It’s by selling pens over the phone at the turn of the eighties that Johnny Depp, a young punk rocker struggling in the City of Angels, claims to have started his “training” as an actor, inventing different characters on the phone to quell boredom. But it was through Alison, his first wife, a make-up artist in Hollywood, that he entered the factory bunkers as an anonymous mercenary. to dreams, passing unseen in a few second-rate films. The dazzling success of a series for teenagers, 21 Jump Street, the industry’s flagship catapult, before he fled, decided to do what he wants since he now has the means. The same year (1990), Cry-Baby by John Waters, then Edward Scissorhands by Tim Burton reveal to him that in the cinema he can be himself more than anywhere else, with his rock revolt and his cracks rooted in a wandering and disinherited childhood. “I am me“, he replies when asked the secret of his extraordinary presence on the screen.
Keaton, Burton, Brando, Sparrow
In fact, Tim Burton, who will make him his alter ego in a long series of films (Ed Wood, sleepy hollow, Charlie and the chocolate factory, Funeral rites, Sweeney Todd, Dark Shadows…), considers Johnny Depp as a being on the fringe who can act, rather than an actor who plays beings on the fringe. Jim Jarmusch, who gave him with dead man (1995) an unforgettable role, sees in him an actor with a unique interiority, capable of transmitting intense emotions through the depth of his gaze, like Buster Keaton, whom the young Depp admires among all. In 1995, he met Marlon Brando on the set of Don Juan DeMarco, and the latter dubs him as a successor and a friend. Three years later, the pest Hunter S. Thomson, the inventor of “gonzo” journalism, whom Johnny Depp plays in paranoid las vegasadaptation by Terry Gilliam of the most famous book of the writer, becomes for the actor a second mentor, almost a double.
But at the same time, the tabloid press continues to refer to his escapades as a sulphurous handsome kid, a lover of all kinds of excess, the one who despite everything remains a star foreign to the system. This American dream that he constantly subverted caught up with him in 2003, at just 40 years old, when his composition of the alcoholic captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean achieved phenomenal success. If he then becomes the highest paid actor in the history of cinema, Johnny Depp seems throughout the Disney saga – and even in his recent legal disputes – to turn into a caricature of himself, to the point of making almost forget today the singular beauty of his filmography. It is one of the graces of this portrait to restore it to us.