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Johnny Depp: Living Unconventionally is Magnifique

by Michael Okwu
December 12, 2000

Chocolat’s wandering gypsy on life in France and ‘swimming in chocolate’

Be still, swooning hearts. Johnny Depp is back on the screen this holiday season.

The actor, who made his name embracing the unpredictable with roles in Sleepy Hollow (1999), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Ed Wood (1994), Donnie Brasco (1997), and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) has assumed another persona in his latest film: that of a chocolate-loving vagabond.

Depp has rejoined director Lasse Hallstrom in Chocolat, with whom he worked in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). In their latest collaboration, Depp plays Roux, a gypsy traveling through France on a riverboat. He becomes Juliette Binoche's love interest and manages to upset tradition in a sleepy hilltop town.

CNN Showbiz Today sat down recently with Depp, 37, who for more than two years has been living in Paris with Vanessa Paradis, a 27-year-old actress.

Depp admitted to two things—that he's a Hollywood outsider; and has an abiding love for cheap chocolate.

What struck you about this role?

There were three very, very important reasons. First, was Lasse (Hallstrom, the director), the opportunity to work with him . . . That was first and foremost, because I just think he's very, very special and very unique, and one of the real filmmakers that are out there today.

Second was Juliette Binoche, who I admired so greatly in a film called Lovers on the Bridge (1991). Third was the script: It's just . . . so beautiful and so well put together—such a great story.

It's so rare that you get the opportunity to do something like this. It's really a magical, beautiful film.

One issue filmgoers may have with the film is the language. The movie is set in France, but the characters speak English.

Well, the film . . . has such a kind of magical quality, and it doesn't particularly feel like an American film you know, it just doesn't feel like an American product. It has something very European about it.

Did you enjoy playing this particular role? You seemed so comfortable playing this guy.

Oh, I had a great time. First of all was the opportunity, as I said, to go back into the ring with Lasse and then to work with Juliette. And what a great cast, Judi Dench and Lena Olin and Fred Molina. But also (I wanted) to play a character who was a kind of outside, but very, very comfortable outside. (Someone) who's not a victim—doesn't betray himself or feel like a victim. He's outside, because he wants to be outside.

That may be a little bit of who you are.

I like being outside. I don't want to be caught up in the who's-who stuff . . . I don't want to play the game, you know . . . I just am not interested.

Is that partly why you're living in Europe now?

Because it feels better . . . I went over there to do a film and ended up living there because I met my girl and we had a daughter. And . . . that was a wake-up call of monumental proportion. And when you come back to the States and you watch the news and you see the ignorance that exists here and the hatred and the violence and the racial problems . . .

I remember coming back to the States and seeing on the television some guy had gone into a Jewish community center in Los Angeles and shot a bunch of kids. And I thought at that moment, "I'm never coming back."

Was this a sensual film? Were you guys just swimming in chocolate?

Swimming in it. I think, more than anyone else in the film, that somehow it (occurred) to me that I was the one who was going to be eating the most chocolate. And I'm not a huge fan of chocolate, especially really rich, deep, dark, bitter chocolate.

Say it ain't so.

I like the cheap stuff. And I was eating chocolate take after take after take.

What's your favorite?

My favorite chocolate is those little, real cheap, chocolate footballs like you get on Easter.

What do you think people are going to take away from this film? It's clearly not just about chocolate, not even chocolate as an aphrodisiac.

One of the things that appealed to me when I read the screenplay was (its theme) that it's OK to break the sort of boundaries of what is normal—or what is considered normal. You've got to step outside of that and break the routine and not be so afraid to try new things.

We close ourselves off and we live in these little worlds that are comfortable and safe. It's routine and boring and filled with fear and guilt and it's no good, you know? It's no good for you.

-- donated by DeepinDepp