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Tag Archives: Johnny Depp
Based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson — resurrected from clutter and confusion of the author’s filing room by the literal intervention of Johnny Depp during the initial research for Depp’s 1998 turn as a variation on Thompson in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” — “The Rum Diary” hangs on the point of a wickedly sharp contradiction that has affected films since the dawn of the medium: What happens when the only person who can get a movie made is the last person who should star in it? This is not a slight against Depp’s skill, will or enthusiasm; he’s backed the film to the hilt, coaxing director Bruce Robinson out of retirement, and hurls himself into a reprise of his work as the jut-jawed, mumbling, motor-mouthed genteel-yet-disastrous Thompson.
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The problem, though, is that while Thompson’s original book is inspired by his work at a failing newspaper in Puerto Rico in the ’60s — after his time at two separate institutions, the U.S. Air Force and Time magazine — that story is driven by the flaws and mistakes and naiveté of the real Thompson, 23 at the time. And Depp — through no fault of his own, of course, given how time’s arrow moves in but one direction — is 48. Depp’s Paul Kemp is a woozy, boozy ruin, brought down to Puerto Rico to work, cheaply, for the local English-language paper, which is less of a business concern and more of a home for wayward eccentrics, from editor-in-chief Lotterman (Richard Jenkins) to dissolute photographer Sala (Michael Rispoli, broad and charming) and the fearsomely ruined Moberg (Giovanni Ribisi). Swaying and skulking in his trench coat, Moberg looks like a cave troll who took up residence in a wet taxi sometime around last New Year’s; Robinson could have easily asked Ribisi to bring it in a little, and should have done so.
Making “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” for director Rob Marshall, was a daunting prospect after musicals like “Chicago” and “Nine.” How important was it, I asked, to have Johnny Depp as a collaborator and co-conspirator? “It was everything. He is extraordinary, I have to say. For me, I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s such a genius; he’s such a creative force. He’s really a throwback to another time: He’s such a gentleman. He comes on the set and shakes everybody’s hand. What an amazing leader to have with me. I felt spoiled, to be quite honest.”
Ian McShane, as the pirate Blackbeard, also felt the challenge in the film’s scale and scope — especially when in full costume. Most interesting, for McShane? The detail, taken from legend, of the tips of the braids on Blackbeard’s beard being on fire. “There were no flaming tips when I put (the beard) on. You’ve got a safety concern. We tried it once with a smoke effect under the beard. We came out on deck, it was one gust of wind, and it looked like somebody was under there smoking a huge Havana cigar because the smoke kept blowing from nowhere. We decided to do that in CG. They added that afterward, because it was physically too difficult. That beard in its natural form was difficult enough — because it came with 3 pieces, it had to be kept under my own and glued down and then stitched and anchored with magnets. It was quite a performance, but it made the character.”
McShane also got into the joy of it all, fake beard or no. “Acting is such a fun thing to do, if you like it. It’s really good. You get lucky to do it, (especially) if it’s something like this, which is like a childhood fantasy. I remember seeing Burt Lancaster pirate films as a kid, loving them — then they went out of fashion for a while. The first one, with Johnny’s iconic performance as Jack Sparrow — that’s what it is — it’s a terrific, comic performance. He’s the reason why we’re all here.”
And the film’s demands even inspired McShane to both pass on a vacation and to get back from the disabled list. “I had just come back from doing this big series called ‘Pillars of the Earth’ last year, and I had just had a rotator cuff operation. I was settling into 5 months of nice rehab at the beach here where I live, and they came, Jerry (Bruckheimer, producer) and Rob (Marshall): ‘Will you do Blackbeard?’ Which inspired me to do more rehab, so the arm was in good shape by the time we started doing (the) fencing.”
Still, I suggested, it must be flattering to join a huge franchise like the “Pirates” movies as the bad guy. “Very flattering, and as long as you’ve got the right costume and the right look, you’re onto work. I do think that’s the important part of it. It’s immaculately done, marvelous detail. That’s the magic, because it gets you in the mood, gets you into the background of the character and what you’re doing, and base of reality to explore this madness that’s going on, the search for the eternal fountain of youth — which we all want, I guess.” McShane pondered for a moment: McShane pondered for a moment: “I don’t think I do anymore; I’m very happy.”
The touring journalists during the set visit to “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” were told — at length — how it was improbable that Johnny Depp would grace us with his presence. So it came as a surprise that Depp did materialize out of nowhere in full Capt. Jack Sparrow regalia to address assembled reporters, and yet was still somehow entirely appropriate. Frankly, it may have come as a surprise to Depp. As production designer John Myhre told us about his early filming at the beginning of his tour of the set, “It was so exciting seeing Johnny Depp come out onstage the first time dressed as Jack Sparrow because that really is an iconic (look) — it’s a cinematic icon. And I guess I didn’t really think about it until there he was standing there in the outfit. It was pretty amazing, yeah — very cool.”
Along those lines, having a star like Depp walk up to you on a press set visit is like having a deer amble up to you while you’re in a Safeway — utterly incongruous, and over the minute, they get spooked or bored and bound off. Asked about filming outdoor action in Greenwich, Depp noted that big action sequences are exciting for the audience but often boring for the actor: “Greenwich is beautiful, Greenwich is gorgeous,” he said. ” … You know, the thing about filming in Greenwich for me was basically all stunts, so it’s kind of hopping from one carriage to another. … I prefer (to do) scenes myself, but, you know.” Depp also noted that he liked to do the action when he could, if only for simple reasons: “There’s a physical language to the character that I think is important. You know? So even though the stunt double, Chris (Leps), has got (it) down to a fine science, there’s still times you want to see Captain Jack’s head in there, I suppose, and now and again.”
Depp was also asked about the shift from series architect Gore Verbinski to Rob Marshall. Was it working out well? “What a treat, you know? I mean, every filmmaker’s different, every filmmaker has a different approach, but (it’s) a treat, a real gift,” he said. “He’s first and foremost a very wonderful man, like very kind and collaborative, but with fantastic ideas. And a brilliant sort of handle on scene and story and shape.”
Depp was also, this time around, involved in shaping the story of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” — a perk of defining the franchise, to be sure. “It’s like going into a think tank, basically, and just kind of throwing ideas around,” he said. “If something sparks, it sparks. If they accept it, they accept it, and luckily, you know — or thankfully — they did, hopefully for the better. But no, they were very receptive to just kind of throwing ideas around, just to make it different and to keep it very fresh — as opposed to just, ‘Well, here comes another one’; you know, another sequel or something. Just to try to keep things a bit different, you know.”
Depp is asked if he feels like there’s anything new to the Capt. Jack character, and he slips in a sly joke: “Well, there was a sex change. …” In truth, Depp seems both resigned to and content with the idea that Capt. Jack is expected to show up, not evolve. “I honestly think this whole thing about characters and character arcs and finding themselves and this and that … I honestly think old Captain Jack has found himself a long time ago; I don’t think there’s any more room to,” he said. “He can’t go any further. I think he’s hit a wall, as it were.”
Depp digressed to talk about working back alongside Penelope Cruz, who plays an old flame and new rival in the film — and was, during production, swashbuckling while pregnant. “She’s a serious force to be reckoned with, Penelope. We did a film together years ago called ‘Blow‘ …” Depp smiled and noted the kind of slip that could launch a thousand tabloid headlines: “I could’ve said we did ‘Blow’ together years ago … So we did this film ‘Blow’ together, which was wonderful. She’s really a treat; she’s a heavy hitter. You can throw all kinds of stuff out there into the atmosphere, and she’ll snatch up something and throw a curve ball back at you. It’s very stimulating. She’s someone I adore — one of my best friends — so it’s been great having her.”
On a cold day in early October last year, the English skies were timelessly heavy with clouds and rain. Walking to the far edge of the legendary Pinewood movie studio — the legendary facility where Bond movies, “Star Wars,” and “Superman” were made — I was part of a group of journalists touring the set of the upcoming “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”
If you were there, you might have done what I did and blinked uncertainly for a moment as production designer John Myhre showed off his creation: a full-scale set designed to recreate the crowded, dirty streets of London circa 1750. As Orson Welles notoriously said, a film production is the best train set a boy could want. And, better yet, Myhre’s got the perfect action figure to go with the train set in the form of Johnny Depp‘s Capt. Jack Sparrow.
Myhre explained, “Jack is actually captured and brought in to the king of England, makes an escape, and we have a chase through the streets of London in the 1750s.” He waved to a cluttered-looking fully functional cart: “This is one of several coal wagons that have been built for the end of the chase sequence — you see Jack going from carriage to carriage. Undertaker carriages, rich ladies’ carriages, (and he) finally jumps on the back of a coal cart. The king’s guards are chasing him, shooting at him, and the whole thing bursts into flames, and now you’ve got this coal cart, bursting with flames, banging down through London. Because the film is being shot in 3-D, we’ve done some really good 3-D sequences — the camera’s right down low, this coal cart’s banging on the walls, all this fiery coal is going out, all just filling the frame with this big 3-D flame. It should be pretty spectacular.”
And, in explaining the sets, Myhre perhaps shares more of the plot than he should: “And eventually, (at) the end of the sequence we take (Jack Sparrow) down to the London wharf, to the Captain’s Daughter pub. The reason he’s here in London is that he’s heard that Jack Sparrow is trying to crew a ship. But he’s Jack Sparrow, and he’s not in London. So who in the world is in London at The Captain’s Daughter down here, and trying to recruit a crew?”
Myhre walked us across Pinewood and inside one of the film’s more massive sets: the storeroom of The Captain’s Daughter, full of fight-ready ropes and rafters and stuntman-safe rubber barrels and such. Myhre waved his hands, excited by the filming he’d seen unfold in this space. “There is a huge fight sequence that takes place in here,” he said. “A huge, very, very pirate-y duel that takes place between Jack and ‘Jack.’ Because Jack comes in and ‘Jack’ is here. And Jack sees ‘Jack,’ and Jack fights ‘Jack.’ And so there’s a whole fight between Jacks.
“Then they realize that they need to fight together, because now the king’s soldiers have found out where they are, so we’ve not only had a fight that is on all the levels of here — fights on the fire pit, fights in the mezzanine, fights on top of the barrels — then 24 of the king’s soldiers come in to get back Jack, and they go after all of the Jacks in the room, and a huge fight takes place. We do something with spurting beer and ale from the barrels, used as a distraction. He’s slicing a lot of the barrels — you know, Johnny Depp just so inhabits this role of Jack, so that immediately when barrels are being sliced and there’s ale flying through the air, he’s holding one of the barrels up high and a little stream of wine goes into his mouth.” Myhre laughed: “Fantastic.”
PARIS—With its wrong-man plot and stunning locations of Paris and Venice, The Tourist, starring Angeline Jolie and Johnny Depp , evokes a bygone age of Hollywood glamour and globetrotting peril. That, according to its stars, is no accident.
Jolie, who plays Elise, an Englishwoman with a secret, says the challenge was to capture the sparkle and grace of an old-fashioned suspense thriller without making the film feel like a museum piece.
“We watched To Catch a Thief,” she said in the five-star Hotel Meurice, a stone’s throw from the Seine. “And there were lots of other things we were supposed to watch. I became more aware of those periods. But at the same time, you want to watch those movies, but you don’t want to mimic. We wanted to make it modern, so I was nervous; I didn’t want to make it too precious.”
Jolie explained how the film’s old-world glamour and intrigue was a perfect antidote to some of her more athletic escapades on-screen of late, like the thriller Salt — and a nice chance to do a little sightseeing.
“Is it an action film? I actually did it because of the opposite, kind of. For me, it wasn’t action; maybe there’s action in it, but I didn’t get to participate as much,” she said.
“I had finished Salt, and Brad (Pitt) was to work next, and he had a small delay in his film. So we had a few months, and I questioned if there was anything out there that shot in a great location. Honestly, that was the phone call I made.”
Once Jolie came on board, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — whose acclaimed debut, the East German surveillance drama The Lives of Others, is far removed from The Tourist’s gleaming beauty — was signed to direct and then Depp joined the project.
He plays an American math teacher on vacation who gets caught up Elise’s web of lies, deceit and danger as she charms him into following her as she is being tailed by Scotland Yard.
Depp, for his part, felt no shame in playing to the crowd as Frank Tupelo, a Wisconsin teacher mistaken for an English swindler who’s bilked a mobster for billions — including fleeing for his life across Venice’s tiled roofs in bare feet and flannel pajamas.
“I think initially, the guy was supposed to be either in a towel or in his underpants, I can’t remember. But there was something about the image of a grown man in pajamas; they look like something that you’d pull out of the Leave It to Beaver dad’s drawer,” said Depp. “That image, juxtaposed with the background of Venice, I thought that there was something really funny about it.”
Added Depp: “I’m a real sucker. If I see a gag coming around the corner, I snatch it up immediately. I can’t help myself. You spend nine-tenths of the time trying to make your costar laugh, and I guess some of it’s in the film.”
At the same time, Depp’s willingness to go for a gag wasn’t without consequences, as von Donnersmarck explained.
“I had a terrible time on that rooftop (scene), because I had not computed how these Venetian tiles are incredibly rough. And (Depp) was running along there and we shot that scene for a few hours,” von Donnersmarck said. “At one point I felt he was getting a little slower and I went up there and said, ‘It’s getting a little slower; I need this to be in full speed.” And he said, ‘I’m trying, but it’s hurting a little. . . ’”
“There were traces of blood over the whole roof!” von Donnersmarck said. “He’d cut up his feet and hadn’t said anything because he didn’t want to slow up the shoot! I felt terribly guilty. I went home thinking, ‘I didn’t get into this to make actors bleed.’ But that’s the kind of actor Johnny is.”
It wasn’t all agony, though, according to Jolie.
“There’s some footage floating around I’m surprised hasn’t surfaced. Good God, it was 20 minutes, half an hour — there was a good run where we could not stop laughing. There was a good, solid . . . we wasted a lot of film. I got a lot of producers a little frustrated because we just couldn’t get through it, we just couldn’t stop laughing.”
And even with battered feet, Depp sees The Tourist’s charm and elegance — and his masquerade as a regular-guy math teacher — as enough of a departure from his work in big-budget fantasies like Alice in Wonderland or the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
“I’m still doing the same bits, just trying something different each time, exploring something new; that’s what’s important, just keep challenging myself and try to come up with some new faces every now and again,” he said.
“Many years ago, Marlon Brando asked me, ‘How many films do you do per year, kid?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, maybe three or something.’ And he said, ‘That’s too much. We only have so many faces in our pockets.’ It’s really true . . . but I still feel like I got a few faces in my pocket.”
Angelina Jolie, looking the model of the modern movie starlet in Paris, isn’t ashamed to admit that a lot of the reason for signing on to her latest film, “The Tourist,” was purely scenic. Even before “The Lives of Others” director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck was signed to direct, the Venice and Paris settings inspired her to step into the space in her family’s schedule left by the collapse of husband Brad Pitt’s “Moneyball” to take a role as a woman of mystery embroiled with Johnny Depp’s roaming Wisconsin math teacher.
“Brad’s film was delayed, and I said, ‘Well, is there anything out there that shoots in a great location? Because I don’t want to drag all the kids to another tough place for right now, ‘” she says. “They said, ‘There’s a film that shoots in Venice and Paris.’ I said, ‘Fantastic. Send me that one. What is that?’ And then, hope was, we’d find a great European director, and Florian was my favorite and my first choice, and it all just came together.”
Jolie winds up spending the majority of the film wearing beautiful ensembles in beautiful locations — again, while not exactly a difficult gig, also something demanded by the script and the Hitchcock-lite tone the film was shooting for. “I knew that we had to try for something elegant and beautiful,” she says. “It’s not a great, intellectual film; it’s not a big, emotional, deep film — it’s a lovely caper, so it had to be beautiful; it had to be special and fun. The scenery, the clothes and all that was important, so we had to figure that out.”
No costume or piece of couture, of course, was as important as Jolie’s co-star Johnny Depp. “He’s such a brilliant actor,” she says. “He’s just brilliant and sort of natural. He’s so giving. So it was just a pleasure. It was so much fun.” Perhaps too much fun. When I ask Jolie if there are lengthy scenes on the cutting-room floor of her and Depp cracking up, she smiles a knowing smile. “Very lengthy takes of that,” she says. “There were very angry producers and a lot of wasted film between the two of us just not being able to contain our laughter.”
There also, I suggest, had to be plenty of lost time from the difficulties of shooting in Venice’s palaces and canals. “There was,” she says, “but as an actor, we were kept from a lot of that. We kind of come out when it’s all sorted, and you think, ‘Ah, it looks so beautiful … As if by magic. Look at that: Venice is lit up at night, and the canals are perfect.’ So the crew really takes the credit for somehow making it work and figuring it out.”
Considering the end of the year’s slew of darker, dour dramas intended for Oscar consideration, I ask Jolie if she hoped that “The Tourist” and its light, bright charms would be a chance for moviegoers to enjoy something glossier and lighter during the holiday season. “I hope so, yeah,” she says. “I hope that people see it that way, and have some fun.”
Sitting down to talk in Paris, Johnny Depp — hair still at Capt. Jack lengths, gold teeth still plugged in his head from working on “Pirates of the Caribbean IV,” and the most tan human being in a 500-mile radius — is a far cry from Frank Tupelo, the perfectly average middle-American math teacher he plays in “The Tourist.” Was it, I ask, a pleasure to play someone so extraordinarily ordinary? “Oh, most definitely,” he says. “That was what intrigued me. I loved the story, to sort of attack this thing ahead known as the ordinary man. Not too many highs, not too many lows; just kind of glides along through life. This guy is put into a situation that’s completely abnormal and highly sensitive and unpleasant.”
And Depp also relished creating a part from the original script — an exercise that gave the world’s most eccentric movie star a chance to work out some ideas of his own. “The idea was to make him really the everyman, the math teacher who has a slight amount of obsessive-compulsive disorder and his weird routines and things like that in the script,” he says. “The idea was to take this guy, this normal guy, and put him into these situations that are certainly less than normal, these kind of high-stakes situations.”
Beyond playing a classic thriller protagonist — the average man in a deeply odd circumstance — Depp also relished the chance to work with director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck in his studio film debut and with Angelina Jolie. “I watched ‘The Lives of Others,’” he says, “and I thought Florian’s work was really teetering on the flawless, just kind of up in the ranks of ‘Chinatown.’ Incredible work. I just thought to see this guy enter this arena would be interesting, so I was very intrigued by that, certainly. And then the opportunity to work with Angelina — I admire her greatly.”
I ultimately ask Depp if playing in a film with so much old-school glamour — with Tupelo leaping across Venice’s tiled roofs running for his life or showing up at a black-tie gala to try to save the day — was, for him, the biggest pleasure of starring in “The Tourist.” “Most definitely,” he says. “I mean, yeah, of course. Because there’s a sliver of it that initially reminded me of Hitchcock, like ‘North by Northwest,’ this guy that ends up in these situations that seem to go worse and worse and worse. There’s a (sense of) classic cinema to it. I think Florian really stuck to that.” “The Tourist” opens nationwide this Friday. You will be calling your travel agent to price out trips to Venice by noon Saturday.
“Splayed out on the screen in pixelated, glimmering, hollow 3-D, Tim Burton‘s “Alice in Wonderland” is “inspired” by Lewis Carroll’s 1865 “Alice in Wonderland” and 1872 “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.” The phrase “inspired” is in quotes above because, bluntly, there’s not a moment of true inspiration in the entire film, just a series of moments demonstrating that Burton, more and more, has become a director content to use his tools as crutches. “Alice in Wonderland” follows Alice (Mia Wasikowska, rendered blank and bland by the script) as she returns to Wonderland and its characters, now a fully-grown woman. This time when Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole, it’s because she’s fleeing a dreary arranged marriage to a dreary man.
And once in Wonderland, Alice becomes the ultimate Tim Burton protagonist, which is to say that she wanders through a meticulously-designed fantasyland doing very little, meeting fantastic characters much more interesting than she is. Alice has only cloudy memories of her previous visits to Wonderland, and meets at every turn her old friends like Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Matt Lucas), the White Rabbit (voiced by Michael Sheen) and the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp, looking like the headliner in a hypothetical acid trip by the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen). Alice, we and she are told, is the only person who can defeat the Jabberwock and free “Underland” (apparently, Alice misheard it all those years ago, an empty fillip that adds nothing) from the tyranny of the petty, cruel Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter).
But Linda Woolverton’s screenplay doesn’t give us any reasons for this, moving between expensive and lead-footed set-pieces and unfunny, ostensibly whimsical wordplay before culminating with Alice clad in battle armor bearing the Vorpal sword to defeat the Jabberwock. This is exciting if you collect action figures, or wonder what Joan of Arc would look like given a makeover suitable for the racks at Hot Topic. It is not in any way thrilling if you are interested in character, motivation, coherent storytelling or anything other than Burton’s high-tech, high-cost puppet show, in which he jams his clumsy hands up into various literary figures and has them say what he likes before tossing them aside. The unanswered questions are many, and grow with each passing second (Why is Alice the savior? Why is the White Queen [Anne Hathaway] better than the Red?) and we are not given answers, merely spectacle.”