Actor Johnny Depp reports that he's the happiest he's ever been. And it's not because of a gold trophy on his mantle or a monster-hit action movie or more coins in the bank. It's because he is a father.
“Life is really good now,” he says. “It's the happiest I've ever been in my life, the most content I've ever been in my life.”
Depp, who has never behaved like a movie star, doesn't dress like one. He's wearing worn Levi's with a thick, brown leather belt. A black stocking cap sticks out of his back pocket. On his right wrist he sports a wide leather bracelet and his dark hair hangs just below the ears, with a half-hearted part weaving its way up the middle.
“As of May 27, 1999, I learned how to breathe, learned how to see,” says Depp, leaning forward. “I know it sounds really corny, but the kid, Lily-Rose, brought me life. May 27 at 8:25 p.m.”
He was married briefly early in his career and has been linked with Winona Ryder, Sherilyn Fenn and model Kate Moss. But French singer-actress Vanessa Paradis is the mother of their 6-month-old baby.
Though his passion is his family, he has managed a third starring role with quirky director Tim Burton in Sleepy Hollow.
Depp and Burton are following their teamwork in Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood with this stylistic re-creation of 1799 and the superstition that engulfed the era.
For the last two years, Depp has been living in Paris, returning to his home in Los Angeles for, at most, 15 days. It's much easier for him to stay far from Hollywood, he thinks.
“I'll give you an example . . . I went to L.A., spent the night at my house, but before I did that, I went with Harry Dean Stanton to a restaurant to have a bite to eat. Within one hour of being off a 12-hour flight from Paris, I had a guy approaching me about a script. I mean, out of nowhere!
“Five minutes later, the same thing happened. It's like a crazy house, really like a mad house, this obsession and this ambition and these people who want to talk about movies and make movies and acting.”
Depp never intended for any of this to happen when he followed his rock band to L.A. 17 years ago. He was a musician who got into acting for the money.
A role in Nightmare on Elm Street earned some attention. But it was really the youthful undercover cop on TV's 21 Jump Street that sent hearts into cardiac arrest. Still, Depp couldn't wait to get off the force.
Once freed from the airwaves, Depp's career took off with offbeat performances in films like Cry-Baby, Benny & Joon, Donnie Brasco, Don Juan DeMarco and What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
Now he harbors no illusions about himself. Casting him as the clumsy and obtuse Ichabod Crane was probably not a popular idea, he figures.
“I have a sinking suspicion that somewhere, somehow, executives, when a director or producer brings my name up, the executives go, ‘Oh no, the weird guy.’”
At any point Depp could have been a superstar. But he has favored the odd, the skewed, the imperfect.
“I chose the road myself and put myself on the road. So if anybody's to blame, it's me, which is fine.”