‘Versatile’ is a word that’s tossed around freely in describing everything from fabrics to trucks to people, and never more freely than when referring to performers who have featured roles in more than two or three successful films. Johnny Depp is one reason the term should not be used so carelessly, simply because there aren’t many current film stars who have truly earned that particular accolade; Depp is one of the few.
Born in Owensboro, Kentucky on June 9, 1963, Johnny was christened John Christopher Depp II; John Sr. was a civil engineer and his Mom, Betty Sue was a waitress. The family moved to Florida when Johnny was seven, and his parents were divorced when he was 15. Coincidentally, at about the same time he left school to play in a garage band, had second thoughts after a couple weeks and returned to school, only to be told by the principal that he’d be better off with the band. The way Johnny tells it, the school didn’t want him back, but that was OK with him.
In various interviews Depp has talked about music and its role in his life; he taught himself to play guitar and played with several low-profile rock bands before discovering another talent. He says that James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause was a major revelation for him, but Marlon Brando is officially his hero. Explaining his reverence for another versatile actor, Johnny struggled for an apt comparison and came up with Stephen Hawking as the only current personage as important as Brando.
In 1983 Johnny married Lori Anne Allison, and though they divorced two years later, she reportedly introduced him to Nicholas Cage, who encouraged him to try his hand at acting. That encounter led to his first role in a well-known film; he was one of Freddy Kreuger’s victims in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Following that Johnny appeared as a minor character in Platoon, directed by Oliver Stone, and in Cry-Baby, which never made the big time but now has cult status.
The role that brought Johnny into the limelight was that of officer Tom Hanson in Fox TV’s 21 Jump Street, a role he played – reluctantly – from 1987 through four seasons of undercover cop work in high schools and the occasional college. That role turned him into a teen idol, an image he didn’t care for at all, but which didn’t hurt his later career – as we’ve noticed.
In 1990 Johnny, along with a few others including Tom Hanks, John Hurt, Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr. were considered for the starring role in Tim Burton’s fantasy classic Edward Scissorhands. Johnny got the part and he has said many times that it’s his favorite film role; a very unusual – and scary – character with a very good heart. According to Johnny, he really loved that guy.
More evidence of that remarkable versatility shows up in the series of roles Johnny took on in the years that followed. He excelled as a physical comedian in Benny & Joon, then as the semi-tragic hero in a tormented family depicted in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. In 1994 he got a Golden Globe nomination for his role as Ed Wood in Ed Wood, another Tim Burton film, and made more waves when he co-starred with Marlon Brando and Faye Dunaway in Don Juan DeMarco.
Depp inevitably had some disappointments – no one in the industry ever got to stardom without at least a couple of bloopers on the resume. Dead Man, a western shot in black and white, and Nick of Time, both released in 1995, were financial and critical failures, and there’s a fairly long list of virtually unknown and unblessed productions, both in movies and in television, that don’t get a mention here.
When he talks about box-office failures, Johnny says that mostly those failures are due to lack of imagination on the part of critics. However each of them contributed to the overall abundance of variety and learning experience under Johnny’s infinitely expandable belt; a list of all his cinematic endeavors runs to more almost eighty – and counting. That number doesn’t include any of his gigs as a musician, but music remains one of his abiding passions.
Probably the best known character Johnny has ever played is Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean (parts I, II, III and IV) that began in 2003 with The Curse of the Black Pearl and came back as Dead Man’s Chest in 2006, At World’s End in 2007 and On Stranger Tides in 2011. Along with Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, the swashbuckling Sparrow is a favorite character of Johnny’s – “. . . a big part of me,” he says. Not to mention that his instructor found him to be a natural at swordplay.
Other films that have certified Johnny Depp’s range of abilities include – but are certainly not limited to – roles as diverse as Donnie Brasco, an FBI agent who goes undercover to get inside the Mob, and Willie Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He has been nominated many times for Best Actor, and won the Golden Globe award in 2008 for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Depp also got Oscar nominations for his Jack Sparrow role, for Sweeney Todd and for Finding Neverland, where he played J.M. Barrie, the author who created the immortal Peter Pan.
It should be noted that he’s scheduled for another round of swashbuckling in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, due out in 2017. He’s also up for a possible Oscar for his role as gangster Whitey Bolger in Black Mass, released in September this year.
In the years intervening, between teen heartthrob and coldly menacing gangster, Depp’s personal life has also been somewhat varied, though he’s only married twice, most recently in February last year, to Amber Heard, an actress he met in 2011 on the set of The Rum Diary (another of his many relatively unsung films). He has two children from his 13-year partnership with French singer Vanessa Paradis: Lily-Rose is 16 and already an actress and model; Jack is 13 and hasn’t decided yet.
In a recent interview with a reporter at the Daily Mail, Johnny said he’s winding down, though not in so many words. It’s more a matter of simplifying, he says. Maybe it’s partly reaction from Black Mass, when he had more than usual trouble sleeping – that is a violent and dark-toned film – but what he calls “the Hollywood game” is exhausting.
Johnny gets killed off, Nightmare on Elm Street
At his current age of 52, there is still so much of the mischievous boy in his nature that he makes you think of that ageless adventurer who never grew up; there’s quite a bit of Peter Pan inside this remarkable man. He’s been quoted as saying that it’s possible to retain a childish curiosity and “. . . fascination with things”, traits that have become Depp trademarks. “But I also think it’s great fun growing old.” A typical Johnny statement if there ever was one.
|Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales||
|Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass||
|The Night Stalker||
|Untitled Dr. Seuss Project||
|71%||Into the Woods||
|LaDonna Harris: Indian 101||
|63%||For No Good Reason||
|31%||The Lone Ranger||
|The Thin Man||
|50%||The Rum Diary||
|33%||Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides||
|62%||When You’re Strange||
|52%||Alice in Wonderland||
|64%||The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus||
|100%||Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers||
|86%||Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson||
|86%||Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street||
|45%||Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End||
|89%||Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten||
|86%||When the Road Bends: Tales of a Gypsy Caravan||
|54%||Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest||
|Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride||
|91%||Deep Sea 3D||
|83%||Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride||
|57%||Happily Ever After||
|83%||Charlie and the Chocolate Factory||
|95%||Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin||
|Buried Secret Of M. Night Shyamalan||
|94%||Lost in La Mancha||
|68%||Once upon a Time in Mexico||
|79%||Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl||
|63%||Breakfast With Hunter||
|All the Love You Cannes||
|73%||Before Night Falls||
|A Tour of the Inferno: Revisiting ‘Platoon’||
|Portrait of Leonardo: The Kid Who Took Hollywood||
|35%||The Man Who Cried||
|16%||The Astronaut’s Wife||
|88%||The Source: The Story of the Beats and the Beat Generation||
|41%||The Ninth Gate||
|49%||Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas||
|Top Secret: Scotland Yard||
|L.A. Without a Map||
|Lesser Prophets (The Last Bet)||
|29%||Nick of Time||
|74%||Don Juan DeMarco||
|89%||What’s Eating Gilbert Grape||
|75%||Benny & Joon||
|20%||Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare||
|21 Jump Street||
|94%||A Nightmare on Elm Street||
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