Speaking | Johnny Depp
speaking? This was one interview I was looking forward to. No disappointments:
Johnny Depp shows up to our Hollywood encounter with a cap pulled over
blonde hair dressed in standard "any-struggling-actor-retro-grunge."
Flashing his gold-capped teeth, left over from the recent pirate role,
and extending his hand in salutation he glides into a seat beside me.
He's just cool. Always has been.
decided he'd tap into the ultimate in bad boy rock and roll legends
for his latest character, pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow. Wildly inappropriate
really, considering it was for Disney Studios! Their first PG 13 film
for families actually. But, Depp doesn't give a damn about Disney's
glimmering and prudent history - he was hired to deliver, and deliver
he does. Depp style.
Emily: You really seemed like you had a ball on this film!
Johnny: It was almost like a crime to have so much fun.
Emily: I'm a HUGE Keith Richards fan and I am curious as to how you came up with Keith Richards as your inspiration for Capt. Jack Sparrow?
I thought of Keith because I was trying to figure out what pirates might
have been like, their lifestyle back in the 18th century, and I thought,
oh man, they were the rock and roll stars of the era. On the road to
some degree, freedom, adventure, women, outlaw behavior, all of that
stuff. And you see the greatest rock and roll star of all time, there
are so many options, but to me it's Keith Richards hands down. So I
went in that direction and then got a couple of other ideas, like Pepe
Le Pew was also a character that I thought would work. There's something
about Pepe Le Pew that I always thought was really beautiful. The idea
of this guy who absolutely had blinders on to reality, and just believed
what he thought. He
Emily: Yeah, Sparrow's swager had that Foster Brooks/Dean Martin-ish look. Like Jack, underneath the swagger, Keith Richards is also a very intelligent man.
Johnny: Oh yeah. Part of it was that Keith was the sage, the wise, unbelievably smart guy. It's kind of like Hunter Thompson, who is a brilliant writer and a great man, I've seen it happen where people, because they look at Hunter and they think he's out of it, so they just assume that he's just burnt and he's not lucid, and they've been kind of disrespectful in a very round about way, and Hunter being incredibly smart, he'll pin-point, and I've see him just level them verbally, just decimate them, and I think Keith is similar. Yeah, people just assume Keith Richards - oh yeah, the junkie years in the '70s, and he's out of it and all the stuff, but no, no, no, he's one of the most well read, brilliant people I've ever come into contact with. He knows everything about everything - a history buff, history to the letter. It wasn't an imitation of Keith or anything like that. It was just like a salute to him, and beyond the fact that I think that he's the greatest rock and roll star of all times, I also think that he's an incredibly interesting man beyond the rock and roll, beyond The Stones. He's unbelievably wise. He's really a wise man, a sage, a Buddha or something.
Emily: And you brought that intelligence through to Jack, bravo. There's a lot of comedy in Sparrow. Did you help create that, or was it all in the script?
Johnny: Those guys had written something so beautiful and such a great character, and what they had written was so inspiring that I couldn't help but to just spew - it would either come out on paper, I would write it all down and run it by them to make sure they were okay with it, most of the time they were great about it, they were fine with it. Either that or it would just happen during a scene, which I prefer. It's always better to just be in the situation and burn it all out. Let it go.
Emily: You've got this character that's living on the outside.
Johnny: Yeah, but he doesn't know that. [He winks]
Emily: In that sense you two are alike - I mean because you revel living on the outside
Johnny: I've always been interested in I guess fringe may be a way of putting it. The people that I've always admired in whatever the arena, whether it's art or film, whatever, music, have always been the people who came in from the outside, who didn't just - I prefer Daniel Johnston to Mariah Carey. You know what I mean? Really by far; like really. A Daniel Johnston, I admire very much. I don't know. It's the kind of people I've always been drawn to.
Emily: With Daniel Johnston, he puts let's say - to be nice - more of his personality in his work versus Mariah Carey.
Johnny: [laughter] That's so foreign to me [Mariah Carey] that I - [laughter]
Thankfully you've always picked the more, shall we say, off beat roles
- they can't really pigeonhole you.
Emily: Despite the fact that you play a huge array of characters, we seem to get something of you in each of them.
Johnny: There's no character that you can play where part of you, whether it's a great big portion or even a little portion, part of you doesn't slip in. It's always there, it's got to come from someplace of truth. It's like growing up I never felt, I don't know that I felt so much like an outsider really, really far away from the king and queen of the prom, I definitely never felt like an insider - ever. The way I live my life today is pretty consistent of the way I lived it back then, I just wanted to do whatever I wanted to do. I remember being 13, 14 years old, and just skipping certain classes and sneaking into the guitar room, and hiding out and playing in the music room.
Emily: Was there a point when you ever wanted to be a member of the club?
Johnny: No, I was always happy with that. I never got it. There were times where I remember being really, really well liked around, um, 12 years old, it was 1974 or 1975, something like that, long hair, certainly not one of the jock kids or anything like that, and I fell madly in love with the most popular cheerleader in the school. And it was like this - it was beyond Romeo and Juliet. I was like, 'This is never going to work. The formula doesn't exist.' And then coming to terms with that.
Emily: Have we not all been right there? [laughter]. I heard that you directed this film called The Brave with Marlon Brando - what happened to that?
Johnny: Nothing. [A sad grin]
Emily: How did you enjoy the process of being a director?
Johnny: It was a pretty interesting education. I like the process, I would like the process way more if I didn't have to be in it, that was really the drag for me, because not only had I come to do all that work, but I'd written the thing with my brother and I'm acting in it, and I'm directing it. It was too many hats, and directing and acting are two completely opposing things. As a director you have to be totally aware of everything going on, as an actor you don't want to be aware of anything except that moment. I do like the process of it, but I don't think I could do it again if I were in it. Plus I had to watch myself in dailies, which was devastating.
Emily: You don't watch yourself now?
Johnny: Oh I hate it, I can't stand it.
Emily: But you do watch your movies?
Johnny: Only when I have to, only when I'm forced to.
Emily: Is that because you'll critique yourself and therefore not be in the moment?
Johnny: Yeah, you get self-conscious, so at a certain point I just stopped watching dailies, I knew there were a couple of things that I wanted to print to see what they were going to be like, and then I would ask my DP, my cameraman, 'Tell the script girl what you want to print, because I can't be objective anymore.'
Emily: What was your input on the Jack Sparrow look? On the hair, on the braided beard etc.?
Johnny: That all happened in one day. We were sitting around the make-up trailer, and I knew that I wanted to have the dreds, and I wanted a lot of things tied into my hair, like stuff that I'd picked up on voyages and what not, just tie it into my hair, kind of like Keith, because Keith has little coins and beads - I wanted all that stuff tied into my hair, and then the little braids and the little dingles. I wanted that. And the kohl came from, you know how athletes where black here for reflection, I started thinking about the tribes of northern Africa, and the Bergers which they have been doing for thousands of years, using kohl under the eyes, which is medicinal in a way, and protects the eyes from sand and sun.
The gold teeth. I heard when you showed up the 1st day they were ALL
Emily: So I'm sensing you kind of like the look.
Johnny: It's funny, because most of the time I do! I can remember going to Disneyland with my kids, with my daughter and we went into the princess store and I bought her a little princess dress kind of thing and the lady behind the counter, I smiled and said thank you or something, and she looked at me as if to say, 'I have a really good dentist.' She seemed so upset about my dental dilemma.
Emily: You and Geoffrey Rush seemed to have a strong relationship that transcended the film. Did you talk about a "back story" for the characters?
Johnny: We did. We joked around about our back-story. Here he is, this fierce pirate, Barbossa, who at one time had been my first mate, and all of a sudden he's taken over my ship, and I thought the greatest secret that Barbossa would want hidden, I knew it. And I was going to actually add it into the film, but once you start getting into sword fights and things like that, you run out of time. I thought his greatest secret was that his first name was Hector.
Emily: How did he react when you told him?
He laughed. I'd come up to set and he'd be standing there, and I'd say,
'Good morning, Hector.' [He laughs] It was really good.
Johnny: Oh yeah. I would say that the kiddies give you strength. The kiddies give you strength and perspective and you understand stuff. Things that would've made me sort of upset or angry before, or things about Hollywood, things in magazines or paparazzi or stuff like that, now you can sort of really go, 'Oh, piss off. I'm just going to play Barbie's with my daughter,'
Emily: I loved Lost in La Mancha and the bravery your friend Terry Gilliam showed. Can you remark on the film?
Johnny: I thought it was great and really lucky for us that they were there to document it, because no one would have ever believed this. That weather, that happened in five minutes. It was incredible. One minute there was blue sky and boiling sun, and then the next thing you know torrential downpour, hail, everything's floating away. Terry, bless his heart, is still very enthusiastic about picking it up. There's talk of it. I really hope that we can get it going again. They're very enthusiastic about it, and I really hope so. I just think that it could be such a great film. It was going to be great. It was going to be like Terry Gilliam's greatest hits. We'll see. God, I hope so because God, it was really a blast.
Your wife is a big star in France isn't she? Is that as intrusive as
Emily: [laughter] I actually believe you well good luck with the wee drunk and the little princess, and the film is great.
Depp: Thank you, thanks that was fun.
Johnny Depp has always been one of my favorites, and I'm certainly not alone in this undying adoration. I own absolutely everything [Okay, there's no '21 Jump Street' tapes - but film-wise] that the guy's done. Why? Because he's just always a talented treat. Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, From Hell, Blow, Chocolat, Sleepy Hollow, Before Night Falls [a mansteak extravaganza film that included Javier - slurp - Bardem!] Benny and Joon - the list goes on for about six pages and each time Depp emerges as a completely different being .or Hunter S. Thompson [as he played in my personal fave Depp film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas]! So this was exceptionally fun...He looked kind of tired as he swaggered to more lurking press folk.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is truly incredible. Not only does Depp do what he does so well in character creation, but the film around him is simply spectacular! Get out and see this mates it's a classic!
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