I wanted to tell you face to face, but you are so far away.
There’s no easy way to say this, but I have to be honest. The way I feel right now, I just can’t carry on with things as they are.
It’s not me. It’s you. You’ve changed. You shuffled into my world in ‘Edward Scissorhands’ like the impossibly beautiful lovechild of Frankenstein’s monster and a Camden goth. It was love at first sight – or snip. Tom Cruise wanted to play Edward, but – like a man with the soul of a lentil – only if the film had a happy ending.
Outsiders, loners and misfits. You played them all. For you, it was the characters that came first, career second: ‘I’m not blockbuster boy,’ you said. You made ‘Benny & Joon’, ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’, ‘Arizona Dream’, ‘Ed Wood’, ‘Dead Man’. ‘Box office poison,’ you called them. The darker, odder, more bizarre, the better. You took risks. Even when the films didn’t work, you made them for the best of reasons.
You shunned the roles that would have made you a superstar – the vampire Lestat in ‘Interview with a Vampire’ (hello again, Tom) and ‘Speed’, which made Keanu a superstar. But everyone knew you were the real deal. You became a screen icon without ever doing it their way, a Hollywood outlaw.
Tim Burton was your film BFF. He understood your dilemma. That you’re a character actor trapped in the body of man who could walk down the street wearing a bin liner and still have women falling at your feet.
Hollywood wanted you in a Humvee shooting your way out of an ambush wearing Armani. You wanted you with eight limp strands of hair combed across your shaven head in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. All the dudes – Marlon Brando, Keith Richards, Hunter S Thompson – wanted to be your buddy. All the coolest girls wanted to be on your arm (literally, with that ‘Winona Forever’ tattoo).
We all got the joke when you made the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. The bosses at the studio thought you were ruining the movie (is he gay? Is he drunk?). No. Pirates were the rock stars of their time, and that’s how you played Captain Jack Sparrow, in Keith Richards-style eyeliner, with a mincing walk and a mockney twang.
If I’m being honest, there have been signs for a while that something wasn’t quite right. It started with the second ‘Pirates’ film and that dead-behind-the-eyes look you had in ‘Alice in Wonderland’. I worry that Tim isn’t a good influence any more. And now I hear you’re thinking of a making a sequel to ‘Alice in Wonderland’. And ‘Pirates 5’. What’s the deal? Do agents with BlackBerrys and clipboards form a human chain to stop good scripts reaching you? Or did you leave a bit of your soul on the Dutchman? Or maybe you’ve discovered you just really love buying islands?
‘I think that if the moment comes when you do feel like a movie star, it’s over. When you start believing that stuff, it’s finished.’ That was you in 1999. Did you start believing them, Johnny? Did you?
Sometimes – and I borrow your words here, Johnny – it feels like you’re taking a giant dump on those who love you the most. I recently read that you’re thinking about retiring in the not-too-distant future. I can’t say I’m devastated. And if it’s okay with you, I’ll skip ‘The Lone Ranger’ and the dead crow on your head.
I wish you well, Johnny. I’m sorry, but we just want different things for you.
Is it time for Johnny Depp to call it a day?! We look back at his career.