A man whose name renders women across the globe speechless. His movies churn out millions of dollars at box office. His ability to become iconic characters, whether real or fictitious, captures the attention of the whole world. And if it wasn't for a little independent movie back in 1984, who knows where this man might be today. Ladies and gentlemen, taking his place in the Horror Icon hall of fame, Johnny Depp.
Born on June 9, 1963, in Owensboro, Kentucky under the name of John Christopher Depp II, Johnny was the youngest of four children. Born to Betty Sue Palmer (Wells), a waitress, and John Christopher Depp, a civil engineer, Johnny was raised in Florida and at the age of 12 received a guitar as a gift from his mother. At the age of 15, Johnny's parents divorced, and like most children, it seemed that Johnny had trouble coping with it.
A year later he dropped out of high school with aspirations of becoming a rock musician. Two weeks later, Johnny tried to return to school, only to have the principal tell him to follow his passion and dream of trying to make it in the music industry. With that in mind, Johnny began playing with The Kids, a band that enjoyed modest local success. The Kids eventually set out for Los Angeles in pursuit of a record deal, changing their name to Six Gun Method, but sadly, they split before signing a record deal. Johnny subsequently collaborated with the band Rock City Angels and co-wrote their song 'Mary' which appeared on Rock City Angel's debut for Geffen Records entitled Young Man's Blues.
In 1983, Johnny married Lori Anne Allison, the sister of the band's bass player. (Sad Fact: Lori and Johnny didn't last, divorcing in 1985) Lori introduced Johnny to actress Nicolas Cage, who advised Johnny to pursue an acting career. And in 1984, Johnny auditioned for a small independent horror movie entitled A Nightmare On Elm Street. (Fun Fact: The name Elm Street never appears in the original movie except in the title)
Johnny got the role of Glen, the boyfriend of heroine, Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp), because Wes Craven's daughter liked Johnny's big soulful brown eyes. Not only did Johnny get his first acting gig, but he also became one of the most memorable kills in horror movie history. Let's face it, it's not everyday you see a kid being pulled into a bed and huge geyser of blood shooting out.
Clearly enjoying himself with his new found love of acting, Johnny sort out more auditions and winning roles in movies like Private Resort and Platoon.
In 1987, Johnny landed a leading role in the TV series 21 Jump Street. Playing Officer Tom Hanson, Johnny quickly became popular among the shows audience and eventually became known as a heartthrob and teen idol.
Uncomfortable with such titles thrust upon him, Johnny looked to explore a darker side to acting, auditioning and taking roles that inspire him and show the public that he wasn't just a pretty face.
In 1990, Johnny appeared in the film Cry-Baby as well as teaming up with director Tim Burton for the movie Edward Scissorhands. Now it's been said before that the role of Edward Scissorhands was a homage to A Nightmare On Elm Street, seeing as both Edward and Freddy Krueger had razors for fingers, but I think it's just pure coincidence.
Although, in 1991, Johnny returned to Elm Street for Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, appearing under the name of Oprah Noodlemantra. Once again, Johnny fell victim to the sadistic Freddy Krueger. While warning Spencer (Breckin Meyer) about what his brain would look like on drugs, Freddy appears, smacks Johnny in the face with a frying pan before challenging Spencer to a video game in which Freddy kills him.
Sticking with obscure film choice, Johnny starred in movies like Benny & Joon, Arizona Dream, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood (which saw him team up again with director Tim Burton) and Don Juan DeMarco.
In 1995, Johnny teamed up with one of my personal favourite actors, Crispin Glover, for Dead Man. Dead Man is the story of a young man's journey, both physically and spiritually, into very unfamiliar terrain. William Blake travels to the extreme western frontiers of America sometime in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Lost and badly wounded, he encounters a very odd, outcast Native American, named "Nobody," who believes Blake is actually the dead English poet of the same name. Confused? Don't be. This film is a pure masterpiece with a star studded cast including Gary Farmer, Gabriel Byrne, John Hurt and rocker, Iggy Pop. It's a must see film.
As 1999 rolled around, Johnny found himself once again in cahoots with Tim Burton. This time he found himself up against a spectre from an old Washinton Irving tale. The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Once again, the cast was star studded with Jeffrey Jones, Casper Van Dien, Christina Ricci, Miranda Richardson and Christopher Walken as The Headless Horseman while he was alive. Johnny took on the role of Ichabod Crane, a constable with new world ways of solving crimes. (Fun Fact: In the original story, Crane was actually a school teacher who came to Sleepy Hollow and ran afoul of its resident ghoul, the Headless Horseman)
Now I have to say, I loved this movie. Johnny was fantastic as the leading character and Christina Ricci was gorgeous, as always, as Katrina Van Tassel. Burton's direction is second to none and the atmosphere created certainly can cause chills down the spine of all who watch. A must see film.
In 2001, Johnny took on history's most notorious serial killer, Jack The Ripper, in the Albert and Allen Hughes movie, From Hell. I enjoyed From Hell, however I did have one problem with it and that was the survival of Heather Graham's character, Mary Kelly. Anyone who is familiar with Jack the Ripper would know that Mary Kelly was a victim, not a survivor. But obviously, for the film, they allowed Depp's love interest to live.
From Hell did offer its own theory as to who the Ripper was and why he was killing, however, despite using real names and places, the film is largely fictitious. Johnny, played Inspector Frederick Abberline, with charm and charisma that we've come to know and respect from him.
From Hell was based on a graphic novel of the same name and the film does differ tremendously. I recommend watching the film first before reading the book, that way you won't be too disappointed with the way the film turned out.
In 2003, Johnny upped his sex appeal by starring as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl. Teaming up with Australia's own Oscar winner, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, Johnny seemed to have found common ground. Mass appeal with an eccentric character.
Eccentric was certainly on the cards for the 2004 movie adaptation of Stephen King's Secret Window, Secret Garden, entitled simply Secret Window. Johnny was cast as Mort Rainey, a writer with a sever case of writer's block (I can relate).
Secret Window is about famed mystery writer, Mort Rainey who is confronted by a mysterious stranger outside his house. This stranger calls himself John Shooter (played by John Turturro) and claims that Mort has stolen an idea for a story from him. Mort says he can prove he wrote his first, but whilst Mort waits for the evidence to appear, Shooter starts to become more and more violent. (Fun Fact: Johnny's character's name is Mort Rainey. Toward the end of the movie, this character puchases three items at the grocer's. One of the items is a box of MORTON's salt whose moto is: "When it rains it pours." Thus Morton Rainey)
In 2005, Johnny starred in the Tim Burton remake of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Now, despite the fact that it's a children's movie, I could certainly call this a horror. For starters, it's a remake. Johnny is NO Gene Wilder and did you see his teeth? That's enough to insight nightmares among small children.
That same year, he loaned his voice to The Corpse Bride, a lovely animated film about a shy groom who practices his wedding vows in the inadvertent presence of a deceased young woman. She rises from the grave assuming he has married her. Chaos anticipated. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and go get it. The Corpse Bride is a brilliant movie that will have you laughing and crying all at once.
In 2007, Johnny returned to the musical world with a performance in (not surprising anymore) Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street. In the Victorian London, the barber Benjamin Barker is married to the gorgeous Lucy and they have a lovely child, Johanna. The beauty of Lucy attracts the attention of the corrupt Judge Turpin, who falsely accuses the barber of a crime that he did not commit and abuses Lucy later after gaining custody of her. After fifteen years in exile, Benjamin returns to London under the new identity of Sweeney Todd, seeking revenge against Turpin. He meets the widow Mrs. Lovett who is the owner of a meat pie shop who tells him that Lucy swallowed arsenic many years ago, and Turpin assigned himself tutor of Johanna. He opens a barber shop above her store, initiating a crime rampage against those who made him suffer and lose his beloved family.
Ghastly, grotesque, horrifying and yet there's something sweet about Sweeney Todd – must be the musical numbers. In fact, Johnny hadn't sung in public before this film. He had done another musical – Cry-Baby – prior to Sweeney Todd, but he had lip synced all his songs for it.
When it comes to Sweeney Todd, I have to recommend it. I'm a musical fan and, after seeing the stage show, I had to see the movie. While there were some changes in the story, I wasn't disappointed and neither will you be. (Fun Fact: Because of his performance as Sweeney Todd, Johnny won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy as well as landing his third Academy Award nomination)
In 2009, Johnny teamed up with Jude Law and Colin Farrell to take over the roll that the late Heath Ledger was in the middle of filming in The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus. After Heath's untimely death, production was shut down for a few months. The film's fantasy premise, teamed with some clever rewrites, let the actors play a man whose appearance changes as he travels between imaginary worlds. A little confusing at times, but worth the watch.
2010 saw Johnny join Tim Burton once again for the zany Alice In Wonderland feature film that saw Johnny share the screen with Helena Bonham Carter (again), Mia Wasikowska, Crispin Glover, Stephen Fry, Alan Rickman (again) and Anne Hathaway.
Giving a classic story new life, Burton did was he does best and create a dark world filled with humour and creepy characters. Johnny, staying true to himself, played the zaniest of characters, The Mad Hatter. Now, I'll be honest when I say that I don't like this film at all, and that Depp's eyes scared me more in this then his teeth did in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. But my girlfriends loved it.
Returning to his 21 Jump Street roots, Johnny made an uncredited appearance in the 2012 movie version of his old TV show. Also in 2012, he finished working with Tim Burton for the eighth time on the movie version of Dark Shadows in which Depp became Barnabas Collins.
Dark Shadows is about an imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection and saw Johnny team up with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Jackie Earle Haley (Freddy Krueger from the Nightmare On Elm Street remake) and Jonny Lee Miller as well as my personal favourite shock rocker, Alice Cooper. Even the original Barnabas Collins, Jonathan Frid, made an appearance in the film before sadly passing away earlier this year.
Despite the mixed reviews, Dark Shadows can be enjoyable if you haven't seen the original series, or if you're a Johnny Depp fan. Like anything when converted from one mainstream to the next, there are some flaws, but overall it was entertaining. Tim Burton's direction, Johnny's eccentricity and the hotness that is Michelle Pfeiffer made this very enjoyable.
With the fifth instalment of Pirates Of The Caribbean just been announced as well as The Lone Ranger, it's fair to say that we haven't seen the last of Mr. Johnny Depp. He ability to play challenging and difficult characters with ease ensures that audiences will be captivated by his on screen presence for years to come.
With a resume that any Hollywood actor would sell their soul for, Johnny's love of eccentric characters can mean only one thing: He's not done with the horror genre just yet and he can play my leading man any day of the week.
Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll return to Elm Street one last time...