A few years ago, if you’d have asked me who I’d pick to play me in a movie about my life, I’d have said Johnny Depp. Understand that I am a small, brown skinned female, and that at one point in time, I believed that Johnny Depp could play any character (and also thought he was much much prettier than me). Oh, the foibles of youth!
In recent years, I’ve found that Mr. Depp has become a one-trick pony – applying the same Jack Sparrow swagger to almost every recent role he’s come across. There was a time when Johnny Depp was a chameleon of his craft – switching easily from a mute character like Edward Scissorhands, tough guy in Donnie Brasco, desparate drug runner in Blow, drag queen in Before Night Falls, and eccentric crazy person in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The variety of roles and fearlessness with which he approached these characters was really endearing. I loved that he was so weird. Recently, in a BBC News interview (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-23488712), Johnny Depp let it be known that he planned to retire sooner rather than later: “I wouldn’t say I’m dropping out any second, but I would say it’s probably not too far away.” Much has been made of the fact that he’s still a star, one of the highest earning actors in Hollywood, and an extremely popular celebrity figure. His recent box office numbers tell a different story. Since the astounding success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Depp’s box office receipts have steadily declined. It’s a combination of poor choices and a flagging movie industry. Not all of it can be blamed on the actor. I’m a big fan of Johnny… I even sat through The Tourist… THE TOURIST!!! I’d call his recent slump in performances and box office earnings a set-back in a long and very successful career.
Depp’s career started on Teen Magazines and MTV. After bit parts in random movies (A Nightmare on Elm Street) – some good (Platoon) and some awful (Cry-Baby), Johnny earned himself a starring role on the undercover cop drama 21 Jump Street. I’m not a part of the generation that got to grow up with this TV phenomenon – but thanks to the internet, and a fantastic movie remake, I get the gist of what they were going for. It’s rough for a lot of actors to break from their teen dream phase to serious actor. It’s a difficult transition, with a select few, including Leonardo DiCaprio (http://wp.me/p3pq8p-4), Brad Pitt, and Robert Downey Jr., who broke from their pretty boy pasts and became major players in critically and commercially successful films. Johnny’s steady streak of diverse roles and less “pretty” characters gained him a reputation as an interesting and daring actor.
Edward Scissorhands was the first of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s many collaborations. I absolutely love this film – it’s heartbreaking, strange, hilarious and completely awe-inspiring. This film was my introduction to the world of Johnny Depp. He won me over in this lovely story, and I’ve stuck with him ever since. The Burton-Depp partnership and friendship has endured the test of time in a very tricky industry. They’re kindred spirits in their love of weird and dark tales. The Burton-Depp team has created Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Baker Street, Alice in Wonderland, and Dark Shadows. Looking at the list – it all seemed to go downhill from Edward Scissorhands – in fact, since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I haven’t really liked any of the films that they’ve worked on. Whether it’s Burton’s distinct style, or the actor-director combination, I feel that the duo became too comfortable – all of the films look alike, sound alike and have a similar tone. Maybe these two need a break.
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was an absolutely amazing surprise of a movie. I loved it. I still love it. Johnny Depp’s jaw dropping performance earned him an Oscar nomination. It was something new, different and completely unexpected from an actor who had built a career on obscure characters. This was Johnny Depp’s blockbuster moment. He was propelled into the global movie star stratosphere with this performance. Audiences and critics loved it, and Disney made off with a pirate’s bounty of profits from ticket sales and merchandising. The Pirates franchise has produced four sequels (with a fifth in the works…really). While Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest provided more of the fun adventure that audiences were craving, the next two installments, although profitable, were less appealing.
Depp’s latest theatrical release – The Lone Ranger – was a disaster, both critically and commercially. Disney is expected to lose over $150 million on the project. What struck me about The Lone Ranger is that Depp’s interpretation of Tonto came off as Captain Jack Sparrow in a western. Maybe it’s the fact that director, producer, writers, cinematographer, editors and costume designers worked on both the Pirates films and The Lone Ranger – but it feels like a displaced Pirates movie. I was disappointed to say the least.
Captain Jack Sparrow is a great character. You can tell that Johnny Depp has such fun with the role, I just wish there was a better movie to fit that enthusiasm. Maybe we’re Sparrowed-out?!
We know that Johnny Depp can act. In his 30 year career, he’s had three Academy Award nominations, and nine Golden Globe nods. He’s given some truly great performances and made some incredibly entertaining movies – Finding Neverland, Lost in La Mancha, Once Upon A Time in Mexico, Before Night Falls, Blow, Sleepy Hollow, Rango, Chocolat, Benny & Joon, The Brave, Donnie Brasco, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (to name a few). The announcement of his potential retirement comes on the heels of some truly bad reviews (The Lone Ranger) and a disastrous effort at the box office. As a Depp Fan, I still think he has it in him to climb back to the top. He has a slew of projects in development or pre-production – so retirement can’t be coming too soon. I’m Depp-ending on more Depp in my life.
And maybe…if he’s lucky…I’ll let him audition for my biopic.