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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Viva Johnny Depp!

I used to say that whatever Tom Hanks did in a movie would make me want to see it at once: he just couldn't help being deeply, compellingly watchable. Of late, after having seen Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland, Chocolat, Pirates of the Caribbean, and very recently Alice in Wonderland, I can say that Johnny Depp has definitely joined my very exclusive list of must-see-whatever-he-does actors. When it comes to portraying offbeat, eccentric, loveable-yet-sad and lonely characters, there's really nobody else around who can hold a candle to this man. I wish him a long, happy and highly productive life for very selfish reasons...

I was reading up about him on wikipedia. Maybe the facts that he is exactly my age, and a musician besides, and that I love harmless but brilliant cranks all have something to do with my admiration for him. I was also wondering what a director like Satyajit Ray might have done with him (if he had the money) and why Steven Spielberg (who I don't think is short of money) hasn't cast him yet. 

How wonderful it would be to live long enough to boast that one of my old boys has become a director or actor like these people!


Joydeep said...


I share your admiration for Johnny Depp entirely. He is one of the few actors around (alongside the likes of Edward Norton and George Clooney) whom I simply can't resist watching more and more of.

In addition to your list of favourite Johnny Depp movies, may I add another one? Do watch "Ed Wood" if you can. You will be pleasantly surprised, I promise.


Navin said...

Dear Sir,

There is another movie "Whats eating Gilbert Grape" in which both Jhonny Depp and Leonardo Di Caprio have a great performance. I think if you haven't seen that movie, you might like it.

I was particularly impressed with Di Caprio, for performing that role at such a tender age.


Abhirup said...

Dear Sir,

I used to be skeptical of the claim made by some film critics that the presence of a gifted actor alone can make a movie eminently watchable, until the day I saw 'Pirates of the Caribbean'. The only reason why I sat through the film, and tend to watch it whenever it is shown on the television, is Johnny Depp's performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. He plays the lovable pirate with such charm and inimitable swagger, that I can't help but overlook all the flaws of the film (and its sequels) and just go along for the ride. And of course, I love his performances in all the other films you have mentioned too.

However, I must add that of late, Depp, as well as director Tim Burton (with whom he frequently collaborates, and who has directed many of the films you named) are becoming increasingly predictable. Depp keeps on playing the same kind of characters (the "offbeat, eccentric, loveable-yet-sad and lonely" ones), and his mannerisms have reached a point of familiarity, beyond which one finds it difficult to get excited about his next release. The same goes for Burton; his fascination with the gothic and the macabre has resulted in some very good films, alongside some very poor ones of late ('Alice in Wonderland', in my opinion, comes nowhere close to capturing the spirit of the book, choosing to favour spectacle over substance).

And this, I feel, is precisely what makes Depp, for all his brilliance, a lesser actor than Tom Hanks. The latter found his first taste of success in Hollywood in light comedy films. But instead of sticking to that genre (and, by extension, a particular kind of role), he challenged himself with a variety of roles, from a gay man battling AIDS and homophobia in 'Philadelphia' to a modern day Robinson Crusoe in 'Cast Away', from the eponymous mentally challenged man in 'Forrest Gump' to the soldier in 'Saving Private Ryan', and roles even more diverse in 'Apollo 13', 'The Green Mile', 'Catch Me If You Can' and a host of other remarkable films. Compared to the range that Hanks has demonstrated in the process, Depp, I must say, is still not in the same league. He is very good, but only for certain kinds of parts.
Of course, I would be delighted if he proves me wrong by delivering a stellar performance in a different kind of role, one that is different from the ones he has done so far.

I, too, feel that Satyajit Ray could have worked wonders if he had worked with Depp; or, for that matter, with any of the great Hollywood actors of his time. I read somewhere that he had once planned to film E.M. Forster's 'A Passage to India', but gave up the project when he learned that David Lean has purchased the copyrights and is going to shoot the film. If Ray had managed to make the film, surely he would have got the oppurtunity to work with Hollywood stalwarts. Pity that it didn't happen.

As for Spielberg, as much as I would like to see him collaborate with Depp, I don't think it is going to happen anytime soon, because none of Spielberg's upcoming films seem to have any role suitable for him. Moreover, if Hollywood insiders are to be believed, Depp is quite temperamental and not easy to work with. Francis Ford Coppola once said that he approached Depp to ask him to play a role in 'Youth without Youth', but found the actor so cranky and overbearing that he left in disgust. Directors of this stature usually don't put up with potential troublemakers on the sets, and choose to work with those with whom they have a good rapport.

All things said and done, though, Depp remains a favourite of mine. I wish him a long and successful career, and hope that he gives us many, many good films.

With regards,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

As so often before, Abhirup, you are right, and the thought has crossed my mind that Depp needs to look beyond the kind of films Burton is bent on making over and over again. And yet, you and I seem to agree that we continue to want to watch Depp's acting for some more time yet...

Notice, also, that I did put Tom Hanks first!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

... and Joydeep and Navin, thanks for the comments as well as the recommendations. Sorry for being late. I'll certainly try to find and watch those movies.

Rakendu said...

Sir, Johnny Depp keeps startling me afresh with each performance of his.
I usually recommend all Johnny Depp fans the following movies of his-
1. A Secret window
2. Once upon a time in Mexico
3. Nick of time

A lot of movies have come out after the above mentioned, in the same lines but these movies remain classic for Mr. Johnny Depp's acting performances.

This man astounds me every time he comes on the big screen.


Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

Johnny Depp is a big favourite of mine and I absolutely love his Benny and Joon. Tom Hanks has been an eternal favourite and although (somewhat addicted as I am to gangster movies) personally I love to settle down with an Al Pacino flick, Hanks' Forrest Gump completely floored me and no amount of Michael Corleone nor Frank Slade can make me slight that movie. Have you had the chance to watch Scent of a Woman Sir? I am sure you will enjoy it!


Shilpi said...

I watched a rather amusing, interesting too (at multiple levels) and neatly-made movie over the weekend, by accident, in which Depp delivered an inimitable performance. His delivery (among other things), I keep thinking is priceless, whether he's saying 'savvy?' in Pirates of the Caribbean or a matter-of-fact and very quick (no matter how absurd), "Well. It was a small and isolated town, which had resisted - modern technology". That's in response to a question from his sympathetic and interested psychiatrist: "So there was a lot of sword fighting going on (in the town you grew up)?"....

I can't see anybody else playing the characters that Depp does even though the Tim Burton movies have all left me cold (apart from Edward Scissorhands, which was disconcerting and unsettling from what I remember of it), and one of them, Ed Wood put me to sleep (which wasn't a bad thing considering I hadn't been sleeping well at that point), and I intensely disliked Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, although more than a couple of my friends love the movie. Apart from these movies where even Johnny Depp's performance couldn't make me feel differently about the movie - I'm probably one of those people who'll watch a movie if Depp's in it. He plays those eccentric and/or unusual characters without missing a beat, and he comes across as unusual, somewhat eccentric, deep, moody and interesting in his interviews too actually...

I'm one of those people who'll watch many a movie because a favourite actor is there (even if the story-line doesn't sound terribly tempting).

Oh, and the movie that I watched (and a note of caution: some might consider it to be slightly risqué maybe) - Don Juan de Marco.

Rakendu said...

I guess we're missing out a very gripping thriller, DONNIE BRASCO, where Mr. Depp pairs up with Al Pacino. Though many movies have come up on the lives of under-cover agents later on, this one is too subtle to miss out.

Saikat Chakraborty said...

Dear Sir,
Johnny Depp's presence in a movie creates such an aura that keeps you glued even if the movie is not tempting.Still,I would like him to come out of his image(of eccentric,loveable yet lonely,sad characters)and play more versatile roles.

In my opinion(I don't know how many will agree with me),Depp would have been perfect for the role of McMurphy in the movie- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (although I accept that Jack Nicholson had delivered a superb performance).

I would like to thank Shilpi di for recommending Don Juan De Marco where Johnny Depp,as usual,was brilliant once again.But the movie Ed Wood put me to sleep too.

For Depp's fans,I would recommend the movie-'The Libertine'.He keeps you astounded with his performance.

With regards,
Saikat Chakraborty

Dipanwita Shome said...

Sir, you must watch Rum Diary, if you can. I recommend it for the very reasons you say you watch Johny Depp films for. You must then tell me how you liked it.

Aishwarya said...

I'm glad that you too think he's a fine actor, a musician besides!

A woman, and being one with quirks for musicians, especially the ones who look like him, i have often had heated Johnny Depp discussions with several of my friends, mostly women though.

Something that came through in most of these conversations, and hugely upset me, is that how most people hardly transcend or notice beyond what he looks like. Most people, are more in awe of Capt'n Sparrow than they are of Depp. While i'm sure that is a measure of his success and brilliance, it is disappointing to know, how a vast majority of us, hardly ever even try to see, forget reaching out, to more than what appears to the naked eye. Its sad when someone like a Depp is reduced to the sheer ranks of a Brad Pitt (no offence meant to him either, i think he too is a fantastic actor, but could do with being a lill more varied in terms of his choices) only by the virtue of the way the man looks.

Certainly the man looks and speaks beyond the realms of the apparent. But that is hardly noticed.

Am glad to have found this piece on your blog. Thank God, there are still those who still appreciate talent as opposed to 'looks' and appreciate cinema, beyond its mere fluff!

Shilpi said...

Interesting, interesting comment, Aishwarya. But see, 'how Johnny Depp' looks is what makes him unusual as well. Can you imagine him looking like, say an A.R. Rahman (and I appreciate both of these individuals for what they did and do) or even like Russell Crowe and still playing the role of a Cap'n Jack Sparrow? Depp is an actor par excellence and he cultivates his 'looks' just as much as his 'image' and just as much as he knows too that he 'looks good' and can act damn well. Good looks can be of various sorts. The thing about Johnny Depp is that you can't really separate him, as an actor, from his looks. I'd bracket Johnny Depp in the same category as a Jeremy Irons and a Daniel Day Lewis or even a Hugh Laurie actually. They look unusual and they play unusual roles with a particular finesse. Although I'm not sure how an actor can be approached any other way other than through our plain and bare senses of his public image and oddities that he makes visible to us or we notice and like and/or admire, and there is something indefinable that charms us - the audience - through their interviews or through the roles they perform. The odd actors do however generate a different response...

That's the way with most of life too actually. People come with an outer casing and inner stuff and sometimes - however terribly rarely the two overlap, and make sense, and it's pointless to think or say, personally I think, that we can ignore how a person looks but just focus on the inner beauty or talent. The beauty and talent are expressed through the outer casing and make all of it glow sharply....and as human beings, I think we are supposed to notice the same.