Johnny Depp on Getting Into His “Corpse Bride” Character: “The great luxury was that when I arrived that night to do the recording for the session, [the] Victor [puppet] was standing there and so I got to meet the puppets. They were beautiful. Beautiful. Really inspiring.”
Johnny Depp on the Inspiration for the Character of Victor: Depp said he wasn’t thinking of anyone in particular when he began working on his character in “Corpse Bride.” “No. Not particularly, no. I was just trying to save my own ass basically for being ill prepared. Tim [Burton] was so helpful – as he always is. He’s a character that’s not so far away from other characters that I’ve played in the past for Tim, like Edward Scissorhands or a little bit of an outsider. A bumbling, deeply insecure nervous character. A lot like me in life.”
Johnny Depp Identifies with Victor: “Yeah. Feeling like a failure I suppose. Feeling inept, unable to be understood. That’s a pretty consistent theme in a lot of people’s lives. But it’s like Victor kind of represented, in the same way that ‘Scissorhands’ did, that emotion of not quite feeling comfortable in life. It’s that universal emotion of growing up, really, that we all drag around with us for the rest of our days.”
Johnny Depp on the Land of the Dead in “Corpse Bride:” “Well, Tim explained it really beautifully earlier, and so I’ll butcher it but he’ll fix it for me. It’s the idea that in life there is this kind of constant fear and obsession with death and the mystery of what death is and all of that, to the point of where people are unbelievably tense about arriving there, even though we all know we’re going to arrive there at some point. In fact, the land of the living in this thing is sort of super uptight and grey and heavy as a place and going down to the land of the dead where it could be heaven or hell or it could be purgatory, and it’s like 1920s Paris. Flappers and craziness. I thought that it was pretty amazing.”
Johnny Depp on Working with Tim Burton: Depp said he hopes he’ll get to work with Burton in the future. “It’s all up to him whether he gives me the job. Working with Tim, I’ve said it before, but it’s the only analogy that works. Working with Tim is really like going home for me. It’s this place that’s very comfortable even with the knowledge that there’s a lot of risks that have to be taken and you have to really be prepared to explore. But there is great comfort there and there is great safety there.”
Johnny Depp and Tim Burton – How the Relationship Functions: “It’s always been, with Tim and I, aside from ‘Scissorhands’ which was kind of a general meeting, but after that you get these sort of mysterious phone calls out of nowhere after sometimes months, sometimes years. And he’ll say, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Nothing. I’m just hanging around.’ ‘Can you meet me for dinner next week?’ ‘Sure. Where?’ ‘New York.’ ‘Okay.’ ‘Okay. I’ll see you then.’ ‘Okay.’ I mean, there’s no subject. There’s no project. There’s nothing. It’s just like, ‘Okay. I’m going to go see Tim in a week.’ It’s always been like that.”
Does He Consider Himself Tim Burton’s Muse?: “No. For me, I see myself as just a very, very lucky boy who’s been drafted to come along for the ride. I would say that the fact that he’s chosen me these last times to interpret these characters is either great luck or a huge mistake on his part. No. I think that it’s just that we’re good friends and we understand each other. We have a similar sense of humor. A similar background. Similar fascinations. So I just feel really lucky. I felt lucky after ‘Scissorhands.’”
On Playing Characters for Tim Burton that are Reflections of Himself: “Oh, I think that they definitely are to some degree. Reflections of me, too, but certainly the seed starts with Tim. I think that Edward Scissorhands was a character that Tim started drawing when he was a teenager and then that developed over the years, and clearly it’s him. I think that there is a lot of Tim in this character. Quite a bit.”
Johnny Depp on Box Office Success: “I’ve learned to sort of condition myself to not have any expectations in terms of box office or result, to that degree, because as you all well know as well I do that kind of thing escaped me for many, many years. So it’s relatively a new experience to have more than a few people go and see my films, but it’s very exciting.
I literally, that whole part of the process is so foreign to me and so distant that I literally, maybe two or three weeks ago, called my agent Tracy and said, ‘Is ‘Charlie’ doing okay?’ She said, ‘Yeah. It looks like it’s going to cross the $200 million mark domestically.’ I didn’t know what that meant and I said, ‘Well, is that good?’ She said, ‘Yeah. It’s very good. Don’t worry.’”
Depp admitted that while he isn’t aware of exactly how each one of his films is performing, he is definitely aware of the impact his recent success has had on the film industry. “I’ve noticed a bit of a change and I’ve noticed certainly a change in the attitude towards me from the upper echelon of the industry, which is pretty interesting,” said Depp.
Depp said the change doesn’t mean that everyone wants him in their movies now, but it does help directors – like Tim Burton – get approval from the studio to cast him in their projects without having to do a song and dance act to get them to agree. “Like, for example, Tim – every time that Tim wanted to cast me in his films, he had to fight like a bastard with the studio to be able to cast me. He was telling me today that the funny thing was he sat down with the Warner’s people who came to see him in London and said, ‘Lets talk about cast.’ Tim said, ‘Yeah, let’s talk about cast.’ And they went, ‘What do you think of Johnny?’ Tim said that he was like, ‘Yeah, okay. Good.’ So the fact that they brought it up was good. Astonishing. It surprised him.”
Johnny Depp on the Challenge of Transforming for Roles: “It’s easier to play a puppet. No. Any actor with a semblance of sanity or insanity, probably our biggest fear is to go anywhere near who you are. It’s okay to use certain truths.
It is a great challenge and I’ve kind of touched on it here or there with more sort of character type parts like ‘The Libertine’ coming up. But, yeah, it is a great challenge. Just more than anything I’m kind of interested in exploring one area and then saying, ‘Alright. That’s territory covered. Let’s see what happens next and where I can go next.’
I do have that voice of Marlon [Brando] reverberating in there. I have Marlon’s words reverberating in there. One time he said to me, ‘How many films do you do a year?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. Two or three.’ He said, ‘You’ve got to watch yourself.’ I said, ‘Why’s that?’ He said, ‘Because we only have so many faces in our pocket.’ You get to a certain point and you’ve played all these different characters you start going, ‘My God, he really was right.’ But I don’t know. One of the luxuries for an actor, one of the joys of the gig is that you get to observe people and by observing people you sort of find these little traits, these interesting little things that people do and you go, ‘Oh, I’ll have a bit of that. I’ll have a bit of that.’ And you just store it up and save it for later because you’ll never know when you’ll need it.”
On Fame and Being Able to Observe People: “Yeah, that’s the rub. That’s the rub. That’s one of the sort of occupational hazards because you want to be the observer and then suddenly you walk into a room and everyone goes, ‘Isn’t that that guy? What’s his name?’ Yeah, that’s one of the dangers, but there are still ways to sort of do it. I mean, you can still kind of do it from afar.
What’s fascinating for me is like the idea that you can watch the straightest couple in the world – really straight laced, a super conservative couple having a meal or whatever and if you watch them for long enough you’ll realize that they’re absolutely insane. I mean they are insane. It’s the things that we do that are insane. It’s really fascinating.”
Johnny Depp on the Most Important Form of Validation: “The thing for me that’s most touching is that a couple of the people who have been with me have stuck with me since the early days. One being my agent, Tracey Jacobs. She really believed in me. You can hear the violin’s starting. But she really believed in me when no one else did. I mean, they wouldn’t even look at me and Tracey was always there. I didn’t believe in me and she did. But more than anything, it’s those kids, and I don’t like the word fan – I don’t like to refer to anyone as a fan – but the kids outside the movie theater. The kids who go and watch these things and the kids who have stuck with me on a very long, lengthy, strange, bumpy road. That’s what means the most. They’re the people who keep me employed. So I kind of look at them like they’re my boss.”
Johnny Depp on His Role as Dad: Have his children seen any of his recent movies? Depp said, “Well, Jack was real little when ‘Pirates’ came out. He was sort of in the Neanderthal stage. Lily Rose was there and she loved it.
It’s interesting because they had come on the set of ‘Pirates’ so they were sort of used to seeing poppa as this weird, greasy, pirate guy and then when they knew that I was going to be playing Willy Wonka, they were of course very excited about it because they knew the original film with Gene Wilder. My daughter is pretty familiar with the book, the story. So they came to visit me on the set and, like I said they’re pretty used to that sort of thing, but they came to the set and they walked into my trailer and there I was decked out in the top hat and the Prince Valiant hairdo and the cha-cha heels and the eyes and the teeth and the rubber gloves and they just kind of froze and just stared at me for what felt like an eternity, about two minutes. And then they sort of got over it and wanted to try everything on, the top hat and glasses and stuff.
I was so scared when they were going to see ‘Charlie,’ and way more than the idea of being reviewed by a movie critic. I was so in fear that my kids were going to not react well to the film. So I was sitting at home waiting for them to come back and they arrived back and my son of three years old, Jack, walks in and looks up at me and quoted Wonka. He went, ‘You’re really weird.’ [Laughs] I felt suddenly liberated.”
Johnny Depp on Returning as Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates 2 and 3:” “What happens for me, and I can only speak for myself, but what happens to me is that with every character once you’ve clicked into that character and you really know the guy, you become very close with him and you love him. You enjoy playing him. So it’s always very, very difficult at the end. There is that week to 10 days before wrap where you can feel and hear the clock ticking, and then you go through sometimes a really nasty kind of depression afterwards. There’s an odd separation anxiety because you’ve just been this person for a pretty good length of time and then they’re suddenly gone.
For me, with Captain Jack, I had a sneaking suspicion that I’d see him again. And when they said, ‘We’d like to do two and three together,’ I was all for it because I just wanted, selfishly, to be the guy again, just to see him again, play him.”
On Keith Richards: Depp hasn’t worked with Richards yet. “It’s sort of not totally official yet. It might be. Everyone is trying. He’s got a little tour to do.”
The Changes to Jack Sparrow in “Pirates 2 and 3:” “I don’t know. I think that there’s some kind of fun plot stuff that they’re planning on.”
Johnny Depp on Saying Good-Bye to His Characters: “It’s weird because sometimes separation is more emotional than others. I remember after ‘Scissorhands,’ and I really feel like a dunce having to say this, but it’s the truth – I remember the last day of that movie, it had been 89 days or something, and I remember after we did the makeup I looked into the mirror and thinking, ‘Well, this is it. This is the last time I’ll see you.’ So it becomes very emotional. It’s a weird, weird thing. I don’t think that it’s normal and I don’t think that it’s particularly good for you. But it’s sort of what I got.”
Johnny Depp Evaluates His Work: Asked if there are any performances that, looking back, now make him cringe, Depp said, “Oh, I cringe at all of them. That’s a subject that’s so far away from me. I have no idea. I’m not a particularly good judge of my own work because I honestly do my best to avoid seeing the things, and with all due respect to the writers and the filmmakers and the technicians and the artists involved – it has nothing to do with them. I’m really proud of the experience most of the time, but I just can’t stand seeing myself up there because you start to second guess yourself. You start to go, ‘Why didn’t I do this? Why didn’t I do that? God. Look at my nose. I hate myself.’ That kind of thing. You just start thinking about yourself and that’s where you don’t want to be because you were playing a character. So I have a tendency to really just take the experience with me and that’s plenty. So I feel like once they wrap me it’s none of my business anymore.”