Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Ranking the 5 Best Editing Oscar Nominees Ranking the 5 Best Editing Oscar Nominees Kristen Stewart Is First American Actress Nominated for César Awards in 30 Years; 'Saint Laurent' Leads with Ten Kristen Stewart Is First American Actress Nominated for César Awards in 30 Years; 'Saint Laurent' Leads with Ten How They Sustained the Times Square Momentum in 'Birdman' VIDEO How They Sustained the Times Square Momentum in 'Birdman' VIDEO 6 Things to Know About Sexy Sundance Breakout 'Diary of a Teenage Girl,' Part of Sundance's Women's New Wave 6 Things to Know About Sexy Sundance Breakout 'Diary of a Teenage Girl,' Part of Sundance's Women's New Wave Sundance Raves About Ewan McGregor as Jesus and the Devil in 'Last Days in the Desert' Sundance Raves About Ewan McGregor as Jesus and the Devil in 'Last Days in the Desert' Oscar Loves Diseases and Disorders: 6 Contenders and the Hard Truths They Don't (or Do) Ignore Oscar Loves Diseases and Disorders: 6 Contenders and the Hard Truths They Don't (or Do) Ignore Watch: Jason Segel on Playing David Foster Wallace in Sundance's 'End of the Tour' (Exclusive Interview) Watch: Jason Segel on Playing David Foster Wallace in Sundance's 'End of the Tour' (Exclusive Interview) Filmmakers, Give Us Your Numbers! Sundance and Cinereach Unveil The Transparency Project Filmmakers, Give Us Your Numbers! Sundance and Cinereach Unveil The Transparency Project Sundance Market Explodes with 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' and 'Diary of a Teenage Girl' Sundance Market Explodes with 'Me and Earl and the Dying Girl' and 'Diary of a Teenage Girl' Screen Actors Guild Awards: 'Birdman' Takes Ensemble, Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne Win Leads Screen Actors Guild Awards: 'Birdman' Takes Ensemble, Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne Win Leads Top Ten Takeaways: Polarizing 'American Sniper' Speeds Past $200 Million; Lopez Trounces Depp Top Ten Takeaways: Polarizing 'American Sniper' Speeds Past $200 Million; Lopez Trounces Depp Arthouse Audit: Panic Time? 'Mommy,' 'Red Army,' 'Black Sea,' 'Cake,' 'Duke of Burgundy' All Disappoint Arthouse Audit: Panic Time? 'Mommy,' 'Red Army,' 'Black Sea,' 'Cake,' 'Duke of Burgundy' All Disappoint 2015 PGA Winners: 'Birdman' Steals 'Boyhood''s Awards Season Thunder 2015 PGA Winners: 'Birdman' Steals 'Boyhood''s Awards Season Thunder Watch: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Strangerland' at Sundance (Exclusive Video Interview) Watch: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Strangerland' at Sundance (Exclusive Video Interview) Sundance Acquisitions Market Heats Up with 'The Bronze' and 
'The Witch' Sundance Acquisitions Market Heats Up with 'The Bronze' and 'The Witch' Sundance: 5 Things to Expect From Alex Gibney's Damning Scientology Doc 'Going Clear' Sundance: 5 Things to Expect From Alex Gibney's Damning Scientology Doc 'Going Clear' Watch: Meet the Women of 'Birdman' (Exclusive 4-Minute Featurette) Watch: Meet the Women of 'Birdman' (Exclusive 4-Minute Featurette) Watch: Hitchcock's Thwarted Holocaust Documentary Comes to HBO Watch: Hitchcock's Thwarted Holocaust Documentary Comes to HBO Best Actor Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED Best Actor Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED Oscar Predictions 2015 Oscar Predictions 2015

Career Watch: Can Depp Transcend His Rep for Onscreen Quirk?

Thompson on Hollywood By Susan Wloszczyna | Thompson on Hollywood April 21, 2014 at 6:19AM

For most actors, playing a cyber-age Dr. Frankenstein whose consciousness is converted into an artificial-intelligence experiment that threatens humankind would be considered a rather unusual role. But casting Johnny Depp as a mad scientist in the just-opened sci-fi thriller “Transcendence”? It barely registers a ripple on his scale of bizarre characters.
3
Johnny Depp in 'Transcendence'
Peter Mountain/Warner Bros. Johnny Depp in 'Transcendence'
Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean."
Depp in "Pirates of the Caribbean."

For most actors, playing a cyber-age Dr. Frankenstein whose consciousness is converted into an artificial-intelligence experiment that threatens humankind would be considered a rather unusual role. But casting Johnny Depp as a mad scientist in the just-opened sci-fi thriller “Transcendence”? It barely registers a ripple on his scale of bizarre characters. 

Even critics who bemoaned his mystical twist on Tonto in “The Lone Ranger” and his campy take on Barnabas Collins in “Dark Shadows” are dissing this toned-down version of Depp – to the point that "Transcendence"’s 20% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes ranks among the star’s lowest ever. Richard Corliss of Time speaks for many as he describes Depp’s performance as “subdued to the point of entropy,” while adding, “If he can’t overplay, he doesn’t play at all.”

Signature line: “Savvy?” – Capt. Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (2003)

"The Lone Ranger"
"The Lone Ranger"

Career peaks: Depp’s resume is split into two distinct periods – before “Pirates of the Caribbean” and after. The Kentucky-born high-school dropout originally wanted to be a rock musician but broke into movies opposite Freddy Krueger (Depp’s sinkhole-style bedroom death scene is a classic) in 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” He acquired unwanted teen-idol attention on the Fox crime series “21 Jump Street,” which premiered in 1987 and ran for four seasons.  In the first of their eight collaborations, director and creative soul mate Tim Burton rescued Depp from his fate as a TV heartthrob and redefined him as a lonely outcast with cutlery for hands and a craving for companionship in 1990’s “Edward Scissorhands.” 

Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands

In his struggling artist phase, the actor would quickly rack up a string of eccentric misfit roles with varying degrees of box-office success, most notably in “Benny & Joon” (1993), “Ed Wood” (1994), “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998) and “Sleepy Hollow” (1999) . Depp even slipped in a few more grounded characters, earning praise for his undercover FBI agent in “Donnie Brasco” (1997). As Burton once said of his favorite star’s mercurial nature, "He's more like Lon Chaney than a leading man."

Depp in "Dark Shadows"
Depp in "Dark Shadows"

Depp’s popularity as a mainstream attraction would soar to a new heights as high-seas scalawag Jack Sparrow, his loopy rum-soaked, gold-toothed and bandana-bedecked buccaneer who has steered the “Pirates” franchise (No. 5 is expected in 2016) to a worldwide gross of over $3.7 billion in a little more a decade. While the actor has since impressed in the occasional dramatic challenge, including Peter Pan creator James M. Barrie in “Neverland” (2004) and as gangster John Dillinger in “Public Enemies” (2009), he continues to be drawn to colorful offbeat outsiders such as the throat-slashing barber in “Sweeney Todd” (2007) and the daft yet dapper Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland” (2010).

Depp with Al Pacino in "Donnie Brasco"
Depp with Al Pacino in "Donnie Brasco"

Biggest assets: In civilian life, he might dress like a boho street urchin with his fedoras, byzantine tattoos and nerdy specs. But though he is about to turn 51 in June,  Depp can’t disguise the fact he still is drop-dead gorgeous and a pretty cool dude, too, even if he is verging on whimsy fatigue professionally.  As a performer, he’s never been afraid to take a risk –  Willy Wonka’s potentially off-putting horsey dental work and fey accent in 2005’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” did nothing to dampen its ticket sales. And, despite his predilection for kooks, the actor can be surprisingly versatile at times. As he has said, “I am doing things that are true to me. The only thing I have a problem with is being labeled.” He is the rare actor in this day and age who can confidently be described as one of a kind. 

Awards attention: Not only did the first “Pirates” movie raise his asking-price sails considerably, it also led to Depp’s first Academy Award nomination for his supporting role. He was later nominated in the best actor Oscar category for both “Neverland” and “Sweeney Todd.”  He has also collected 10 Golden Globe nods and won once, for “Sweeney Todd.”

Latest misfire: A reunion with veteran “Pirates” director Gore Verbinski that paired Depp with Armie Hammer, hot off of “The Social Network,” in a re-invention of a long-branded cowboy hero. What could possibly have gone wrong with last summer’s “The Lone Ranger”? Plenty, kemosabe.  At least one box-office analyst labeled the Old West adventure as being “the kind of bomb that people discuss for years to come,” considering the expectations raised by the talent involved. The film did gross $260 million worldwide, but that amount did little to offset estimates that the movie cost $225 million to make and at least $150 million to market. Depp would be nominated for his first and only Razzie for his efforts.   

This article is related to: Johnny Depp, Johnny Depp, Transcendence, Career Watch, The Lone Ranger


E-Mail Updates