Site menu:

2 0 0 3

Johnny Depp—Disney's First Matey

by Tim Carvell
with reporting from Chris Nashawaty
Photographs by Robert Maxwell
Entertainment Weekly #743/744
December 26, 2003 / January 2, 2004

Johnny Depp
Disney’s First Matey

The Entertainers

Doesn’t Johnny Depp know anything? Doesn’t he know that there are two types of performers—actors and stars—and that he belongs in the former category? Actors appear in independent, impenetrable movies as dark, tortured geniuses. They are adored by critics and shunned by audiences. They live in France. They do not—repeat, do not—show up in movies with the name “Bruckheimer” in the credits. Especially not if that movie is based on a Disney theme-park ride.

And yet there Johnny Depp was, starring in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl—and, almost as bizarre, he seemed to be having the time of his life. Depp’s previous performances had a certain remoteness, but in Pirates he let audiences in on the fun. His blurry, slurry Jack Sparrow was an effeminate, self-dramatizing lush, but Depp played him with a wink, as if to say, “Can you believe they’re letting me get away with this?”

They almost didn’t, of course: Some Disney executives tried to rein in his performance. Those same executives called to thank him as the film blew past 300 million at the domestic box office, becoming the year’s most unexpected hit. “I’ve felt for years that the moviegoing audience has been underestimated,” Depp says. “So with Pirates, it felt good to get letters and phone calls from certain Disney executives who said, ‘You were right, I was wrong.’” The role transformed Depp into a box office draw fro the first time in his career. His follow-up film, Once Upon A Time in Mexico, opened with $23.4 million—almost as much as it prequel Desperado made in its whole run.

As both performances showed, Depp seems at ease with characters with a flair for dramatic and bizarre; at one point in Mexico, he has his alter ego, the villainous CIA agent Sands, lapse into an impersonation of Marlon Brando for no discernible reason. Asked to explain, Depp says that it was “just another aria of weirdness.” This year those arias became music to moviegoers’ ears. —Tim Carvell, with reporting from Chris Nashawaty

Johnny Depp
Photograph by Robert Maxwell
August 24, 2003
New York City

*Depp looks every inch the moody, mysterious heartbreaker here, but the shoot was a far less enigmatic affair. Maxwell and the actor bonded over a shared love: photography. “It was kinda cute,” recalls Maxwell, “because he has the same na´ve joy I had when I started.” They also discussed their Gallic obsessions—both are partnered with French women. (Depp’s girlfriend is actress-singer Vanessa Paradis). And by the end of the session, the photographer had to admit he dug Depp.
“I wanted not to like him because he’s successful and good-looking and all that shit,” says Maxwell. “But he was one of the nicest actors I’ve ever worked with.”

-- donated by DeepinDepp