I was thinking about the Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill remake of 21 Jump Street recently – incidentally a really good film, Tatum is much funnier than I expected – and it reminded me of Johnny Depp’s cameo near the end. A complete scene-stealing, unexpected moment that lasts less than 2 minutes. It’s brilliant. Check it out.
This got me thinking about Depp’s career and his forthcoming role as Tonto in the remake of The Lone Ranger. What I love about Depp is the choices he has made. In terms of character, he’s carved out a career embracing the weird, wacky, offbeat, fantastical, macabre and deranged.
It wasn’t always like this. Returning to 21 Jump Street for a second, Depp’s appearance in the remake was a nod to the fact he appeared in the original series (1987-90). That final year he made his film breakthrough in Edward Scissorhands (1990). With one of his strangest characters, he’d kick-started his career. However he didn’t return to the weird and wonderful again for 8 years, appearing in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998). A film you can probably only truly appreciate if you’ve taken a hell of a lot of drugs.
For me, Fear and Loathing was the start of his wacky period which saw him give us fabulously strange characters in films such as: Sleepy Hollow, From Hell, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sweeney Todd, Alice in Wonderland, The Rum Diary, and Dark Shadows.
So, from what we can see, his output for the weird, wacky and fantastical in on the up. Some say he’s sold out. I don’t entirely buy that. Like many successful actors, he has said he just wants to have fun and embrace new challenges that come his way. If that happens to be five (yes five!) Pirates of the Caribbean films then so be it. Being part of a franchise that’s grossed nearly $3 billion probably gives you a bit of room to express yourself.
There are some that say he’s sold out whilst still managing to play quirky edgy characters. This may be true, but where’s the harm in that? If it means Depp can give us his version of The Mad Hatter, Tonto or Barnabas Collins, then I’m all for it.
As Hatter says to Alice, ‘You used to be much more “muchier” You’ve lost your muchness.’ Well I think Johnny Depp has begun to find his muchness in recent years, long may it continue!