Before I begin, let me be clear – I’m not talking about the legendary late night host Johnny Carson (may he rest in peace) but I couldn’t resist using those two words made famous by Ed McMahon to introduce another very different yet equally famous Johnny, who happens to be today’s featured Favorite Movie Actor nominee. Yes, I’m talking about the multiple People’s Choice Award winning popular favorite and critically acclaimed talent extraordinaire, Johnny Depp.
It’s difficult to know where to begin. Back in his early 21 Jump Street days, he took the world by storm – and by world, I mean pre-teen girls whose walls were plastered with magazine photo spreads of the impossibly adorable heartthrob. I, admittedly, was part of that “world.” However, upon realizing he had become a Hollywood pin-up, the actor made a concerted effort to distance himself from that type of attention and continued on to become very selective in the roles he chose to play. While it may have painted him as somewhat of a rebel or outcast over time, his choices certainly worked to his advantage since he went on to prove himself – time and time again – as a force to be reckoned with.
He was born John Christopher Depp II on June 9, 1963 in Owensboro, Kentucky, and had a very unstable childhood, having moved many times with his family, finally settling in Miramar, Florida. His parents divorced when he was 15, and a year later, having played guitar in several garage bands, he dropped out of high school to pursue music. He and his band, The Kids, who later changed their name to Six Gun Method, headed to LA in pursuit of a record deal. Ultimately the band broke up, and Depp married make-up artist Lori Ann Alison (sister of the band’s bass player and singer). Lori introduced him to her friend, Nicolas Cage, who suggested Johnny try his hand at acting. At the time, Depp was a telemarketer for pens, one of the many odd jobs he had held. Soon after, he landed his first TV gig with 21 Jump Street and thus his acting career began. (He and Lori divorced by 1985.)
Some of you may recall that his first film role was in the 1984 classic horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street playing the heroine’s boyfriend. While he was later cast in several lesser known films, he really came onto the movie scene with Edward Scissorhands. The role earned him his first Golden Globe nomination, cementing him as a legitimate talent. It also spawned a long time friendship between him and the film’s creator Tim Burton, with whom he went on to make seven more films, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010), and most recently, Dark Shadows (2012). He took home his first Golden Globe in 2008 for his portrayal of Sweeney Todd.
Another widely known fact is Depp’s relationship with Hunter S. Thompson, American writer and creator of Gonzo journalism. He admired his writing and was fascinated by him as a person. In preparation for the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (based on the pseudobiographical novel of the same name) he studied Thompson arguably more intensely than most actors would while preparing for biopics, and portrayed a version of him quite convincingly as a result. He also starred in The Rum Diary, the 2011 film adaptation of another Thompson novel.
Needless to say, Depp is best known for his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. One might say he totally changed the game in the very first film, playing a character never seen before- brilliantly combining eccentricity, comedy, intensity, strength and vulnerability (not to mention drunkenness). You knew you were watching a Disney film but somehow Johnny made it like no other family film anyone had seen. I myself was surprised he had agreed to star in a Disney vehicle, one that would take on a life of its own and yield an unstoppable multi-billion dollar franchise. But now, looking back, I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. I guess Johnny has that effect on people- having since been named the 2010 People’s Choice Award Actor of the Decade, not to mention his countless other industry award nominations and wins, he is obviously doing something right.
Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of Johnny Depp’s iconic characters is your favorite?