting me anywhere. I’m stagnating with these guys.’ They were getting drunk and high every weekend. I got out.”

Depp was also once fond of telling the press that he lost his virginity at 13 and dropped out of high school at 16. Today he’s more of the guarded young star. He simply shrugs off the bad times by noting how art does not imitate real life: “I was always getting into mischief as a high schooler, and now I’m on the other side of the fence, enforcing the law.”

High noon. Marshall Field’s department store, located on busy State Street in the heart of downtown. One advantage of shopping at Field’s is a direct connection to the subway system through a lone door that leads into the store’s basement. Steam usually rises from that subway station, but not today, since 5,000 people of all ages are packed into the underground terminal waiting for the 21 Jump Street cast to sign autographs at 2 p.m.

No one expected the turnout. No one expected that every nearby street entrance to the subways would be blocked by Johnny Depp fans. No one expected Chicago’s mass transit system to be crippled by crowds of young women like Debbie and Diana, two suburban high schoolers who gave excuses at their fast food jobs and endured a 50-minute train ride into the city to gaze at Depp. “He’s just worth it,” they gush, adjusting black minis and tank tops. “He’s soooo cool.”

The girls melt into the crowd. Meanwhile Depp is busy lunching with Jennifer Grey in another part of the city. He will miss the first 45 minutes of autographs in Field’s basement. He will ditch a Jump Street lunch with contest winning fans. He will chuck the press conference with both local and national print and television media.

Perhaps the service at lunch was slow. Or perhaps it’s Depp’s rock-star mentality. Guide Depp back to his past, and he will talk with glee about his pre-actor, post-dropout days, which pretty much took the usual path of construction jobs. Like a million other rebel types floating around Southern California, Depp had a plan. A Big Plan.

More than anything, he wanted to be a rock star. At age12, he paid $25 for an electric guitar, holed up in his bedroom and taught himself how to play. A few months later, Depp set out to form one of the 15 rock groups he’s been with over the years. In 1983 he was 19. Depp figured that his band-of-the hour called The Kids could be his ticket. Despite his lead guitar work, the kids behind The Kids found life in the fast lane of Los Angeles very tough.

The Kids weren’t happening. “We didn’t make it, although we loved music. And I still do,” says Depp. “I guess it happens.” Meanwhile, he supported himself by living poor in Hollywood. He got married. He got divorced. Most people would get depressed.

Depp didn’t. Instead, he met fate which went by the name of actor Nicolas Cage, co-star of Moonstruck. “I was broke and Nick asked me if I needed a job. I did and he told me I should try acting. I met with an agent Nick knew and she has this part to cast,” Depp recalls.

The part up for grabs was in one of the most successful films in movie history. “The agent sent me to audition for A Nightmare on Elm Street,” Depp says. “Two days later I had the part of Glenn and my acting career was launched.”

One part in an Elm Street does not a career make, and Depp has seen the acting pits. He had a role in the critical and popular flop Private Resort. His resume also includes a bit in Platoon, a guest starring role in the cable movie Slow Burn and the obligatory episodic work in shows like Hotel. That’s just about when Fox called about Jump Street. At first, he wasn’t interested in TV, and Fox proceeded to cast actor Jeff Yagher (of V), but three weeks into production Yagher was gone, and Depp’s name popped up again. This time, Depp read the script and got the part.

One year down the road and he is hotter than the rest. Some say that his impact on the show goes beyond image. “Johnny had a lot to do with the suicide episode we ran last season,” says Jump Street producer Bill Nuss.

“I just wanted to make it very clear that I’m not out there saving someone’s life just because I’m Johnny Depp,” says Depp. “That’s not how it goes in real life. In real life, I won’t be sitting next to the world solving its problems. People forget that this is a show and I’m just an actor. So instead of me being the cure I wanted to show people how to handle their own problems.”

2 p.m. Marshall Field’s basement area is a mix of crying, laughing, smiling, out-of-their-minds fans who shake Johnny Depp’s hand, often walking right past the other Jump Street cast members.

“You have to understand what it’s like for 10,000 or 25,000 people to yell your name. Think about it for a minute. Then think of what it is like for Johnny Depp,” says Nuss. “I think it scares him sometimes. But I think he senses a responsibility to these people. He doesn’t want to appear irresponsible.”

“It’s hard for Johnny to be cool about all this, but he is one of the coolest people I know,” says co-star Holly Robinson who plays Officer Judy Hoffs. “On the set, he’s a different guy than what you see in public. He plays guitar. He’s the leader of the Jump Street garage band. We have water pistol fights. That’s Johnny Depp.”

“Life is wild,” Depp says. “There are so many people at an event like this one. This is both a good and bad thing. So many people see you and they just go crazy.”

3:30 p.m. The autograph session is winding down and the national anchor of Fox News attempts to corner Depp with a few questions. Since Jump Street is a Fox show, the anchor doesn’t figure a one-minute bit with the star will be a big problem. But, then again, this is Johnny Depp. The mike is shoved in his face: Depp’s punky hairstyle is slicked back once again.

He takes a bite out of the mike. “Is this thing working? Are you sure it’s working?” asks Depp, making a face and grabbing Jennifer Grey’s hand. He’s ready for the big escape. The anchor stands back – alone and baffled. Meanwhile, Depp hangs his sunglasses off one ear. He makes more strange faces. He requests his baseball cap from Grey.

3:45 p.m. Standing in the tunneled garage area waiting for his limo, Depp’s lips are sealed. Someone mentions that he really is far more relaxed at home in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the show is filmed.

A good day in Vancouver, he says, is taking his vintage Harley motorcycle out for a ride. Just imagine: One cool cycle. Two tattooed arms (Depp has his mom’s name, Betty Sue, on his left arm surrounded by a big red heart, and a large Indian chief is sunken in to his right). One leather jacket.

It’s a fitting image for a rebel. It’s a fitting image for a fledgling star who makes young girls whimper and wait.

Wow Magazine, November 1988 – Johnny Depp – Lookin’ Good

Title: Johnny Depp – Lookin’ Good

Publication: Wow Magazine

Issue: November 1988



I guess I shouldn’t change anything, ’cause we’re sort of supposed to be this way. 1 guess we were made this way. (Laughs) Unless maybe I’d like to be born with clown make-up, and just wear clown make-up forever.


Jimmy Stewart makes me happy, just looking at him. He’d make a great president!


I got sucked into the bed and spewed back out as tomato juice!


Peter DeLuise is very funny, we have a lot of fun together. Holly Robinson is very nice. She’s doing a’ good job. Dustin Nguyen is a very interesting guy. He’s from Vietnam, he fled Vietnam in 75 as a child. He’s on it. Steven Williams is sort of our backbone. He’s like a solid captain. Nick Fuller, he’s very good. Everybody does a real good job at what they’re doing with their characters and stuif. We play off of that and we have a lot of fun. The crew we have is just the greatest bunch of guys in the world. We go to work, and it’s just a gas. That’s the way it should be. You should look forward to going to work. I’ve had jobs where I didn’t.


I’ve had a lot of embarrassing moments. 1 can remember one time I was hanging out with a friend of mine; the guy was my best friend. Tommy. We were best friends for years when we were growing up. 1 was hanging out over at his house and there was this girl who lived across the street. Her name was Gerry Lynn, and I liked her a lot; I had a big crush on her. She liked me. Things were going great; everything was just beautiful. And one day Tommy and I said. “Alright, look. Gerry (we were hanging out on the street, talking to her) we’re gonna go eat and we’re going to come back out in a half an hour; see ya in a bit.’ Okay, fine. So we go in to eat, we come back out, there’s Gerry Lynn, she looks beautiful. I’m happy. Tommy’s happy (he’s fixed us up) and we’re sitting there talking and like every once in a while, Gerry Lynn would start laughing. Just laughing and I didn’t know what it was. Tommy sort of scooted himself behind Gerry Lynn and he kept pointing at his teeth. He’s going, “Teeth, teeth, teeth…” without her catching on. And it ended up I had like a whole forest in my teeth. I had green beans and pepper and corn and all sorts of stuff in my teeth. That was pretty embarrassing


Just regular—jeans, boots. I can’t stop wearing my combat boots. I’m not a big fancy dresser.


I tell you what—I buy my clothes all in thrift stores. There’s just something about older clothes. You can find some great old baggies, or old jeans, or old shirts, things like that.


I’ll tell you the truth. With the show, with Jump Street, there’s a lot of kids who are watching the show (which is very good — I’m glad about that); there’s a lot of messages in the show. There’s a lot of things that kids can learn. I hope to show them things that they see everyday, that they wouldn’t normally recognize—the dangers of crack, the dangers of drugs. Because I mean in the long run really, we’ve all gone through the stages of trying things that are bad for us. But in the long run, it’s all bad. It messes you up one way or the other. I’d like to teach them; I’d like to show them. I’d like for them to learn how bad it is and that some guys who appear to be their friends, who are trying to push them into taking a hit off of a crack pipe, or snorting a line of blow or something, they’re not.

• WHAT WOULD JOHNNY DO IF ALL HIS FAME AND FORTUNE DISAPPEARED TOMORROW? If it all vanished tomorrow morning I’d take a long vacation and then I would I suppose try and get another job. If that didn’t work, I’d move to Aruba and sell turtles in a cabana.

Splice September, 1988 – CUTE, COOL & AVAILABLE!

He’s Cool! He’s Cute! He’s Available! The sexy star of 21 Jump Street gets personal in an exclusive SPLICE interview

Ask any member of the cast or crew of 21 Jump Street and they’ll tell you: The only word to describe Johnny Depp is “cool.” It seems, in fact, that he is the coolest creature to hit the small screen since “the Fonz ” strutted his stuff on Happy Days. Johnny Depp is the King of Cool, the valedictorian of the Cool School, and everybody knows it. Everybody, that is, except Johnny Depp.

The handsome 25-year-old actor – who’s blessed with high chiseled cheekbones, courtesy of his Cherokee heritage – is so unimpressed with his own celebrity status that he denies he is the star of 21 Jump Street. He says his character is the “strong center” of the show. On a recent trip to New York City, Johnny was surprised when he was asked to sit backstage in the Green Room to watch a taping of Late Night with David Letterman, because David doesn’t allow celebrities in the TV audience. And what celebrity worth his weight in dark shades would actually convince his mother and stepfather to move to Vancouver, Canada, so they could be closer to him?

Johnny was born in Owensboro, KY on June 9, 1963. The youngest of four children, he and his family moved to Miramar, FL, where Johnny did most of his growing up. After experimenting with drugs and petty crime for a short while, Johnny dropped out of high school at the age of 16 – a move he now admits was not one of his wisest. He’s now openly opposed to all drugs, and tells his fans so in public service announcements.

While still a teenager, Johnny formed a rock and roll band called The Kids, which had a small but loyal following in Florida. They were impressive enough to open in concert for such heavy hitters as the Talking Heads and The Pretenders. Armed with an electric guitar, Johnny and The Kids headed for Los Angeles, seeking fame, fortune, and a recording contract. Unfortunately, the going was a little tough. The Kids were not reaching musical maturity, and Johnny was forced to accept a job selling ball-point pens over the telephone to make enough money to live and play in L.A.

It was during this period that Johnny got married and divorced. Life was looking grim until a friend of Johnny’s (actor Nicolas Cage, of Moonstruck fame) suggested that he try his hand at acting. Johnny met with Nicolas’ agent, who convinced him to audition for A Nightmare on Elm Street. The rest, as they say, is cinematic history. Johnny landed the lead male role, and decided to focus his ambitions on acting for a while.

Johnny’s screen presence caught the attention of Oliver Stone, who cast him in the Oscar-winningPlatoon, as Lerner, the unit’s interpreter. Johnny soon landed parts in Private ResortDummies andSlow Burn (with Eric Roberts and Beverly D’Angelo), and he guest starred on TV’s Hotel and Blue Lady.

21 Jump Street’s baby-faced Officer Tommy Hanson now lives in Vancouver, where he films his hip detective series (he also maintains an apartment in Hollywood). Proud to be involved with such a socially-aware production, Johnny recently spoke to SPLICE about his acting career, his past and present, and his life in the public eye. At the time of this writing, Johnny has no serious love interest in his life… he’s unattached and looking for the right girl.

How did you get started in acting?

It was really a fluke. It was divine intervention. When I moved to L.A., one of my buddies introduced me to Nicolas Cage, and he introduced me to his agent. She sent me to read for Nightmare. It was so strange. I’d never done drama before, not even in high school. All of a sudden, I’m talking to my family on the phone and saying, ‘Hi, how are you? I think I just got a part in a feature film.’

What’s the best of working on 21 Jump Street?

The great thing about doing the show is the responses we get from people from the public service announcements we do. We try to broadcast 1-800 service numbers on specific subjects, but if it’s a light show, there’s no sense in running one. And the response to the public service announcements has been great. For instance, we did a show about a kid who had a problem with drugs. After we ran a drug-abuse hotline number, the number of calls they received shot right up!

How did you land the role of Lerner in Platoon?

I found out about Platoon in January of 1986, when my agent sent me over a script. I read it and I was just blown away! It was so right on the money as far as truth and honesty goes. I met Oliver Stone and he said, “I want you to read this. Go out in the hall and study it.” So I studied it and came back in and read for him. He said, “Okay, let’s call your agent.”

Tell us about the training you went through for Platoon.

We went through two weeks of training in the jungle in the Philippines. I gotta tell you, man, it was highly emotional. You put 30 guys in the jungle and leave them there to stay together for two weeks – just like a real platoon – and you build a real tightness. It’s almost like a family. We became a military unit, a platoon. To this day, whenever I talk to Charlie [Sheen] or any of the other guys, it’s just like the same deal. We still get together all the time and try to hang out as much as possible, and it takes us right back to the platoon.

How do you feel about your “bad boy” image?

That sort of thing’s gotten a little out of hand. I run into people who think I’ve done time [in jail] or something. When I was a kid, I was just like any other boy. Boys are very curious, they like to push the walls, you know? I wasn’t the best kid in the world, but I wasn’t an ax murderer either. As a kid, I experimented with drugs and stuff, but I got out of it by the time I was 14 or 15. I saw that it was getting me nowhere. I saw the kids around me, not doing anything, not wanting to change their lives. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to continue with my music, and I knew the drugs were holding me back. I’d seen a lot of ugly things. It’s just not worth it.

What are your plans for the future?

I definitely want to do a feature film as soon as I get done with this season of 21 Jump Street. If I don’t do a film, I want to do a play. But I want to continue working. I want to keep growing and learning as much as possible. I want to fill myself in on all aspects of the industry – acting and directing.

What advice you have for young people today?

My advice would be to stay in school, because I didn’t and it was kind of a mistake. It was a stupid thing to do, dropping out. So my advice would be to learn as much as you can, and when you get out of school, continue to learn as much as you can. Just try and always do the right thing. Follow your instincts. Learn, make mistakes, and learn even more from your mistakes.

Do you still play rock and roll?

I still play, but when I got my first movie, A Nightmare On Elm Street, things just sort of fell apart for the band. We split up, and everybody went their own way. Then I joined a band called the Rock City Angels.

Are you going to do a solo album?

I would love to play. But people know me now as an actor. I’d do anything to be on stage again, but I’ve got to be very careful. I don’t want people to say, “Oh great, another actor is going to do a record.” I’m trying to fight the teen idol image, so if I went and did a record, it would make it that much more difficult.

What kind of music do you listen to?

I listen to a lot of [Bob] Dylan, who I like a lot. I like Bruce Springsteen. I like T. Rex. I like all different kinds of music. One minute I’ll be listening to Benny Goodman and the next I’ll be listening to the Sex Pistols!

Tell us about your family.

My dad works for the city of Hallendale in South Florida. He’s the director of public works and utilities, a city engineer. My mom moved up to Vancouver with her new husband. I have two older sisters, Debbie and Christy. And I have an older brother Danny who lives in Kentucky. We’re all incredibly close.

What are you doing during your break?

Coming off the show and doing features, definitely changes the films I want to do. I’m going to do everything I can – fight tooth and nail – to not be put in some teen-idol category. I don’t want somebody who’s writing out checks to limit me, to put me in a herd of people who can only do one thing. I don’t want to be limited by other people’s opinions. I don’t necessarily want to always play the leading man – I’d like to shave my head and sew my eyeballs shut. It would be terrible to just do teen exploitation films. It just wouldn’t be worth it.

TV Guide January 23-29, 1988 – Bad Boy to Role Model

Once a troublemaker, Johnny Depp of 21 Jump Street is now admired for his cool and his part in a series about teen problems.

On a lonely, rainy, anonymous street, Johnny Depp, running through a scene from Fox’s 21 Jump Street, roars up in his blue Mustang, screeches to a halt, leaps out and starts talking tough. His Jump Street character, Tom Hanson, is a rookie cop who’s gone undercover to infiltrate circles of teen-age criminals, but Depp’s stance as a hoodlum would fool anyone. With his angelic punk face and his hair cascading James Dean-style into his eyes, he looks the perfect teen-age rebel.

It comes from years of real-life experience. Depp, 24, grew up in Miramar, Fla., where he wasn’t exactly on the road to becoming a National Merit scholar. “I hung around with bad crowds,” he admits. “We used to break and enter places. We’d break into the school and destroy a room or something. I used to steal things from stores.” And, like some of the kids Officer Tom Hanson has busted on 21 Jump Street, Depp was into drugs. “Pretty much any drug you can name,” he says, “I’ve done it.” At 13 he lost his virginity, and at 16 he dropped out of high school.

Fast-forward eight years to Vancouver, where Jump Street is shot. Depp has acquired a taste for $80-a-shot cognac and is a fan-magazine star, routinely mobbed by adoring teen-age girls. He is also one of the stranger sights in Vancouver, consistently wearing the same eccentric outfit: tattered blue jeans with a hole in the knee, combat boots, a beat-up leather jacket, a weird white rag (actually a first-aid sling) wrapped around his forehead, and several tarnished earrings. It’s a look he perfected in 1986 in the Philippines while working on the film Platoon, in which he had a part as Lerner, small-town boy who serves as the unit interpreter.

It’s easy at first glance to think that Depp is trying hard to stand out, but the people who know him best insist it’s something altogether different: Johnny Depp is simply the embodiment of the ineffable, universally coveted quality called “cool”.

“The coolest person I know,” says Holly Robinson, who plays Officer Judy Hoffs on Jump Street. “He’s naturally cool. Everybody else tries to be cool, but Johnny just is.”

“If this were the ’50s, he’d move to Paris or hang out with Jack Kerouac,” suggests Patrick Hasburgh, creator and executive producer of Jump Street.

“What struck me about him when he auditioned was that he wasn’t nervous,” says Steve Beers, supervising producer of the show. “He was laid-back. He had this presence. He’s an unusual personality. He’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with.”

How cool is Johnny Depp? He’s so cool that he orders a $75 bottle of wine without blinking as he sits down in his favorite Italian restaurant (weird white rag still around his head) to explain how he got that way. So cool that after a few months in Vancouver, he persuaded his mother and stepfather to move there and live with him. So cool that when he was 16, shortly before he left high school, he moved out of his house to live in a car with his best friend, Sal, because that’s the only place Sal had to live and he didn’t want him to feel abandoned. It was a ’67 Impala that they filled with empty beer cans, while living on submarine sandwiches from a 7-Eleven. A few months ago, Sal went up to Vancouver to visit Depp and impressed the producers with his unusual, to say the least, ability to fill his mouth with air and blow it out like some strange-looking fish. Sal is now the character on Jump Street called “Blowfish”.

Back in blue-collar Miramar, where Depp’s father was director of public works and his mother was a waitress, Johnny and Sal were into drugs, girls, petty crime and, most of all, music. Music was how they kept the faith within their isolated teen-age world of angry parents and threatening teachers. When Depp was a kid, he heard a gospel group and knew right then that he wanted to make music. At 12, he paid $25 for an electric guitar, locked himself in his room and started playing. The next year, he started his own rock band and has since been in 15 different groups, supporting himself since leaving home at 16. The most successful group was called The Kids, and it was while playing lead guitar with that group that he moved to Los Angeles in 1983 to try to make it big.

At the same time, he took a seedy apartment in Hollywood and began peddling ball-point pens over the phone to make enough money to live. He also got married, got divorced and met actor Nicolas Cage, a former boy friend of his wife, who told him he ought to try acting. Cage set him up for a meeting with his agent, who, despite Depp’s utter lack of acting experience, took one look at his face and sent him to an audition for the movie A Nightmare on Elm Street. Depp had an actor friend stay up with him for the next two nights coaching him on the lines, and he got the part.

“He just had a very powerful and yet subtle personality,” says Wes Craven, director of Elm Street. “There was some sort of charisma about him.” Craven also admits, “My teen-age daughter and her friend were there at the reading, and they absolutely flipped out over him. He’s got real sex appeal for women.”

Next came a role in a teen sexploitation film called Private Resort, which Depp would just as soon forget. “It was a stupid movie,” he says. Depp’s lack of experience caught up with him, and he had trouble getting roles for about a year. He became so discouraged he contemplated abandoning acting, until Platoon came along and gave him the creative and professional boost he needed. Then immediately after returning from two and a half months filming in the Philipines, the Jump Street role came up as a possibility. The idea of going from a high-quality film like Platoon to a new, unproven television series was unpalatable to Depp, and he refused even to look at the script. Another actor, Jeff Yagher, was hired for the role, and that was that. But then, three weeks into shooting Jump Street, Yagher was off the show and Depp’s name came up again. This time he read the script, liked it and won the part.

After a few glasses of wine, though, Depp will tell you that when he decided to bend to the demands of television, he never thought the show would be as successful as it is, holding the possibility of a long commitment. “I thought it would go for one season, tops,” he says with a sly smile. In other words, he thought he’d get in and out in a matter of a few months, gaining experience and publicity in the process, and then he’d be on his way. Instead, he’s in the strange position of being trapped in a successful show.

“I’m not trapped,” he insists. “I mean, it’s good. The best thing about the show is that kids learn from it, they’re able to see things that go on in their high school and see them objectively. It teaches kids about drugs and safe sex. The worst thing is that some of the scripts we do are not important, they’re purely for television. But what I thought when I originally started the show was, if I’m going to do a television series, I want to do something that means something. I don’t want to go out and do Dallasor Dynasty. You know what I’m saying?”

Outside a Vancouver high-school gym where Jump Street is shooting, Johnny Depp is trapped in the hallway, mobbed by a group of teen-age girls intent on getting autographs from him. It takes about 30 minutes, but he stays, patiently and politely signing and signing and signing, giving each girl a meaningful look and engaging her in conversation as he hands her a scrap of paper with a sweet little message scrawled on it. First Carol. Then Monica. Then Brandi-with-an-i. The girls are in teen heaven.

“He’s so cute,” sighs one.

“He’s so cool,” coos another.

Yes. We know. Cool.

Big Bopper, 1988 – Who does Johnny Depp Really Love?

Photo1Title: Who does Johnny Depp Really Love?

Publication: Big Bopper

Issue: 1988


When Johnny Depp loves someone, he lets them know just how much! He’s not so quick, though, to share those feelings with others. The actor you know and love as “Officer Tommy Hanson” on 21 Jump Street likes to keep his personal life as private as possible!

Well, you can relax about the three women whom Johnny is closest to—they’re his mom, Betty Sue, and his two older sisters, Chrissy and Debbie! That’s right’ He’s closest to his family, and the reason you probably know so little about them is that Johnny does a super job of protecting them from too much publicity!

The truth of the matter is that Johnny is protective of his mom and sisters because he loves them so much! He knows that, while he chose a life in the public eye, his family {which also includes his dad, John, and older brother. Danny) didn’t, and he respects their need for privacy.

Sometimes this brown-eyed actor might appear to be a loner who really doesn’t need anyone. But this couldn’t be further from the truth!

He missed her so much…

The fact is this June 9, 1963 birthday boy is just-this-close to his mom. He even invited her to live with him in Vancouver. Canada where he films 21 Jump Street! You see, she lived in Florida with his step-dad. (Johnny’s parents are divorced and have both remarried other people) and Johnny missed her so much, he asked her to move on in!

Have Johnny and his mom always been close? You bet! Before Johnny came to California and became a TV star, he was in a rock ‘n’ roll band, and his mom was super supportive of his musical pursuits even when he didn’t earn a lot of money!

His sisters are also a source of love for him, and he hasn’t forgotten them! His sister Chrissy worked as a bartender in the club where his band, The Kids, played!

His other sister, Debbie, worked during the day and couldn’t spend as much time with him, yet they still stayed really tight!

Johnny’s best friends say that he’s definitely the baby of his family. Chrissy and Debbie often took care of him when he was little while their mom had to go to work.

Is he spoiled? Maybe a little, but since the Depps didn’t have lots and lots of money, the spoiling came from tons of love instead! He always gives them plenty of love back, so it didn’t hurt him a bit!

The people closest to Johnny say is he’s definitely a family man—the kind of guy who’ll marry the girl of his dreams and have children of his own someday. And you can bet he’ll be a great dad!

Book December 1987 – Before They Were Famous

Johnny Depp

In 1987, Johnny Depp was already a teen idol through his starring role on the television series 21 Jump Street. He was living in a modest one-bedroom apartment in an art-deco building on Whitley Avenue in Hollywood. I would run into him several times late at night when he’d be hanging out with Nicolas Cage and other friends at Canter’s, a popular after-club eatery.I recently photographed Johnny again. His hair had grown but his angelic face remained much the same. Stardom had not inherently changed him; he was still soft-spoken and sweet. I did notice, though, a newfound inner strength and self-assurance.Johnny wanted to go beyond doing traditional leading-man roles and he has.

I grew up in many different houses. One in Miramar, Florida, sticks out in particular. We lived at 68th Avenue and Court, on the corner of a busy street. The house was a three-bedroom built in the sixties. It constantly smelled of my mom’s cooking: soup, beans and ham. I remember my brother and sister fighting. I had a poodle named Pepi. I shared a bedroom with my brother, who is 10 years older than me. He listened to a lot of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.

We moved constantly. My mom just liked to move for some reason. By the time I was 15, we had lived in about 20 houses. It was hard. Depending on how far we’d move, you’d have to make new friends. Fortunately, I didn’t have to change schools often. But we never stayed in one neighborhood for long. At the drop of a hat, we’d go.

My mom was a waitress; she’d been a waitress since she was 14. My father was the Director of Public Works in Miramar. They divorced when I was about 16.

To this day, I hate it when I have to move from location to location. I get very angry, as a result of having to move so much as a kid. I live in Hollywood now, but I’m in Vancouver shooting 21 Jump Street about nine months of the year.

I was very mischievous as a boy. I loved tape recording people when they didn’t know. One time a friend and I dug a really deep tunnel in my backyard. We covered it with boards and leaves. I was attempting to dig a tunnel into my room. I liked to push it and see how far I could go. If you knew me during high school, I think you’d describe me as “the kid with long hair who was always playing guitar.” I wasn’t big on participating in school activities. I used to bring my guitar to school and I’d skip most classes to sneak into guitar class.The teacher would give me a practice room to play in. That’s pretty much what I spent my high school years doing.

You know, I never made the decision to become an actor. At least not in the beginning. I got into it off-the-cuff. I moved from Florida to Los Angeles with a band I was playing with called The Kids. A friend of mine introduced me to Nicolas Cage and we started hanging out. Nick thought that I should try acting and see what would happen. At the time, I wasn’t making much money. I played a few clubs with the band here and there, but I still had a lot of time. So, I decided to give it a shot. Nick set up a meeting for me with his agent and she sent me to read for a movie. They gave me a script to study. Two days later, I read for it and they gave me the role. That was Nightmare on Elm Street.

Doing Nightmare on Elm Street was a trial-by-fire sort of thing. I’d never acted before. I’d never done school plays; nothing. The fact that it was totally new to me was a tremendous challenge. I’d never done anything like this, hitting marks and saying lines and thinking about why my character was doing what he was doing. It was totally the opposite of being in a rock ‘n’ roll band. In a band, you are four people, all working together to write great songs or to get a record deal. In acting, I found it was just me. It all depended on me and my own choices. I didn’t have to answer to anyone about what I wanted to do. The band wasn’t doing well, so I turned my energies toward acting.

As you become more well known as an actor, more people get involved in you, directly and indirectly. You’ve got the “Suits” or “Bigwigs,” as I call them, the “yeses” and the “nos.” Sometimes, they want you to do things that maybe you don’t believe in or feel like doing, like promos. I tend to follow my instincts and say, “No, I’m not going to do that.” It causes trouble, here and there. But I think the main thing is to be honest, rely on your instincts and do what you feel is right and not necessarily rely on what other people think.

Television is a little frustrating for me. There’s no time for preparation. In features, you have loads of time to do the work. And the work is the most important thing of all. I think that in the beginning of an acting career, everybody wants to achieve notoriety or stardom. In the beginning, that was very glamorous to me.

You want to be famous because you want to be good at what you do and you want to be recognized for it, right? Now, being famous isn’t as important to me. My goal is to keep learning because I’m nowhere near where I want to be. Like I said about the fame thing: if that becomes the motivation behind everything, even if you achieve it, you’re going to get stuck there and you’re not going to go any further.

I don’t believe in the whole “leading-man thing and that’s all he’s ever going to do.” I mean I’d like to shave my eyebrow or my hair off, or do anything. I want to hopefully, with some of the roles that I do later on, make people see things in a different light, so that they won’t just go with the flow and feel they have to be or act a certain way, just because the President says, “That’s the way it is.” I’d like to do as many different roles as I can.

I try to read as much as I can. On The Road by Jack Kerouac is one of my favorite books. There are a lot of books I’ve read that I’d like to film. I love the concept of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. I’d like to become a giant cockroach. I love Van Gogh. I’ve always been interested in people who had mental torment, weirdos. I think everybody is pretty whacked out in their own way. I deal with my anxiety by smoking a lot of cigarettes and listening to very loud music. I like Bach, the Georgia Satellites, Led Zeppelin and Tom Waits. I like Tom Waits a lot.

When I was a kid, I did drugs when I freaked out. I mean, I was in a rock ‘n’ roll band in Florida, the cocaine capital of the world. Drugs are really prominent in the club scene, especially there. They were hurting me physically and mentally. Drugs were dragging me down. They were killing me. I quit. Now, I just smoke like a fiend.

I would never do a role that glamorized self-abuse or racism. Racism freaks me out. The black and white thing. The term “nigger” is still used constantly. Why is somebody who’s black a “nigger”? It doesn’t register. Living in Florida, there’s tons of rednecks out there. I mean, these guys want to hear “Sweet Home Alabama” 24 hours a day. Racism freaks me out a lot.

The homeless are pretty important to me. There are a lot of people out there who have no food, no home and no money. A lot of them are there by choice but some can’t help it. I wish some of the people with the big bucks, instead of buying a Rolls-Royce or another Mercedes, would give a little scratch to the people who are hurting. I don’t know about sacrifices. I think once you make a choice to be an actor, there’s always a balance between good and bad. You’ve got to go through hell to get to heaven. In every good there is evil; in every evil there is good. Through everything bad that’s happened to me, I’ve learned from it, which is OK.

People usually think that if you’re an actor and you’re 24 and you look a certain way that you’re an asshole. So they treat you like an asshole at first. Then they realize that you’re a human being and a nice guy.

As far as actors go, I like Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson and Walter Matthau. I respect Nick (Cage) a lot. He’s trying to go for something really different and he’s in a great position to do that. He’s very intense and he’s got really innovative ideas. I think he’s going to do a lot.

Why would a director choose me? I can only say that hopefully, there’s something underneath my look or image that maybe hasn’t come out yet, that he thinks he could bring out. I want to try to do things differently. I want to experiment. I want to express different things at some point. It’s just the beginning. I’m not even born yet. I’m still trying. I’m still pushing. I hope I never stop pushing. I don’t ever want to get to a place where I feel satisfied. I think if I do that, it will all be over.