John Depp: Favourite male movie star | Sunday Observer

John Depp: Favourite male movie star

9 January, 2022

John Christopher Depp II (born June 9, 1963) is an American actor, producer, and musician. He is the recipient of various accolades, including a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, in addition to nominations for three Academy Awards and two British Academy Film Awards.

Depp made his debut in the horror film ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984), before rising to prominence as a teen idol on the television series ‘21 Jump Street’ (1987–1990). In the 1990s, Depp acted mostly in independent films, often playing eccentric characters. These included ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ (1993), ‘Benny and Joon’ (1993), ‘Dead Man’ (1995), ‘Donnie Brasco’ (1997) and ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (1998). Depp also began collaborating with director Tim Burton, starring in ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990), ‘Ed Wood’ (1994) and ‘Sleepy Hollow’ (1999).

In the 2000s, Depp became one of the most commercially successful film stars by playing Captain Jack Sparrow in the swashbuckler film series ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ (2003–present). He received critical praise for ‘Finding Neverland’ (2004), and continued his commercially successful collaboration with Tim Burton with the films ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (2005), ‘Corpse Bride’ (2005), ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ‘(2007), and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (2010). In 2012, Depp was one of the world’s biggest film stars,[1][2] and was listed by the ‘Guinness World Records’ as the world’s highest-paid actor, with earnings of US$75 million. During the 2010s, Depp began producing films through his company, Infinitum Nihil, and formed the rock supergroup Hollywood Vampires with Alice Cooper and Joe Perry.

Depp was married to actress Amber Heard from 2015 to 2017. Their divorce drew media attention as she alleged that he had been abusive throughout their relationship. Depp sued Heard for defamation in 2019 after she wrote an op-ed discussing being a public victim of domestic violence; the case will go to trial in 2022.

He also sued the publishers of ‘The Sun’ in a related libel suit in England. In 2020, the High Court of Justice of England and Wales ruled that Depp had lost his libel case and that the majority of Heard’s allegations had been proven to a civil standard.

Reception and public image

In the 1990s, Depp was seen as a new type of male film star that rejected the norms of that role. After becoming a teen idol in ‘21 Jump Street’, he publicly protested against the image, and with his subsequent film and PR choices began to cultivate a new public persona. According to journalist Hadley Freeman:

“Along with Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, he was part of a holy trinity of grunge heart-throbs. They were the opposite of the Beverly Hills 90210 boys, or Brad Pitt and Di Caprio, because they seemed embarrassed by their looks, even resentful of them. ...This disinterest in their own prettiness made them seem edgy, even while their prettiness softened that edge. They signified not just a different kind of celebrity, but a different kind of masculinity: desirable but gentle, manly but girlish.

Depp in particular was the cool pinup it was safe to like, and the safe pinup it was cool to like. We fans understood that there was more to Depp, Phoenix and Reeves than handsomeness. They were artistic — they had bands! — and they thought really big thoughts, which they would ramble on about confusingly in interviews. If we dated them, we understood that our role would be to understand their souls.”

Similarly, film scholar Anna Everett has described Depp’s 1990s films and public persona as “anti-macho” and “gender-bending”, going against the conventions of a Hollywood leading man. After ‘21 Jump Street’, Depp chose to work in independent films, often taking on quirky roles that sometimes even completely obscured his looks, such as ‘Edward Scissorhands’.


Critics often described Depp’s characters as “iconic loners” or “gentle outsiders”. According to Depp, his agent, Tracey Jacobs of the United Talent Agency (UTA), had to take “a lot of heat over the years” for his role choices; Depp characterized higher-ups at the UTA as thinking, “Jesus Christ! When does he do a movie where he kisses the girl?

When does he get to pull a gun out and shoot somebody? When does he get to be a man for a change? When is he finally going to do a blockbuster?” Depp also cultivated the image of a bad boy. According to Everett, his “rule-breaking” roles matched with the “much publicized rebelliousness, unconventionality, and volatility ascribed to Depp’s own personal life throughout the decade.

From reports of his repeated confrontations with the police, trashing of a hotel room, chain smoking, drinking, and drug use, to his multiple engagements to such glamorous women as supermodel Kate Moss and Hollywood starlet Winona Ryder and others, we clearly see a perfect fit between his non-conformist star image and his repertoire of outsider characters.”

After a decade of appearing mainly in independent films with varying commercial success, Depp became one of the biggest box office draws in the 2000s with his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Walt Disney Studios’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise. The five films in the series have earned US$4.5 billion as of 2021. In addition to the ‘Pirates’ franchise, Depp also made further four films with Tim Burton that were major successes, with one, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (2010), becoming the biggest commercial hit of Depp’s career and one of the highest-grossing films in history (as of 2021).

‘World’s Sexiest Man’

According to film scholar Murray Pomerance, Depp’s collaboration with Disney “can be seen to purport and herald a new era for Johnny Depp, one in which he is, finally, as though long-promised and long-expected, the proud proprietor of a much-accepted career; not only a star but a middle-class hero”.

In 2003, the same year as the first film in the ‘Pirates’ series was released, Depp was named ‘World’s Sexiest Man’ by People; he would receive the title again in 2009. During the decade and into the 2010s, Depp was one of the biggest and most popular film stars in the world and was named by public vote as “Favorite Male Movie Star” at the People’s Choice Awards every year for 2005 through 2012.

In 2012, Depp became the most highly paid actor in the American film industry, earning at best $75 million per film, and as of 2020, is the tenth highest-grossing actor worldwide, with his films having grossed over US$3.7 billion at the United States box office and over US$10 billion worldwide.

Although a mainstream favorite with the audiences, critics’ views on Depp changed in the 2000s, becoming more negative as he was seen to conform more to the Hollywood ideal. Regardless, Depp continued to eschew more traditional leading-man roles until towards the end of the 2000s, when he starred as John Dillinger in ‘Public Enemies’ (2009).

In the 2010s, Depp’s films were less successful, with many big-budget studio films such as ‘Dark Shadows’ (2012), ‘The Lone Ranger’ (2013), and ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ (2016) underperforming at the box office and gaining Depp nominations for Golden Raspberry Awards. Depp also received negative publicity due to allegations of domestic violence, substance abuse, poor on-set behavior and the loss of his US$650 million fortune. After losing a highly publicized libel trial against the publishers of ‘The Sun’, Depp was asked to resign from Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts franchise. Many publications wrote that Depp would most likely struggle to find further work in major studio productions.