Considered by critics and his fans as one of the best actors in the industry, in Johnny Depp’s eclectic career he has played memorable roles in such movies as Alice in Wonderland, Public Enemies, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Edward Scissorhands and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Depp now stars along with Angelina Jolie in the new thriller The Tourist. In it he portrays Frank Tupelo, a math teacher who is on an impromptu trip to Europe to mend his broken heart. But a flirtatious encounter with a beautiful woman named Elise (Jolie), who deliberately crosses his path, leads him on a life and death adventure through Paris and Venice.
What was it about this character that made you say yes, he’s so low key and totally the opposite of someone like Captain Jack?
It was exactly that. The challenge was to portray the ordinary, the everyday man, warts and all. To see this guy, who has no particular highs or lows in his life, and to put him in a series of situations that are so radically outside of his hemisphere was great fun.
I liked the idea of exploring normalcy. Those people who are considered normal most of the time I find the most fascinating because they’re always really weird and they always have routines and are teetering on obsessive compulsive ticks that I find fascinating.
Had you met Angelina before this film?
We had a lot of mutual acquaintances and friends, but we’d never met prior to this. I was immediately impressed by her. Not that I read so much in the press, but you can’t help but know that she and Brad (Pitt) are globally hounded, tracked down and stalked. What I was most impressed by with Angelina was her normalcy.
She was very normal throughout it all, she’s very down-to-earth, she’s very smart, she’s very funny, very kind and caring and also she’s a great mother. It was really nice to see.
Had you seen her in a movie that impressed you?
From what I’ve seen on screen from Angelina the thing that sticks out in my mind is the Clint Eastwood film Changeling. I thought her performance was just magnificent.
What I couldn’t fathom was how she had to stay on the edge of an emotional razor blade throughout that entire film. I was really impressed by that and I was impressed by her commitment to the work. So I knew that I was going to be stepping into the ring with someone who would be all there and deeply committed to the project.
Her work ethic is really solid but, at the same time, she understands the need for humor, the ability to travel a little bit outside of the script to surprise one another, to do everything you can to make the other person laugh and she was a real sport in that sense.
What was working with director Florian Henckel von Donnersmark?
Not only is he sweet, humble, giving, caring, loving, clever, and super smart, he was beyond collaborative. He was very much into the fact that things have to happen organically. He trusted that when Angelina and I got into the ring together, things would take shape.
You have to dance in this film, what was that like?
Dancing is the thing that scares me most. Dancing to me is like a stunt in itself. I don’t dance, and I’ve never danced in my life outside of films. Weirdly it seems like in almost every film that I do now I end up having to dance and go to jail. I end up in the clink in almost everything I do, and I find it horribly ironic.
You’re one of the biggest actors in the world, why do you think the press doesn’t stalk you the same way as Angelina?
I think they’re busy with Brad and Angelina! I don’t know, Angie and I talked about a similar kind of thing, none of us really go out that much and Vanessa (Paradis) and I certainly don’t.
We stay home a lot and just try to lead a normal life. For some reason they’ve lightened up on us over the years, they’ve calm down on us, and even at times have teetered on the respectful.
You have fans that are 14 through 90. What is it about you that transcends all ages?
I don’t know. I’ve been very blessed and so lucky to have been on the rollercoaster for such a lengthy period of time. To still be able to get the jobs and to have people who have stuck with me all these years is just amazing. I’ll meet a 3 year old who’s a fan of Captain Jack or Willy Wonka, and then someone in the neighborhood of 85, and they love Edward Scissorhands or Ed Wood. It’s pretty wild.
Can you talk a little about playing Captain Jack again in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides?
It was a gas going back to Captain Jack. And what was really exciting this time is that it was like starting off fresh. It was like a clean slate in the sense that that they tied up all the mathematics of all the subplots and the substructures and sub-characters, that was all gone and we could start off fresh.
It felt like the first one did in that it was character driven, not convoluted at all, straight to the point, character stuff with a lot of fresh faces and a lot of great new material.
I think it’s going to be a really good one.