Johnny Depp is a most interesting cross between a pretty boy actor and a quirky genius. Born in Kentucky in 1963, Depp dropped out of school at the age of 15 with the dream of becoming a musician. He worked at it for a while, performing in a couple of bands that enjoyed marginal success on a local level. It was actually Nicolas Cage, who he met through his then-wife Lori, who suggested he think about an acting career. After working a variety of odd jobs, he began to see work as an actor. His first big screen role was in the horror classic Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984. But it was not until the phenomenon of 21 Jump Street exploded that Depp became a household name. Households with teenage girls, that is.
With 21 Jump Street came instant teen idol status for the handsome young actor. Where others might have reveled in the celebrity, Depp rejected his newfound status unequivocally. He left the show as soon as he was contractually able and has been carving niche after niche for himself as a performer ever since.
Perhaps inevitable, Depp and Tim Burton found their way to professional collaboration. The two seem to share a vision and their films together span 20 years of madness and tomfoolery. Beginning with Edward Scissorhands in 1990, Burton helped Depp define himself as a performer. The two continue to work together frequently, most recently in an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland.
Depp has also taken roles that play to his charisma as a romantic leading man. Don Juan DeMarco and Chocolat both made prodigious use of the actor’s appeal to a female audience without resorting to traditional romantic comedy conventions. Taking on more action oriented roles in The Astronaut’s Wife, The Ninth Gate and From Hell and a widely praised dramatic turn as JM Barrie in Finding Neverland have all proven that Depp can pretty much play whatever he chooses. Having refused to be defined by his appearance, he has opened himself to a world of career possibilities, all on his own terms.
His greatest commercial success by far has been his continuing role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Admittedly very fond of the character, Depp has not hesitated to star in three movies with a fourth in production. Originally despised by studio executives, Jack Sparrow became instantly popular with audiences due to Depp’s portrayal.
Now well into his forties, Depp shows no sign of becoming less handsome, less popular or less prolific. He has been nominated for dozens of awards and has taken home a Golden Globe for Sweeney Todd and a SAG Award for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Having defined his career be refusing to be defined by others, Depp has built an impressive and eclectic filmography and has proven to be one of the most versatile and now bankable actors of his generation.
Depp and his partner Vanessa Paradis live mostly in France with their two children, Lily-Rose and Jack.
photo by nicogenin