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Johnny Be Bad

YM Magazine
May 1990

He’s the coolest cop on TV. And theater owners across the country have named him and Winona Ryder—his offscreen love interest and onscreen co-star in the upcoming Edward Scissorhands—the hottest new faces on film. Johnny Depp is tall, dark, and—would you believe—seriously funny.

Want proof? Check out his new film Cry-Baby, in which the 26-year-old rocker-turned-actor pokes fun at his rebel image by playing a Harley-riding hunk with fast fists and faster lips. Here, straight from the hip (and straight from those lips), Johnny Depp answers YM readers’ questions in his own inimitable style. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

1. Did you feel pressure having your first starring role in Cry-Baby?
—Tamara Reese, 18, Columbus, IN

There was a little, but it was the first time I could make a decision on my own without needing to work. On Jump Street, you get the script and you go with it. You have no choice. This was the first time I read a bunch of scripts and decided for myself that this is what I wanted to do. I went into it feeling comfortable because of that. It was the most interesting and the furthest away from what people expected me to do.

2. How did you like playing a character from a different time period than the one on 21 Jump Street? Did you have to do much research on the ‘50s?
—Tracy Aukerman, 15, Stillwater, OK

I liked doing a period movie. I think the ‘50s is a great era. A great age of innocence for America. I listened to a lot of obscure rockabilly from that period. Stuff from before rock ‘n’ roll hit it big. I listened to the early Elvis stuff, Hank Ballard, Eddie Cochrane, Carl Perkins, and Gene Vincent. As far as researching the character, I hung out with a lot of guys that were “drapes” or greasers in the ‘50s in Baltimore. I found out what they like to do and did it. I hung out with the guys who like to work on cars and ride motorcycles.

3. In real life, are you more like Hanson on Jump Street or your Cry-Baby character?
—Claudia Bianconi, 18, Potomac, MD

I’m not really like either one. But—oh wow, this is heavy!—I think with any character, there is a little bit of you in each of them. You bring your instincts to each character.

4. What’s the difference between working on a weekly TV series and doing a movie?
—Kathy Rodi, 17, Long Island, NY

A weekly TV series is like an assembly line. It’s basically all mashed into seven days as opposed to a film where you’ll have months to work and develop the characters. Television is a real grind. Movies are a luxury. The time element in TV is too stressful.

5. Do you prefer drama like Jump Street or comedy like Cry-Baby?
—Kathy Rodi, 17, Long Island, NY

I like doing both. I find there’s a lot of comedy in serious dramatic stuff. Some of the heavy melodrama we play is kind of a joke. It can be funny. Sometimes comedy can bring laughs out of something that’s really sad.

6. What kind of preparation did you go through to prepare for Cry-Baby?
—Shelly Miller, Lancaster, CA

I know what it’s like to be onstage and to play in front of people. So, it’s basically the same thing. I never had to do such a set piece of structured, choreographed dance numbers. It took a lot of work and I was uncomfortable doing it. But I felt comfortable playing. It took me back. I did that for a long time. It was like being home to me.

7. Do you do your own singing in Cry-Baby?
—Monica Enriquez, 16, Redondo Beach, CA

No, I lip synched to a guy named James Invelt, who’s a singer who plays around L.A. He’s really good and a big fan of rockabilly.

8. What were you like in high school? Were you a juvenile delinquent? Were you popular?
—Kelly Burns, 23, Indiana University

No, I wasn’t really popular. I was more a drape than a square. There are a lot of categories in high school, like jocks or burnouts. I wasn’t either. I was just into my music. I really liked playing my guitar. But I also wasn’t a juvenile delinquent. I had friends here and there.

9. How did you like working with John Waters?
—Kelly Burns, 23, Indiana University

I’m a big fan of John’s and I love his movies. He’s never compromised. He’s always made the movies he wanted to make without ever breaking down his initial idea for the film to give in to Hollywood standards. He’s become one of my best friends.

10. What other actors and actresses do you admire? Whose career would you most like to emulate? What actors, dead or alive, would you like to work with, and what kind of film would it be?
—Jane Cates, 17, New York, NY

If I could have been a different person, I would have wanted to be Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter. He was incredible. I admire him quite a bit. I hate the fact that Hollywood needs to label people “bad boys” or that stupid, used-up word, “rebel.” When Robert Mitchum first came around he did whatever he wanted to do, and he was busted and labeled a bad boy. But he was a normal guy who happened to be an actor who didn’t want to change his lifestyle for Hollywood. I think he was the original “independent.” He didn’t care what anyone else thought.

Now there are people who do that just because they think it’s cool. It’s contrived. I hate when people try to pin that rebel label on me, just because I do what I want to do. Eric Roberts is one of my favorite actors and I got to work with him on Slow Burn. I also like Rutger Hauer. He has an interesting career. So does Jack Nicholson.

11. Would you use your name and power to make a stand on drugs? Is the war on drugs working?
—Meryl Hammerman, 15, Scotch Plains, NJ

My feeling is that a lot of actors and actresses jump on social bandwagons. I think it’s really the responsibility of the government. My name can’t save anybody. I’m just an actor. I don’t think the war on drugs is working on a national level because there are people at a high level who are involved because it’s a lucrative business. There’s too much money involved for it to work. It may work on a smaller local level. This is a problem that has to be dealt with starting from the top.

12. If you could donate $1 million to a humanitarian cause, what would it be?
—Meryl Hammerman, 15, Scotch Plains, NJ

There are so many. The homeless or to abused children.

13. What will the ‘90s hold for you both in your career and personal life? Do you expect to be married with kids?
—Dena Griffin, 16, Fredericksburg, TX

I’ll be married with kids and I just hope my career will let me do what I want to do and not have to answer to anybody.

14. Did you always want to be an actor, or did you have other career goals?
—Susan Strayer, 14, Broomall, PA

I wanted to be a guitar player. I never wanted to be an actor. I just sort of fell into it.

15. What advice would you give an aspiring actor?
—Linda Freeman, 23, Lake Tahoe, NV

I would discourage anyone from doing this. I guess some people can do this and keep it separate from their private life. Acting is fine, but the stuff that comes along with it is a little crazy. Some people are happy in any job, and that’s great. But I think people should really be sure that they want to be an actor and be aware of all the problems that go with it before they make their decision. There’s too much politics. Being an actor is wonderful but the business of acting is ugly.

16. What is your new film Edward Scissorhands all about? It sounds weird.
—Carmen Munoz, 17, Minneapolis, MN

It is weird. I would like to do every weird movie that comes out. It’s about an American guy who has scissors for hands so he becomes a hairdresser. He’s brought into an eerily normal neighborhood and learns about a life he was never able to have. Is that vague enough?

17. Are you still going out with Winona Ryder? I heard you broke up. What do you think of all the gossip that surrounds your personal life?
—Shannon Wilson, 19, Newark, NJ

I hate people who spread rumors. I hate people who pretend to have an idea about our personal lives. We’re together. I love her. It’s wonderful. I just wish people didn’t want to know so much. I don’t ask people in K-Mart how their relationships with their wives and husbands are going.

18. Do you ever regret dropping out of school?
—-Stephanie Wilding, 14, Dix Hills, NY

I do. I’ve regretted it ever since. There’s so much available in high school. All you have to do is just pay attention and really take advantage of it.

-- donated by In-too-Depp