In Defense of Johnny Depp
I have been so stuck over what to write as a guest post for Christina, and it has felt quite pressureful at times trying to come up with something amazing and special that wouldn’t ruin her blog. And then, it struck me. We have bonded over a mutual Johnny Depp love (and when I say bonded, I mean, argued over who loves him more), but I have been hearing him criticised more and more frequently for his acting ability, looks, and anything else that people can think of. To this I say, enough! I can’t allow these slurs to continue without saying something about them! So that’s what I’m going to do.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Does this incredibly rich, incredibly good looking movie star with his own island, multiple homes, frequent covers of Vanity Fair and all the rest of it really need the defence of a 21 year old, barely employed girl? You might not think so, but I can’t think of anyone better equipped to do it than myself (having seen very nearly all of his films, I think I’m pretty well-qualified to comment on his acting abilities; and having watched multiple interviews with him on YouTube, I feel pretty confident that I can comment on his personality, at least a little bit, too.) What am I defending him from? From those people who say that he can’t act, or those who say that he’s too ugly to act, or even just those who say that he’s ‘too cool’ for his own good, whatever that means.
Are all these people just jealous? Maybe. But that’s not really a response that is going to get anyone to change their minds. For the ugly remarks, I can’t really do anything in that regard- people have their personal preferences on attractiveness, and there’s not really much I can do to change their minds. Just know that, I personally think he’s preternaturally good looking, almost to the point of not being able to look directly at him in case you get sucked into his beautiful face. Also know that, my dad, possibly the straightest man in the whole world has a bit of a crush on Johnny Depp. That’s how pretty.
But, anyway. I don’t want to debate his attractiveness with you, because I don’t think that’s the most important feature that he (or anyone else, for that matter) has to offer, much as Hollywood casting agents would have liked it to be. No, what really sets the Depp apart is that he is an exceptional actor. Marlon Brando, also a disturbingly good actor, thought it, I think it- basically, anyone whose opinion is important thinks it! I think it’s brutally unfair for anyone to say that, because he is beautiful, he automatically gets parts for that reason alone, rather than on the strength of his previous performances. I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen a film with Johnny Depp in where he has ever been anything less than amazing. Even when the films themselves haven’t been that great (From Hell, Don Juan De Marco, Arizona Dream) their saving grace for me has always been Depp’s acting- he really seems to embody a role and just take it to its ultimate level of greatness, something that so many actors wouldn’t be able to do. I just couldn’t see anyone else playing Edward Scissorhands, for example, with anywhere near the grace and beauty that Depp brings to the character, in relatively few words.
The very first film I saw Depp in was Pirates of the Caribbean. At this time, I was (foolishly) hopelessly in love with Orlando Bloom, so much so that I barely even noticed Depp’s physical attributes, but what I did notice was how much I truly loved Captain Jack Sparrow, a character that I think most of us can agree has become an instant classic, and a well-loved one at that. But anyway, my point is that his face was unimportant to me, in a way it is not now that I am so well acquainted with it, but I still loved everything about his character- his charisma, his idiocies, his eccentricities- there was just nothing not to love, but only because Depp transformed the character himself, and made him his own- not just a pretty face AT ALL. Working my way through his films, I slowly became more and more in love with this man who could make any character his own, but in a way where each character was completely fresh- there is nothing of Edward Scissorhands in Raoul Duke, his character in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; and there is nothing of his brilliant Willy Wonka in any of his other performances- each time you see a Johnny Depp film, you have to keep reminding yourself that it is, in fact, Depp, who is on the screen. This is something that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced with any other actor, and it’s not just him looking different in each film- there is something in each performance that means he is able to make himself seem so radically different from one film to the next. It’s really a wonder to behold.
If his acting is my favourite thing about him, then his looks don’t come anywhere near second. In his most recent Vanity Fair interview, Patti Smith asked him this question, in a way that just made me so happy: “Are you reading anything right now? Well, you’re always reading, so I should say, what are you reading right now?” That’s right, Johnny Depp, in a less successful life, would probably have a book blog just like the rest of us! I also remember reading that On the Road by Jack Kerouac changed his life entirely, and, love or loathe that book, I think we all know what it’s like to be changed irrevocably by a book. More than this, though, something that makes me love him above so many other things is how completely and hopelessly shy and insecure he seems to be whenever he has to talk about himself. Watch any interview with him and you’ll know what I’m talking about, he mutters out his responses, evades certain questions and just generally has a hard time talking about himself. This is so rare of actors that this alone makes me want to reach out to him and tell him how loved and appreciated he is, and the greatness and the tragedy of him is that he would never believe me. There is something about his being so completely insecure and unsure of himself (not necessarily in a bad way, but in a way I think many of us would react to interviews) that makes me love him so much more than if he was completely in love with himself (a few actors come to mind here… Colin Farrell, anyone?)
So, this is my defence of Johnny Depp. You can disagree with me all you like, call Depp just a pretty boy with no discernible acting abilities, but I will never be able to agree with you because of the way his performances have made me feel, hundreds of times over, something which transcends so far beyond his beautiful face. His looks will fade, but he will always be one of the greatest actors, not just of his generation, but ever, and I will always have his back against those who want to criticise him. And if he wants to reward me with a trip to his own island, well, then, that’s just fine with me.