He has never been one for “macho roles.” Edward Scissorhands and Gilbert Grape would have run a mile from any of Schwarzenneger’s tough-guy action heroes. But Johnny Depp’s latest performance, as film director Edward D Wood Jr, represents a new high in “female empathy.” Wood was Hollywood’s most infamous “out” transvestite and, in the film Ed Wood (which open on 26th May), Depp portrays him in his happiest hours, wearing angora sweaters, stockings and stilettos, while directing such low-budget “classics” as Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Depp, 31, has had his share of pain, too. October 1993 saw the tragic death of his friend River Phoenix outside Depp’s club, The Viper Room, in LA. Then, last September, he was arrested for trashing his suite at The Mark Hotel in New York, causing over $9000-worth of damage. “I went to jail for assaulting a lamp,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of love inside me and a lot of anger, too. But anger doesn’t pay the rent. It’s gotta be evicted.”
Even his relationship with Kate Moss has not been left in peace because, he says, the tabloids keep insisting he’s “screwed everyone from the Queen of England to the Pope.” He was married at 20—“that was a strong bond, but I can’t say I was in love”—and divorced two years later. However, he now dotes on his “little Kate,” as he calls her, and has said, “If someone were to harm my family or someone that I love, I’d eat them.”
Kentucky-born Depp is now reported to be thinking of moving to Europe, specifically Paris, because “It’s not as sensationalized.” He’s currently on a career high, what with rave notices for Ed Wood, and a potential Oscar-winner in the lead role of the upcoming Don Juan DeMarco and the Centerfold, in which he stars opposite Marlon Brando.
Critic went for a dip with Depp:
COSMO CRITIC: How did you feel about dressing up in women’s clothes?
JOHNNY DEPP: It was a golden opportunity to romp around and have a good time, and get paid for it. I can’t say I felt totally comfortable physically, but psychologically it was fine. Many people feel a little nervous around transvestites, who are often seen as homosexual men dressed up as women. But Wood was clear that he loved dating women. He just enjoyed dressing like them as well.
What reaction did your “drag” look get?
I’d be dressed up as Ed in a Fifties suit hanging out on the set, and then go off to get changed, and I’d come back painted up, with garters and fishnets. There’d be hollers and whistles from the grips and electricians. It was only to hide their discomfort. I could tell they didn’t want to look at me for too long . . .
How were the high heels?
Wearing four or five-inch heels turned me into an absolutely massive woman. I thought I was the ugliest chick I’d ever seen.
How did you get the role?
I have a deep respect for Tim [Burton, director of the film], whom I’d worked with on Edward Scissorhands. He called me one night and whispered, “Johnny, can you meet me at the Formosa Café?” I felt like I was in a spy story. I got there, had a beer, and within ten minutes I’d said yes to the project.
Ed Wood is another in the long list of offbeat characters you’ve played. Why are you attracted to these types?
When someone’s considered a freak, I accept it and am stimulated by it. To me, the way Ed put on a brassiere, skirt and wig is the same thing as the guy who comes home from work, pours himself a Scotch and watches TV. It’s what he does to unwind.
Has the experience enlightened you?
It has. You can never understand what a woman’s life is like until you step into her shoes. And I’ve got the utmost respect for transvestites. When you gotta tuck things away, it’s painful!
Do you ever worry about the size of your penis?
I haven’t up till now. Should I start pondering? Nah, he’s been a good friend to me. I’d certainly miss him if he were gone.
Which of your characters has been most like you?
Not Ed, that’s for sure! Probably Edward Scissorhands, and Sam in Benny & Joon.
What about your character in Don Juan DeMarco and the Centerfold?
That was a beautiful screenplay. Working with Brando was a special learning experience. I was nervous beforehand—when we met, I thought I was going to send a present to my laundryman! But he instantly made me feel comfortable. Brando is maybe the greatest actor of the last two centuries. Aside from being one of the smartest men, he could be the greatest comedian alive.
Will you open another Viper Room?
Do you mean start a chain, like Burger King? That’d be great, ‘cos then I’d be really successful. I’ve been approached about opening one in New York, but I don’t think so.
Has being famous become easier for you?
It’s gotten odder. It’s starting to feel like a Hunter S Thompson book. There’s just no balance to it. I can’t see how my life is more important than, say, the invasion of Haiti.