“This cover story was months in the making,” says Erik Hedegaard, who wrote the story in which Depp discussed love, rage, and Willy Wonka. “Maybe once a week we’d get a call that Depp would see me now. I would begin packing my bags. I was going to Paris. I was going to New York. I was going to L.A. I was going lots of places that, an hour or two later, I learned that I wasn’t going after all.” Still Hedegaard adds, “This behavior is so much a part of the glory of Depp that’s it’s hard to fault him for it.” Rolling Stone film editor Peter Travers concurs: “He’s somebody who disappears into the ozone and you don’t know where he is, and then, at the last minute, he just shows up. Around the time of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he stopped by the office. He just sat on the floor talking in his usual very quiet charming way, and it was like he had all the time in the world.”
Albert Watson shot Depp for the [Feb. 10, 2005] cover in Los Angeles, after he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role in Finding Neverland. He didn’t want a hairstylist or a makeup artist. Depp walked in the studio, chose a shirt and was ready to go. “He’s devilishly good looking,” says Watson. “He just comes in. He’s himself. He had a cowboy hat on, and he’s easygoing. It didn’t matter what he was wearing.
“Depp is a great beauty. He does everything he can to break that beauty down a little bit. But everything he does just makes him more interesting-looking.”
For the story, Hedegaard was supposed to meet Depp at the Dorchester Hotel in London. “I’m standing around,” Hededgaard says. “No Depp. Finally, his assistant swings in the door to tell me that Depp had heard that the Dorchester was crawling with paparazzi today and would I join him elsewhere? Fifteen minutes later, I walked into the bar at Claridge’s, and there he was, in his spread-collar shirt, with his hair swept back, looking infinitely relaxed, with his hand curved around a bottle of red wine. ‘I took the liberty of ordering this for us,’ he said. He began pouring and lit up a smoke, and after that it really did seem like he had all the time in the world.”
“A Good, Strong Cover has some sort of intrinsic weight and power,” says Watson. “You’re dealing with people who are at the height of their celebrity. I think that’s an important thing.” Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the photographer has shot thirty-nine covers in three decades for ROLLING STONE, from a snow-covered Jack Nicholson in 1981 to an earnest Jay-Z in 2005, both of which are among the six Watson covers that appear in this issue.