LOS ANGELES—Johnny Depp’s shorter hair looks good on him. “I cut it off for the next one, Dark Shadows.” the actor said when complimented about it. “The filming is coming up very soon,” he added, referring to the London shoot next month of his and Tim Burton’s movie take on the vampire TV series that ran from 1966 to 1971.
It was our first time to see Johnny with sleeves rolled up to his biceps. So we saw the tattoos on his arms for the first time, too. “They’re pieces of the puzzle, little snippets of the journey,” Johnny said as he gamely obliged to describe each one. “I started getting tattoos when they were sort of verboten in Hollywood . . . 1983, 1984. I was 17 when I got the first one [a Cherokee chief, to honor] my Indian heritage. Each one explains a certain point in my life. My kids, certainly. Lily-Rose is here; Jack here. Jack just came around prior to my Captain Jack role. Some are reminders of relatives—my grandfather, my mom. She was a waitress at the Holiday Inn in Kentucky. [This is] her waitress picture.”
Johnny is back as Captain Jack in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, with Geoffrey Rush, Keith Richards and Kevin R. McNally reprising their roles, and Penelope Cruz appearing in the franchise for the first time. She was pregnant with her baby with Javier Bardem when she shot her scenes as Captain Jack”s protagonist.
Asked if he gave advice to Javier, the father of two (Lily-Rose, 11, and Jack, 9) smiled and replied: “In terms of advice for Javier, on how to spoil his woman and his child, he’s got it down. It’s pretty great to watch them . . . You start thinking, wow, I’d like to have another one of those (babies) . . . But I don’t know. Two is pretty good.”
Johnny praised Penelope for being such a trouper while they filmed a sequence “on this little spit of an island in Puerto Rico.” He said, “It was beautiful but scorching . . . maybe 100 degrees. Everyone was woozy from the heat. And there was Penelope, seconds away from giving birth . . . or it felt like that in the heat. She just kept pushing forward. She was unbelievable. [She would] take off the majority of her costume and go straight into the ocean in between takes. Or in between setups, she’d just cool off, cool down the baby. Then get dressed again and do the scene. Then into the water again.”
Johnny and Penelope have been friends since they acted together in Blow. He continued: “You’ve got this pregnant woman sword-fighting. That’s a very strange image. But . . . because of her experience in dance, it looked accurate, effortless. There was never a slip up. She was obviously careful of the bun in the oven, as they say.”
The two stars are sure to bring glamour and more popping flash bulbs when they attend the Cannes premiere of Pirates tomorrow, Saturday.
However, Johnny was ambivalent about the film taking a slot in the festival on the Croisette: “When they brought up the idea of bringing Pirates to Cannes, there was a part of me that went, ‘Cannes should be about small films or independent films, those films that are like the little engine that could.’ But they had the idea to hold the movie’s French premiere at the festival. I’m excited to bring the film to France. However, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘have we just taken three other films off the slate?’ I felt a little guilty and a little bad.”
On having Keith back as his dad in this fourth installment, Johnny said about the legendary guitarist, the inspiration for his mascara-ed pirate: “Without a doubt, [it was] an honor. It was fun to have Keith around for a few days. We shared a trailer. We just hung around for a few days and talked. I built up the nerve to ask him, ‘What the hell is this chord in Make No Mistake? My ear is pretty good but it’s been years and I could never figure it out.’ He goes, ‘The fourth chord.’ I said, ‘Yeah, exactly!’ He goes, ‘Yeah’—I said, ‘Well, what is it?’ He picked up the guitar—bang, brrmm! He showed me the chord. It was one of those moments that are seared in your brain for the rest of your life.”
Johnny is taking his time on the documentary he’s making on the Rolling Stones guitarist. “We’ve got about 35, 36 hours of interview and performance footage,” said the actor who makes his docu directorial debut with this project. “There’s no rush.”
In the meantime, Johnny sounded pumped up to portray centuries-old vampire Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows, originally a gothic TV soap created by Dan Curtis. “My approach to Barnabas will be on the flaws and insecurities of a vampire,” he revealed. “Having been in a coffin for 200 years, he experiences the absurdity of a world that he’s just entered, where macramé owls hanging on a wall or fake fruits on a dish are widely accepted. From where he comes, in the 18th century, it would have been ludicrous. I want to see a vampire who’s 200 years old or more, experience television for the first time.”
He added with a chuckle: “It’s classic horror vampire—Nosferatu, Lugosi-esque vampire, without the accent.”