I'm not a blockbuster boy, I never wanted to be. I just don't want to look back in 30 or 40 or 50 years and have my grandkids say, "You did a lot of stupid shit, Granddad. What an idiot you were, smiling for the cameras and playing the game.John Christopher "Johnny" Depp II
— Johnny Depp, quoted in Sophie Cooper, "Johnny Be Good," Caribbean World (Spring 1999)
(June 9, 1963-) is an American actor, born in Kentucky. He's best known for his portrayals of memorable, offbeat characters and his refusal to be typecast as a Hollywood pretty-boy.
He is a frequent collaborator with director Tim Burton
and composer Danny Elfman
, and recently with Gore Verbinski
A small sampling of his roles include:
- His first film appearance was in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), as Nancy's boyfriend and Freddy-bait Glen Lantz. Many fans agree that Depp's ceiling-splattering demise was one of the coolest deaths in the series. He would go on to make a cameo appearance in the sixth film, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, which features him getting whacked in the face with a frying pan in a twisted parody of "This Is Your Brain On Drugs" commercials.
- Tom Hanson, on the TV show 21 Jump Street, about a Mod Squad-esque group of police officers who... uh... disguise themselves as teenagers in order to... um... infiltrate... er... a high-school. Depp became an instant teen heart-throb, a role in which he was acutely uncomfortable.
- Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker in John Waters's film Cry-Baby, a satire about teen heart-throbs.
- Edward Scissorhands. This was Depp's first collaboration with Tim Burton, and the first film in which he deliberately averted his pretty-boy image by playing an ugly, disfigured outcast.
- In Whats Eating Gilbert Grape, he played a beleagured teen with a mentally-retarded younger brother (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a grotesquely overweight mom (Darlene Cates).
- Sam, in Benny & Joon, where he showed off his comedy chops by playing a simple-minded character with an amazing gift for physical comedy in the tradition of silent stars like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.
- William Blake, a young accountant from Cleveland who goes in a small town in the west and is rescued from deep trouble by Nobody, an Indian who believes him to be the William Blake, in the Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man.
- Ed Wood, where he played the iconic B-movie director. His second collaboration with Tim Burton.
- He reached new heights of romanticism playing Don Juan De Marco, a delusional (?) young man who believed he was the famous world's greatest lover. His analyst is played by Marlon Brando, and the two became good friends.
- Donnie Brasco, in which he portrays real-life FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone, who went undercover in the Mafia and saw his family life torn apart as a result.
- Raoul Duke (a pseudonym of journalist Hunter S. Thompson), in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. To prepare for the role, Depp moved into Thompson's house and spent months studying Thompson's every mannerism. They also became very close friends during this time.
- This relationship still ripples into Depp's work. 2005's The Libertine is dedicated to Thompson and Marlon Brando. In 2011's The Rum Diary, a movie adaptation of one of Thompson's early works, Depp plays the lead character/Thompson expy.
- Dean Corso, a borderline con-artist book dealer and acquisition expert who finds himself in over his head searching for copies of a certain grimoire in The Ninth Gate.
- Ichabod Crane, re-imagined as a fragile and girly crime-scene investigator seeking an explanation for an abundance of decapitated corpses, in Tim Burton's version of Washington Irving's classic tale Sleepy Hollow.
- Roux, the Irish/Romani traveler and love interest in Chocolat. Notable for being one of his few "normal guy" roles that focuses primarily on his handsome leading man features rather than characterization (though, despite what the DVD cover may tell you, it was really only a minor supporting role).
- Lt. Victor and Bon Bon, in two brief but unforgettable appearances in Before Night Falls.
- Frederick Abberline, a police inspector on the trail of Jack the Ripper, in From Hell. The movie was loosely based on a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, which itself was loosely based on the historical events surrounding Jack the Ripper's string of murders.
- George Jung, real-life drug-smuggler who wound up serving a life sentence, in Blow.
- Captain Jack Sparrow, in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean series. According to Depp, he based much of Sparrow's mannerisms on The Rolling Stones' guitarist, Keith Richards. This eventually lead to Keith Richards making an appearance as Jack Sparrow's father. The first film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, earned Depp his first Academy Award nomination, and three sequels followed. Sparrow and other characters created for the films have since been added to the theme park attractions that inspired them, Depp providing voicework for his Audio-Animatronic counterparts.
- Sir James Matthew Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, in Finding Neverland. Another Oscar nomination for Depp.
- Willy Wonka, the amazing chocolatier, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, based on a book by Roald Dahl. This version, directed by Tim Burton, is arguably much closer to the original book than the 1971 film, which starred Gene Wilder in the role. At the time of release, Depp's take brought Michael Jackson comparisons to mind, but he says it was inspired by the Excited Kids' Show Host trope. (More recently, he offered this explanation: "I imagined what George Bush would be like incredibly stoned.")
- Victor Van Dort, in Tim Burton's animated film, Corpse Bride. Notable as his first venture into voice acting. Since then he's voiced one-shot characters on King of the Hill and SpongeBob SquarePants; see below for more.
- The title character in Tim Burton's musical film, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, words and music by Stephen Sondheim. This was Depp's first singing role, despite that he has sung and played guitar since he was a teenager (his character's songs in Cry-Baby were overdubbed). This time, he took (sometimes subconscious) inspiration from such colorful performers as Anthony Newley, Tom Waits, and David Bowie. Depp won a Golden Globe Award for this performance, and was nominated for a third Oscar.
- Infamous Real Life bank robber John Dillinger, in Michael Mann's Public Enemies. Depp's semi-sympathetic portrayal accurately reflected many people's image of the outlaw (though several reviewers complained Depp was "too pretty to be a gangster.")
- The Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010). Still completely bonkers, but endowed with a poet's voice, a tragic past, and world-class swordsman skills.
- In the 2011 animated film Rango, he voices the titular chameleon (how apt!) who makes the classic transition from phony hero to real one in a Wild West populated by un-cuddly desert animals.
- In Tim Burton's 2012 remake of The Sixties supernatural soap Dark Shadows, Johnny portrays reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins. Though the film is largely comedic (wringing plenty of jokes from the undead aristocrat's reaction to pop culture of The Seventies), Depp plays the role straight. He claims to have been influenced by classic movie Draculas like Christopher Lee, as well as original-Barnabas Jonathan Frid (both of whom have cameos in this flick.)
- Disney's 2013 remake of The Lone Ranger has him as the Masked Man's sidekick. The trailers alone made it clear that this wasn't gonna be your grandfather's Tonto.◊
Notable tropes invoked by Johnny Depp:
- Promoted Fanboy: A longtime fan of Dark Shadows, he recently played Barnabas Collins in the remake (director Tim Burton is also a fan.)
- Self-Deprecation: Is genuinely bemused by repeatedly being called gorgeous and sexy, and doesn't seem to mind at all being called out on his hobo-like dressing style. He also doesn't think he's funny, and says he enjoys staying in a state of confusion "just for the expression it puts on [his] face." Hee.
- Also, he claims he can't watch his own movies.
- Though he did make a real ass of himself when he accused movie critics of being some kind of evil cabal who were responsible for the weak box office of The Lone Ranger, apparently finding it inconceivable that people simply didn't like the movie.
- Teen Idol: What Depp became in The Eighties with 21 Jump Street, but he never liked that kind of status.
- Unfortunate Names: Johnny's surname unfortunately means idiot in German. As well as being a bit depressed in Swedish.