Johnny Depp’s drunken premiere appearance is the latest in a long line of muck ups. What happened to this matinee idol?
With the release of every star-studded blockbuster of sorts comes a premiere. What’s less common is for one of Hollywood’s biggest stars to stumble onto the red carpet slurring and reeking of booze…unless you’re Johnny Depp that is.
Yes. The 53 year old A-lister arrived bladdered to the London premiere of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ greasy-haired, dry-skinned and looking a shadow of his former self; appearing aggressive towards screaming fans, smoking indoors and relying on his Cockney-accented bodyguard Jerry Judge to hold him up.
For an actor of Depp’s standing and respect, this would seem a surprise to many yet recent years have suggested that the quirky leading man may not quite be the saint some might believe. Think back to last year when a distressing video leaked online of Depp drinking from a giant wine goblet before heading on a drunken rampage around his home and grabbing the phone from his wife Amber Heard who was filming the entire thing. The incident took place during Depp’s stressful divorce from Heard. Months earlier the couple faced charges over bringing dogs into Australia leading to a bizarre video apology.
Depp’s on-screen front hasn’t been up to scratch lately either. Ever since the Box Office bomb of ‘The Lone Ranger’ back in 2013, Depp has been scrambling his way through poorly-constructed rehashs of previous rambling, half-drunk heroes of which he has been making a niche out of for the past decade. A niche which modern movie audiences have grown increasingly tired of and have been left begging for a return to the more “traditional” roles of Depp’s early twentysomething career.
With all Johnny’s boozy antics, it’s perhaps easy to forget this was not how it always was.
Think back to 1987 when ’21 Jump Street’ hit US TV screens. It was at this point that the world was introduced to John Christopher Depp. Blessed with tanned skin, windswept hair and defined cheekbones while strutting around in denim, he was a teenage girl’s walking wallpaper and yet possessed an exotic charm that separated him from the conventional blonde, blue-eyed buffness of, say, Brad Pitt.
Needless to say, he was gorgeous and such gorgeousness helped him soar in hyper-hip teen flicks such as ‘Cry Baby’ (1990) which saw him don a leather jacket and Pompadour haircut that sent the girls going wild.
Perhaps, however, he suffered from what some might call, dare I say, being “too pretty”. Being cripplingly shy off-screen, he seemed to spend most of his post-90s career attempting to cover up his perfection with Guy Fawkes-like goaties, tattoos and neurotic-looking glasses.
Making fashion choices more often associated with a rebellious rock star than a matinee movie idol, he appeared to be a classic case of a “pretty boy gone bad”; battling Anxiety and Depression and getting into hotel brawls with London Police (an early indication of his troubled relationship with the bottle).
And yet Depp’s increased eccentricity allowed for something altogether more edgy on a big screen front. Using his heartthrob persona to his advantage, he began to embrace his “stranger” side that was hidden within. Unlike Tom Cruise, George Clooney or Keanu Reeves and somewhat similar to Leonardo DiCaprio, Depp never allowed his looks to cloud his acting chops; possessing the physical ability to disappear into parts and embody roles utterly unheard of for actors of A-list appeal.
Overseeing such a transformation was Depp’s close friend and long-time collaborator Tim Burton. Identifying with each other’s various quirks; the two began to find their artistic flourish by specializing in creating whacky personas often based on real-life icons.
Their first arrived in 1990 in the form of ‘Edward Scissorhands’. A twisted spin on the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ fairytale, the film saw Depp essentially inhabit the role of Burton himself; portraying a socially awkward outsider with a heart of gold. Something which Depp was able to relate to during his high school days.
Depp’s knack for physical impersonations worked wonders with critics and audiences alike. Some of his most memorable moments included a Michael Jackson-riddled take on Willy Wonka in Burton’s ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ (2005) and when he channelled David Bowie for a throat-slitting rendition of ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’ (2007).
By far the star’s most bankable career move, however, set sail (and arguably for the worse) in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Films (2003-) as his boozing, Cockney-accented, Keith Richards-inspired Captain Jack Sparrow set the Box Office on fire. Not only was Depp a global superstar, but an unconventional one at that and generally considered one hell of a nice guy if his various fan encounters are anything to go by. So what made him lose the plot?
Perhaps the answer lies in the industry itself. With Hollywood’s Paparazzi-flooded lifestyle, privacy is an absolute no-brainer. Is it a surprise that shy celebrities of Depp’s status should crack under the pressure?
I wonder whether Johnny Depp’s fall from grace should be a message to many fellow actors similarly struggling to stay afloat…
Freelance film critic, journalist and writer based in Nottingham, UK. Specialises in cinema.
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