Like Captain Jack Sparrow himself, Johnny Depp is a man, a mystery and something of a legend who has young lasses swooning wherever he goes. MTV News recently unearthed some gold of its own while dueling with Depp over would-be sequels, his obscure classics and his weeping fans. Dead Man's Chest sails into theaters July 7; the third chapter, At World's End, resumes filming in August.
MTV: If you woke up tomorrow and found that you were a pirate, what would you want to do?
Johnny Depp: What would I wanna do? I'd be chasing the horizon, wouldn't I? [He laughs.] I'd escape.
You've been in this business for more than 20 years, you've made a lot of movies we love, but up until this point you've avoided sequels. Why?
It wasn't by design or choice. I always thought, years and years ago, that there should have been a sequel to Edward Scissorhands. I guess it just wasn't necessary. It's funny because at the end of the first Pirates film I wasn't anywhere near ready to say goodbye to Captain Jack. So I was very happy to be given the opportunity to explore a little more, and step back into those shoes.
Some actors hate sequels, thinking they're just rehashes. But is there a skill to making them?
It's a great challenge for the writers—thinking in terms of a trilogy and the math that's involved. Making this fit here and making that make sense over there. And all that correlates to something that happened in Pirates 1, and it'll go all the way to Pirates 3. That's madness! For those guys to be able to put that together, and at the same time be able to keep each film individual and unique so it has its own foundation to stand on, it's kind of miraculous.
People are describing Captain Jack as the first iconic film character of the 21st century. Is it dangerous for an actor to listen to those things before reprising a character?
I think there's a danger in believing anything—taking any of it to heart, or taking any of it seriously. Starting to buy your own press is the biggest no-no in the world, man. I think you need to, or at least I need to, stay focused on what's real. The reason that I'm around is the work. I just keep moving forward.
Whenever people bring up your performance as Jack Sparrow, I tell them, "You wanna see Depp really blow your mind? Rent Dead Man."
Yeah, that's a nice film. Thank you.
After so many great performances, Jack Sparrow might be the one that overshadows all the rest. Does that bother you?
It doesn't bother me, no. I'm proud of the role and of the films. See, the funny thing is I haven't changed. My approach, my process to the work hasn't changed at all. I'm still the same as I was when I was considered, in the language of Hollywood, to be "poison" [at the box office]. I'm still doing the same things today.
Orlando Bloom has said that once the Pirates films are over, he wants to get away from the period stuff and establish himself in some contemporary films. You've been stereotyped and pigeonholed numerous times in your career and gotten out of it. What advice would you have for him?
For Orlando? Oh boy, I don't know if there's any advice I can give anybody. [He laughs.] I think the most important thing anyone can do is just to follow your instincts. If you're afraid to take a risk or to go outside the box that you are perceived to sort of roam around in, it's okay—you should feel fear. You should acknowledge it, and look it in the eye. Then just keep moving forward. I think it's okay for an actor to actually take the chance of failing. [You should] teeter on the brink of failure.
Being on the set of one of the biggest productions of all time [with the Pirates films], did you ever think, "I'd love to take this away from Gore Verbinski, hand it over to [Dead Man director and indie veteran] Jim Jarmusch and see what he'd do with all this power"?
Well, it's a different language. Someone like Jim, he wouldn't want to bounce around in this arena. Jim's stuff comes from Jim; I think they're all his original stories. Gore is equally amazing to watch work, though. Here's how great the guy is: You could actually do the entire movie, as an actor, without having read the script. I mean, I wouldn't suggest it. [He laughs.] But he's that tapped into what just happened before, and the underlying subtext of each scene. At the same time, he's doing all this huge action stuff. He's kind of a miracle.
About 20 years ago, you were on 21 Jump Street and became famous as a pin-up idol for teenage girls. You turned 43 earlier this month and teenage girls are still crazy about you. Which period was more chaotic?
[He fidgets uneasily.] You know—I'll have to get back to you on that.
What's it like to walk down a red carpet as Johnny Depp?
It's overwhelming, you know? It's a little overwhelming, but people are just real nice. They're super sweet.
At the premiere, people were swooning, some were even crying, just because they got a glimpse of you. What's that like?
I actually came to [the premiere] to see you cry. [He laughs.] I wanted to see if you'd weep.
If you had a parrot on your shoulder, what would it have to say?
[He laughs again.] It would say, "I just took a shit on you, man."