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Happy 50th Birthday Johnny Depp: Watch His Little-Seen Directorial Debut 'The Brave'

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by Rodrigo Perez
June 9, 2013 1:29 PM
21 Comments
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It's hard to believe that former teen hearthrob, turned bad boy, turned one of the most inventive actors of his generation, turned... tentpole flunky -- albeit still in kooky roles -- is 50 years old. Coming to prominence as a teen idol during his 1980s stint on the TV show "21 Jump Street," Johnny Depp has been famous for almost four decades. But it wasn't until 2003 and the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" film,  'The Curse of the Black Pearl,' that Depp finally launched into the A-list stratosphere as an bankable star. 'Curse of The Black Pearl' grossed $305 million domestically and $654 million and changed his career forever (the collective four films have grossed $3.7 billion collectively worldwide). Before that, Depp's largest hit was was Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" in 1999 which earned just over $100 million domestically.

"I'm not 'Blockbuster Boy.' I never wanted to be. I wasn't looking for that," Depp said in a 1997 interview with Vanity Fair. At the time he had turned down Tom Cruise's role as Lestat in "Interview with the Vampire, "Brad Pitt's romantic lead in "Legends of the Fall," and declined the offer to play the action hero in "Speed," which turned Keanu Reeves into a star. While we've lamented what has become of Depp in recent years in our feature -- "6 A-List Stars With Greenlight Power: Do They Wield It For Good Or Evil?" -- the actor still has a formidable body of work to admire.  But does anyone remember "The Brave"? Depp's first and only directorial effort (which he also co-wrote with his brother) that hit the film festival circuit in 1997. The film received such devastating reviews at Cannes and TIFF that year that it never hit theaters in North America, nor was it ever released on DVD domestically (though it's not hard to find if you really want it). Variety called the film "a turgid and unbelievable neo-western." Screen International was even more brutal saying, "Depp's ignominious directorial debut crawls across the screen for two hours like a snail. Narratively inept and dramatically empty..."

This writer has never seen it (though I started watching today), but distinctly remember a friend who was lucky enough (or unfortunate enough) to see one of the public screenings in '97 and recall registering his disappointment and disdain for the film. Much more savvy then I was at the time, I remember him saying, "This is never gonna come out in theaters," and he was right.

Starring Depp and his buddy at the time Marlon Brando (they had already starred in 1995's "Don Juan DeMarco), the film also featured character actors Frederic Forrest ("Apocalypse Now"), Marshall Bell, Elpidia Carrillo, Clarence Williams III, Max Perlich, and Luis Guzmán and centered on a down-on-his-luck American Indian (Depp) recently released from jail who is offered the chance to "star" as the victim of a snuff film for $50,000 in the hopes the money will give his family a chance for a better life. Depp's friend Iggy Pop composed the score (you can hear some of it below). The movie is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by American mystery writer Gregory Mcdonald and it's a modern take on Doctor Faustus.

"[I have] a feeling that American reviews will be scathing. I'm prepared to listen if there's a problem with length," Depp told the LA Times in 1997, but rather than be forced to make changes, "I'll put it in a vault and let it sit." He pretty much did exactly that. Depp reportedly lost $2 million of his own money that he sunk into the film and never recouped. Unseen films always seem to build an air of mystique around them; an allure because they're hard to find. So "The Brave": gem waiting to be rediscovered or fiasco? From what this writer can tell of what he's seen so far, the latter, but judge for yourself. In case you're wondering, yes, Depp stepped behind the camera once more. He's directing a documentary on Rolling Stones pal Keith Richards, but it's still in the works and not complete yet. Oh yeah, Happy Birthday, Johnny!

"The Brave" soundtrack by Iggy Pop.
 

 "The Brave" movie in several parts.


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21 Comments

  • Che' | June 30, 2013 10:00 PMReply

    A very unique film... Touching and heartfelt,,, Love and the ultimate sacrifice,,,
    I think Depp, has a very good thought process that went into this film,,, It leaves you with something to chew on, long after the credits have rolled... I like the film. In the end,,, I had hoped there was another way for Rapheal...
    To hell with the critics,,,,
    This was REALISTIC,,, more so than anything else I have seen come to see....
    Good Job Mr. Depp !!!

  • marjon | June 14, 2013 4:10 AMReply

    this movie definitely stands out from the crowd and like johnny says its good to be different- its very sensitive and very moving - it haunted me for days after watching it - yes its a little slow and quirky in parts (the goat scene comes to mind)still not sure why that had to be left in the movie but overall it searches your soul - brandos speech is phenomenal
    See, there’s pain when we come into the world at birth. So it’s fitting there should be, pain at the end of it. A sort of transfiguration, a completion of a… a completion of a, er, an equation. Have you ever seen any woman giving birth? No? Well, her face… is twisted. It’s full of sweat and… anguish. But strangely punctuated by… joy. You know, in some ways, Raphael, I… I feel a kinship. I feel that we are of the same mind. Watching a painful death can be a great inspiration for those who, who are not dying. So that they can see how brave… we can be, when it’s time to go. It is the final measure of bravery to stand up to death. In exquisite anguish. And… I’m sorry. But when death finally, comes and, pays us it’s final visit, we, er… we then can bid him welcome. It seems to me now… that the closer that… one can come to death in life, makes the passage into death all the more easy. And it also leaves behind the greatest gift that anyone can, give another, which is… the courage to face death. And that’s the greatest contribution that anyone can learn.
    This movie is a brilliant work of art

  • Paula | June 10, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    I didn't think it was that bad. I kept watching it. I wish he could have solved it without dying! Were his kids and family safe? They weren't where it was being demolished? I wanted more to the story like maybe the priest saves the day at the end by bringing people who kill the bad guys.... Johnny Depp was very good in this! Love him when he has a clean shaven face. Now he always has a beard.

  • Ellen | June 10, 2013 10:52 AMReply

    Its a film that makes you think. What would one do for ones family? It's a demented love story and ultimate sacrifice. A bit slow moving but it gives you the feeling of 'no hope'. I liked it but I wouldn't own it because it is unnerving. I was still thinking about the movie scenes after it ended which is a compliment. Many movies I watch and after its over, I never give it another thought. Depp made me think...

  • Nellie Blosser | June 10, 2013 10:02 AMReply

    Like that

  • Rose | June 10, 2013 4:01 AMReply

    This is one of my favourite movies. It is touching, impressive, sensitive and benefits from exceptional acting. Those who criticize it must be very narrow-minded and limited.

  • Fillula Belle | June 9, 2013 9:33 PMReply

    I actually rocked on this movie. Oh, the stories I could tell...

  • Fillula Belle | June 9, 2013 9:33 PMReply

    I actually rocked on this movie. Oh, the stories I could tell...

  • bleh | June 9, 2013 7:55 PMReply

    hasn't he once said that he's gonna retire when he's 50? Please do. He's the most overrated actor (in every way) EVER.

  • Paula | June 10, 2013 3:54 PM

    I think Johnny Depp is an excellent actor!! I love PIRATES and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. and 21 JUMP STREET! I wish he would do more family oriented movies that aren't scary for kids to watch. I couldn't watch Sweeney Todd and some of his darker ones.

  • jd_fan | June 10, 2013 1:43 AM

    shut up!! if u dont like him then dont go looking around for his news

  • jd_fan | June 10, 2013 1:43 AM

    shut up!! if u dont like him then dont go looking around for his news

  • jd_fan | June 10, 2013 1:43 AM

    shut up!! if u dont like him then dont go looking around for his news

  • jd_fan | June 10, 2013 1:43 AM

    shut up if u dont like him then dont go looking around for his news

  • bertwilliams | June 9, 2013 7:27 PMReply

    This is a good movie very influenced by his Dead Man director.
    Brando is fine and Depp is great, nice premise but a little freeflowing and overlong.

  • Wendy | June 9, 2013 5:44 PMReply

    I love this movie. I have a copy of it and loved it the first time I saw it. It's a very touching story.

  • Kim | June 10, 2013 2:31 AM

    I liked the movie, It really makes you take a look at your life and whats really important,... How can I get a copy of this movie?

  • Kim | June 10, 2013 2:30 AM

    I liked the movie, It really makes you take a look at your life and whats really important,... How can I get a copy of this movie?

  • droop | June 9, 2013 4:59 PMReply

    considering his first gig was nightmare on elm street in 84, 29 years ago, not even three decades, saying he has almost been famous for four is very dumb

  • Sally | June 9, 2013 3:50 PMReply

    I've seen the movie. It definitely has faults but it seems to me the overly harsh critics were not justified. It's quite touching and some of the scenes are memorable. It just seems like it was hard for the critics to take "pretty boy" Johnny Depp as a director.

  • Karla | June 9, 2013 2:20 PMReply

    It's not a perfect movie but it's very touching...and speaks alot to the haters criticizing Tonto in "Lone Ranger" without even seen the movie and his take on the character. This guy always has been interested on his native americans roots.

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