I know it’s fairly popular to dis Johnny Depp these days. I myself posted something within the last 6 months or so that, while not necessarily a dis was a venting of disappointment in the man for being in yet another Tim Burton make-up remake extravaganza. It wouldn’t bother me if these gratuitous Burton-ims didn’t seem to be a sure bet every other year or so now. That being said I am one of the three or so people that didn’t mind the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake a couple years back* and thinking about it now it’s not even really Depp that my issues hang on. It’s Burton, who seems to have surrendered creativity to merely Burton-izing pre-branded material.
But of course this is where all the Depp-slandering I hear always begins. From there of course the second article of damnation always appears to be the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. To me I just don’t get that and I feel like it’s always easy to pick an actor or muscian apart as soon as they do something as big and mainstream appealing as Pirates turned out to be. Personally when it comes to Pirates, I loved the first, enjoyed the second and just haven’t really cared enough to see the third, so they really don’t impact my opinion. So yeah, maybe I can’t say I think they’re the best work Depp has ever done, but as far as big-budget, family orientated spectacles go I dig what I’ve seen of them. And at risk of incurring wraith I’m gonna say I still think Depp is a great actor.
Case in point, recently I re-watched Roman Polanski’s THE NINTH GATE. Depp stares as Dean Corso, a kind of shady, self-motivated opportunist whose occupation is perhaps best described by another character, half in mock, as ‘a book detective’. He tracks down, appraises and sells rare books within a kind of black market circle of antiquarians and occultists. I love Depp’s portrayal of Corso, a shady guy whose very posture and mannerisms betrays his villainess. Depp uses the fact that Corso perpetually carries a knap bag over his shoulder to give the character the skulky mannerisms of a real sneaky, self-motivated betrayer. He further accents this by the lighting of perpetual cigarettes, a tick that serves to make me think that another of Depp’s character references for Corso must have been John Constantine from Vertigo’s HellBlazer comic books**. And ol’ JC would feel right at home in the circles Corso runs in. Black Magic, Devil Conjuring, murder and double crossing deceit line the path to the ancient tome ominously etitled The Nine Gates to the Kingdom of Shadows and Depp plays the character perfectly, never losing his vices or self interest even as he spirals down a dark and conspiratorial rabbit hole.
It’s performances like these that I feel mark Depp as one of the best of our time, even though perhaps of late he has been a bit weary to stray beyond the fringes of what we already know him for. I’m not saying the man has a Daniel-Day Lewis range, but for one of the more popular actors of our time he definitely brings something different to most roles. And he seems to really choose his movies well, which is also the mark of a great actor***.
In my opinion of course.
* Although granted it’s not even close to the original and realistically
I’d have preferred to see Marilyn Manson as WW, if for no other reason
than how much more creepy would that have been, right?
** Why didn’t anyone in Hollywood see this and cast him as Constantine instead of what’s his name?
*** I am also infinitely jealous that he has now had the opportunity to hang out with both Hunter S. Thompson and Keith Richards. Lucky Bastich!