JOHNNY DEPP
THE HEART-THROB AND SOMETIME PIRATE
ON LOVE AND THE PAPARAZZI


OK Magazine (UK)
January 4, 2005




Story by Evelyn Moore
Photos by Headress, AAP, Austral, Big, Getty, Scope, Snapper, WireImage

"Lily-Rose thinks I'm a pirate. She tells us that when she grows up she wants to be a pirate just like daddy." Johnny Depp's five-year-old daughter could be forgiven for being confused about her father's profession - especially when he's soon to morph from pirate into Willy Wonka in Tim Burton's remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, out later this year.

Johnny Depp has a mischievous quality that makes him perfect for the role - just as it did for that of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean and Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie - in his latest film Finding Neverland. But of all the roles he's played, the ones of father to his children, Lily-Rose Melody and John Christopher (known as "Jack") and partner to French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis, are by far the most important to him.

"Anything I've done up until 27 May 1999 was kind of an illusion, existing without living... the birth of my daughter gave me life," he says. He also speaks touchingly of his love for Vanessa, whom he met six years ago while filming The Ninth Gate in France.

"I pretty much fell in love with her the moment I set eyes on her. As a person, I was pretty much a lost cause at that time. She turned that around with her incredible tenderness and understanding. Very quickly, I realised I couldn't live without her. She made me feel like a human being instead of someone Hollywood had manufactured."

Does he plan to marry her? "It would be a shame to ruin her last name. It's so perfect. It would be such a drag to stick her with Paradis-Depp." However, it seems he's not averse to the idea of marriage. "She's the woman in my life. If she ever said, 'Hey, let's get hitched!', I'd do it in a second."

Doing it "in a second" would seem to be the wisest course of action. Johnny's been engaged so many times, the staff of Tiffany's must rub their hands in anticipatory glee every time he walks past. He has already bought diamonds for Sherilyn Fenn, Winona Ryder, Jennifer Grey and Kate Moss.

When he was 20, he married make-up artist Lori Anderson [Edit: her name is actually Lori Allison]. They divorced two years later, but the union had a lasting effect - she introduced him to Nicolas Cage. At the time, Johnny was playing guitar in a band called The Kids, but with Nicolas's encouragement, he went for a role in horror flick A Nightmare on Elm Street. It was the beginning of his acting career.

After small roles in movies like Platoon, Johnny landed the role of Officer Tom Hanson in TV's 21 Jump Street and a star was born. And while his movies haven't always enjoyed huge box office success, it seems Pirates of the Caribbean has changed all that. He even received a best actor Oscar nomination for the role - not bad for a movie based on a Disneyland ride.

After Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Johnny has five films lined up, including a Pirates sequel (Keith Richards is tipped to play Johnny's dad) and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, based on a true story, in which he will play a stroke victim who used his left eye to blink his memoirs.

You've been away from the US for a long time. Has that changed your relationship with Hollywood?

The five years that I've been living in France have done wonders for my relationship with Hollywood. And also having kids... I'm so removed from it, I don't know anything. I don't know who anybody is, who's famous, who's rich, who's poor, who's successful, who's a drag. I don't know what made money or what didn't. It's great! I don't have to think about anything but my work.

Which of your movies is the hardest for you to watch?

All of them! In France, Ed Wood came on television, dubbed, and it was so surreal. So I watched about 10 minutes of it. Then another time, What's Eating Gilbert Grape came on, which I've never seen. I tried to watch a bit and I started to hyperventilate. I just shut the TV off and walked away.

Why have you never seen it?

There's no disrespect for the filmmakers. I just always figured, once my job is done, anything beyond that is none of my business. And Gilbert Grape was a rough time for me, in terms of... I don't know where I was emotionally or psychologically... but I was really pleased people liked the film.

Have your kids seen any of them?

My daughter saw Edward Scissorhands, and I think she saw Benny & Joon.

Does she understand what you do?

Not just yet. There was a woman in some restaurant who asked what her parents did, and Lily-Rose said, "Well, my mommy's a singer... and my daddy's a pirate."

Does Lily-Rose speak English or French?

She speaks both really well. She picked up English in... I swear it was two months... speaking fluently. It was incredible.

Has having a son as well made a difference in your life?

Oh, yeah. I would say that the kiddies give you strength - strength and perspective. Things that would've made me upset or angry before, or things about Hollywood, in magazines or paparazzi - stuff like that - now you can go, "Oh, piss off! I'm going to play Barbies with my daughter." And having a boy... I mean, it's really shocking, the differences between a little girl and boy. She's very elegant and everything has to be perfect, and my boy, he stands up and screams like some god-awful warrior, then runs straight into the wall!"

Do you lead a normal life in France?

We get the occasional paparazzi, but you know, I figure it this way: if you're going to get me, just bring a really long lens, just make sure that you're really far away...

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Don't ever take any shit off anybody.

Who told you that?

My mum.

We hear you're doing a Pirates sequel?

Yes. I mean, the amount of fun I had on the first one was criminal, really. There were moments where the director and I would look at each other and just go, "Do you actually believe we get to do this and we're getting paid for it?"

Were those rings you're wearing inspired by the movie?

Oh, these things? I've been wearing these for years. My skulls, yeah, I've been wearing these for a long, long time. And this one was a gift recently, from this little Indian guy.

So you might say you've had it in your blood to make a pirate movie for some time...

It's funny. When Lee Marvin was asked how he prepared for his role in Cat Ballou, as the drunken gunfighter, he said, "I've been preparing for this role for 40 years," and I kind of feel the same.

You write a bit, too, don't you?

Yeah, I mean, I wouldn't consider myself a writer, but I write and enjoy it. I think it's good for the brain, to get that stuff out and on paper.

What are you going to do next?

Get back to my family, to be with my kids.

What keeps you in France?

I've always felt pretty drawn to France and that started many years ago. I've never really understood why, then I went over there in '98 to do a movie with Roman Polanski, and I met my girl and never left. Then, we got pregnant and had a baby. It's been a really interesting couple of years getting some distance.

Away from the US or just Hollywood?

Well, both. It's given me an interesting perspective on what's going on over there with the differences in cultures obviously, but also the amount of random violence and just kind of ignorance and craziness. You see little kids going into schools and shooting each other up. I mean, that is no longer a rare occurrence over there. And that's madness. I don't want to live with that. I don't want my daughters or my son to grow up watching that kind of thing on TV. If I have my way, they would never know there was such a thing as bad or evil. They would believe everyone is good.