Johnny Depp: An actor with style | Sunday Observer

Johnny Depp: An actor with style

27 December, 2020

Initially known as a teen idol thanks to his role in ‘21 Jump Street’ and tortured pretty-boy looks, Johnny Depp survived the perils of adolescent heartthrob status to earn a reputation as a respected adult actor. His numerous collaborations with director Tim Burton, as well as solid performances in a number of critically acclaimed films, have allowed Depp to carve a niche for himself as a serious, if idiosyncratic performer, a real-life role that has continuously surprised critics intent on writing him off as just another photogenic ‘Tiger Beat’ casualty.

Born in Kentucky and raised in Florida, Depp had the kind of upbringing that would readily lend itself to his future portrayals of brooding lost boys. After his parents divorced when he was 16, he dropped out of school a year later in the hope of making his way in the world as a musician.

Depp fronted a series of garage bands; the most successful of these, ‘The Kids’, was once the opening act for Iggy Pop. During slack times in the music business, Depp sold pens by phone. He was introduced to acting after a visit to LA with his former wife, who introduced him to actor Nicolas Cage, who encouraged Depp to give it a try.

The young actor made his film debut in 1984, in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (years after attaining stardom, Depp sentimentally played a cameo in the last of the Elm Street series), and his climb to fame was accelerated in 1987, when he replaced Jeff Yagher in the role of Officer Tom Hanson, a cop assigned to do undercover duty by posing as a student in crime-ridden Los Angeles-area high schools, in the Canadian-filmed Fox TV series ‘21 Jump Street’ (1987-90). Biding his time in "teen heartthrob" roles, Depp was first given a chance to exhibit his exhausting versatility in the title role of Tim Burton's fantasy ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (1990).

Following the success of ‘Edward Scissorhands’, the actor made a conscious effort never to repeat himself. He continued to gain critical acclaim and increasing popularity for his work, most notably in ‘Benny & Joon’ (1993), ‘What's Eating Gilbert Grape’, ‘Ed Wood’ and ‘Dead Man’.

Depp continued to ascend the Hollywood ranks. He would continue to play quirky character roles, starring as Hunter S. Thompson's alter ego in Terry Gilliam's trippy adaptation of ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (1998), and teaming with Burton again to play a decidedly mincing Icabod Crane in ‘Sleepy Hollow’. Depp's charm still made him a natural romantic lead,, as he proved in ‘Chocolat’.

In what was perhaps his most surprising departure since ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas', Depp shed his oftentimes angst-ridden persona for a role as flamboyant pirate Jack Sparrow in 2003's ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Essaying the crusty role in the manner of a drunken, debauched rock star -- Depp publicly admitted Keith Richards was his inspiration -- the actor added a dose of off-kilter fun to an above-average summer thrill ride, and found himself with his biggest hit and first Oscar nomination ever.

The role effectively made Depp both a character actor and full-fledged leading man, and he continued to appear in several films over the coming years that allowed him to star in large scale productions, playing decidedly quirky characters.

Films such as ‘Secret Window’, ‘Finding Neverland’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘Public Enemies’, and a slew of massively successful ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequels would prove again and again how taken audiences were with the star, always playing the hero, but with an unconventional twist.

Despite this massive success (or maybe as a result), Depp's career suffered a downswing after a string of critical and commercial flops. Films such as ‘The Tourist’(opposite Angelina Jolie), ’Dark Shadows’ (a rare misstep with Tim Burton) and ‘The Lone Ranger’ failed to connect with audiences and critics alike and left many to wonder when Depp's career would recover. He continued to have a strong presence in the film industry, though, and in 2016, reprised his role as the Mad Hatter in ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ and began work on a fourth Pirates movie.

Today, Depp is regarded as one of the world's biggest film stars. He is the tenth highest-grossing actor worldwide, as films featuring Depp have grossed over US$3.7 billion in the United States box office and over US$10 billion worldwide.

He was listed in the 2012 Guinness World Records as the world's highest-paid actor, with earnings of US$75 million. Depp has collaborated on eight films with director, producer, and friend Tim Burton. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 2015. In addition to acting, Depp has also worked as a musician. He has performed in numerous musical groups, including forming the rock supergroup ’Hollywood Vampires’ along with Alice Cooper and Joe Perry.