Published on January 11, 2011 by Christian
John Christopher “Johnny” Depp II (born June 9, 1963) is an American actor and musician known for his portrayals of offbeat, eccentric characters in a wide variety of dramas and fantasy films. He has won the Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild award for major roles in recent films.
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Depp rose to prominence on the 1980s television series 21 Jump Street, quickly becoming a teen idol. Turning to film, he was notable as the title character of Edward Scissorhands (1990), and later found box office success in films such as Sleepy Hollow (1999), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).
He has collaborated with director and close friend Tim Burton in seven films, the most recent of which are Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). Depp has gained acclaim for his portrayals of people such as Edward D. Wood, Jr., in Ed Wood, Joseph D. Pistone in Donnie Brasco, Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and George Jung in Blow. More recently, he portrayed the bank robber John Dillinger in Michael Mann’s 2009 film Public Enemies.
Films featuring Depp have grossed over $2.6 billion at the United States box office and over $6 billion worldwide. He has been nominated for top awards numerous times; he won the Best Actor Awards from the Golden Globes for his role in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and from the Screen Actors Guild for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Depp was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, the son of Betty Sue Palmer (née Wells), a waitress, and Nathan Morton Hyde., a History Teacher. He has one brother, Daniel, who is a novelist, and two sisters, Christie (now his personal manager) and Debbie. Depp has French, German, Cherokee, and Irish ancestry. According to biographies, the Depp family in the United States began with a French Huguenot immigrant, Pierre Deppe or Dieppe, who settled in Virginia around 1700, part of a refugee colony situated above the falls on the James River.
The family moved frequently during Depp’s childhood, and he and his siblings lived in more than 20 different locations, settling in Miramar, Florida, in 1970. In 1978, Depp’s parents divorced. He engaged in self-harm as a child, due to the stress of dealing with family problems. He has seven or eight self-inflicted scars. In a 1993 interview, he explained his self-injury by saying, “My body is a journal in a way. It’s like what sailors used to do, where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life when you make a mark on yourself, whether you do it yourself with a knife or with a professional tattoo artist”.
Depp’s first major role was in the 1984 horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street, playing the heroine’s boyfriend and one of Freddy Krueger’s victims. In 1986, he appeared in a secondary role as a Vietnamese-speaking private in Oliver Stone’s Platoon. In 1990 he undertook the quirky title role of the Tim Burton film, Edward Scissorhands. The film’s success began his long association with Burton.
Depp, a fan and long-time friend of writer Hunter S. Thompson, played a version of Thompson (named Raoul Duke) in 1998′s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, based on the writer’s pseudobiographical novel of the same name. Depp accompanied Thompson as his road manager on one of the author’s last book tours. In 2006, Depp contributed a foreword to Gonzo: Photographs by Hunter S. Thompson, a posthumous biography published by ammobooks.com. Depp paid for most of Thompson’s memorial event, complete with fireworks and the shooting of Thompson’s ashes by a cannon, in Aspen, Colorado, where Thompson lived.
Depp wearing a mustache and goatee similar to the style used in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Critics have described Depp’s roles as characters who are “iconic loners.” Depp has noted this period of his career was full of “studio defined failures” and films that were “box office poison,” but he thought the studios never understood the films and did not do a good job of marketing. Depp has chosen roles which he found interesting, rather than those he thought would succeed at the box office.
The 2003 Walt Disney Pictures film Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a major success, in which Depp’s his lead performance as the suave pirate Captain Jack Sparrow was highly praised. Studio bosses were more ambivalent at first, but the character became popular with the movie-going public. According to a survey taken by Fandango, Depp was a major draw for audiences. The film’s director, Gore Verbinski, has said that Depp’s character closely resembles the actor’s personality, but Depp said he modelled the character after Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Depp was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for the role.
In 2004, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, for playing Scottish author J. M. Barrie in the film Finding Neverland. Depp next starred as Willy Wonka in the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a major success at the box office and earning him a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy.
Depp returned to the role of Jack Sparrow for the sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which opened on July 7, 2006 and grossed $135.5 million in the first three days of its U.S. release, breaking a box office record of the highest weekend tally. The next sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean, At World’s End, was released May 24, 2007. Depp has said that Sparrow is “definitely a big part of me”, and he wants to play the role in further sequels. Depp voiced Sparrow in the video game, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow. Johnny Depp’s swashbuckling sword talents as developed for the character of Jack Sparrow, were highlighted in the documentary film Reclaiming the Blade. Within the film, Swordmaster Bob Anderson shared his experiences working with Depp on the choreography for The Curse of the Black Pearl. Anderson who also trained Errol Flynn, another famous Hollywood pirate, described in the film Depp’s ability as an actor to pick up the sword to be, “about as good as you can get.”
Depp and Gore Verbinski were executive producers of the album Rogues Gallery, Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys. Depp played the title role of Sweeney Todd in Tim Burton’s film adaptation of the musical, for which he won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Depp thanked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and praised Tim Burton for his “unwavering trust and support.”
In 2007, Depp accepted Warner Bros.’ proposal to make a film of the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, a series that aired on ABC from 1966 to 1971. He had been a fan as a child. Depp and Graham King will produce the movie with David Kennedy, who ran Dan Curtis Productions inc. until Curtis died in 2006. Depp will also appear in a film version of writer Hunter S. Thompson’s book, The Rum Diary, portraying the main character, Paul Kemp. Depp played the former Heath Ledger character in the 2009 film, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus along with Jude Law and Colin Farrell. All three actors gave their salaries from the film to Ledger’s daughter, Matilda. He portrayed the Mad Hatter in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and will play Tonto in a future Lone Ranger film. Disney Studios announced a fourth installment of the Pirates series is in development.
Depp has collaborated with director and close friend Tim Burton in seven films, beginning with Edward Scissorhands (1990), opposite Winona Ryder and Vincent Price. His next role with Burton was in the 1994 film, Ed Wood. Depp later said that “within 10 minutes of hearing about the project, I was committed.” At the time, the actor was depressed about films and filmmaking. This part gave him a “chance to stretch out and have some fun”; he said working with Landau “rejuvenated my love for acting”.
Producer Scott Rudin once said, “Basically Johnny Depp is playing Tim Burton in all his movies,” although Burton personally disapproved of the comment. Depp, however agrees with Rudin’s statement. According to Depp, Edward Scissorhands represented Burton’s inability to communicate as a teenager. Ed Wood reflected Burton’s relationship with Vincent Price (very similar with Edward D. Wood, Jr. and Béla Lugosi).
Depp’s next venture with Burton was the role of Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow (1999), opposite Christina Ricci. Sleepy Hollow reflected Burton’s battle with the Hollywood studio system. For his performance, Depp took inspiration from Angela Lansbury, Roddy McDowall and Basil Rathbone. Depp stated, “I always thought of Ichabod as a very delicate, fragile person who was maybe a little too in touch with his feminine side, like a frightened little girl.”
Depp did not work with Burton again until 2005 in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which he played Willy Wonka. Depp modeled the character’s hair on Anna Wintour. The film was a box office success and received positive critical reception. Gene Wilder, who played Willy Wonka in the 1971 film, initially criticized this version. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was released in July, followed by Corpse Bride, for which Depp voiced the character Victor Van Dort, in September.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) followed, bringing Depp his second major award win, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy as well as his third nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Burton first gave him an original cast recording of the 1979 stage musical in 2000. Although not a fan of the musical genre, Depp grew to like the tale’s treatment. He cited Peter Lorre in Mad Love (1935) as his main influence for the role, and practiced the songs his character would perform while filming Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Although he had performed in musical groups, Depp was initially unsure that he would be able to sustain Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics. Depp recorded demos and worked with Bruce Witkin to shape his vocals without a qualified voice coach. In the DVD Reviews section, Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty gave the film an A minus, stating, “Depp’s soaring voice makes you wonder what other tricks he’s been hiding… Watching Depp’s barber wield his razors… it’s hard not to be reminded of Edward Scissorhands frantically shaping hedges into animal topiaries 18 years ago… and all of the twisted beauty we would’ve missed out on had [Burton and Depp] never met.”
In his introduction to Burton on Burton, a book of interviews with the director, Depp called Burton “…a brother, a friend,…and [a] brave soul”. The next Depp-Burton collaboration was Alice in Wonderland (2010). Depp played the Mad Hatter alongside Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway and Alan Rickman.