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Platoon, Jump Street Actor Dreamed of Being Rock Star

By Luaine Lee
Lexington Herald-Leader
July 1, 1987

Johnny Depp, the actor who co-starred as Lerner in Platoon and who currently stars on Fox's 21 Jump Street, originally wanted to be a rock star. He's been playing in bands since he was 13. In 1983 he moved from his home in Florida to Los Angeles to try to get a foothold in the music business.

"I found there were tons of bands and not a lot of jobs," the 23-year-old said. "I sold pens over the phone for a while." Depp's friend was actor Nicolas Cage (Raising Arizona, Peggy Sue Got Married), and he introduced Depp to an agent. "I'd been in L.A. for six months," Depp said, "and I did Private Resort, possibly the stupidest film ever made."

But Wes Craven cast Depp in Nightmare on Elm Street, and shortly afterward, his band folded.

"At this point I decided I would be an actor," said Depp who had never had any acting training. Depp recalled a few anxious moments when he was making Platoon.

"We were 2 1/2 months in the Philippines in the jungle. The nearest town was 15 miles. At one point I got scared. After two weeks of training we had a final field exercise.

"They'd taken us out very far and we split up in groups. We're all spread out and we're lost. Finally we meet up again.

"Next thing we know, boom! boom! Bombs are going off everywhere. There's smoke and I hear gunfire and everybody drops. We've got our M-16s, but they've got blanks.

"I thought, 'We've walked into the NPA, the communist insurgency, we're gonna die.' It turned out they pulled a prank on us and wanted to see how we'd react."

When he finished Platoon, his agent called with the news that Fox was recasting the role of Tommy Hanson in 21 Jump Street. Depp, who married shortly after he came to Los Angeles and is now divorced, said he still wanted to make music.

-- donated by Emma

-- photos added by Zone editors