News Column

Johnny Depp Says He's a Cheap Date

August 9, 2013

Keeley Bolger

Many of us turn to pricey potions and lotions as middle age approaches, but global megastar Johnny Depp has another way of keeping young - staring at carpets.

I'm intrigued by everything, says the actor, by way of explanation. 'I'm a pretty cheap date. I can be intrigued by the carpet'. In fact, I am intri1gued by the carpet. I've been staring at it for a while now, and it's still the same. I think curiosity keeps you young beyond numbers. I'm 60! he adds, laughing.

Sixty may be pushing it but, jokes aside, it's hard to believe that Depp - let's face it, one of the coolest and most-fancied men on the planet - turned 50 this year.

Today, he's promoting The Lone Ranger, Disney's new action- adventure movie based on the classic Western TV series.

He plays Tonto, a native American warrior who battles alongside law-abiding cowboy John Reid, played by Social Network actor Armie Hammer, to avenge Reid's brother's death and bring a criminal gang to justice.

The film has a strong British cast, with Luther actress Ruth Wilson playing Reid's sister-in-law Rebecca, Tom Wilkinson as railroad tycoon Latham Cole, Helena Bonham Carter as a tough- talking saloon owner Red, and Fish Tank actor Harry Treadaway as Frank, the baddie with a penchant for wearing ladies' bonnets. As you'd imagine, it's a fun-filled romp, with all the charging horseback chases and belting after baddies you'd hope for.

Depp, with his trademark raven hair and checked shirt slashed to reveal countless necklaces, hasn't changed a whole lot since his breakthrough role in 1984 horror A Nightmare On Elm Street.

The actor, who recently separated from his long-time partner Vanessa Paradis, went on to further acclaim with Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow, Chocolat and, more recently, the Pirates Of The Caribbean series, becoming one of the most in- demand actors of his generation.

It certainly makes for impressive reading, but Depp is far from being starry about his lot.

During the press conference, he compliments a boy who has won a competition to meet the stars and dashes over to a pregnant woman, asks after her baby and tries to find a seat for her.

It's not your average A-list behaviour, but then Depp has never been afraid of being a little bit different.

Case in point is his inspiration for Edward Scissorhands, the 1990 Tim Burton film in which he played the title role opposite former girlfriend Winona Ryder.

When I read a screenplay, somewhere in the first ten pages there's something that grabs me and that's it, I'm invested, he explains. One of the strongest influences on me for Edward Scissorhands was a dog I had as a kid.

For Tonto, who ages during the film, Depp didn't have to look too far to find his muse.

The old man I saw in Tonto was my great-grandmother, he says. She did apparently have quite a lot of Indian blood [in her] and wore the braids and had tobacco down her bosom, so the idea was to sculpt me to look like her.

In the original series, being a Native American meant Tonto was never going to be a hero in his own right - something Depp and the film-makers were keen to move away from. The actor says that, growing up, he always rooted for the masked hero's partner in crime. When it came to playing cowboys and Indians I most certainly did not want to be John Wayne. I was always flummoxed, even as a child, about the idea of Tonto being a sidekick to the Lone Ranger. I found it unappealing, he says. Depp's an executive producer on the film and says he was conscious of being respectful to native Indian people. I felt responsibility towards the indigenous people of the country and around the world. If I can make two or three kids watch the movie and feel proud to be Comanche, then I've done my job and I feel good, he says.

Filming saw him reunited with Pirates Of The Caribbean producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski. He admits there were teething problems between himself and the studio when they worked together on the Pirates franchise, in particular his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow, which he based on the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards.

When we did the first Pirates Of The Caribbean film, they wanted to fire me so badly they could taste it, he says, laughing. When I spoke to one of the executives at the time, I said, 'You're right, you should fire me, but you'll have to pay me for my time!' It was something that the studio couldn't quite figure out. They didn't know how to market Jack Sparrow - they wanted to put sub-titles in. It was nothing particularly new for me - I've always approached characters in the same way. Captain Jack Sparrow just happened to get more attention. You get away with it or you don't, he adds.

Depp hopes audiences will like his interpretation of Tonto. One thing's for sure: he put blood, sweat and tears into the role - literally, when he fell off a horse during filming.

The horse was magnificent so I'd say the accident was a user error, he explains.

It decided to jump over a mound, where a cactus was, in the desert, and when we hit the ground, the thing which holds the saddle tilted to the left.

The strange thing about it was there was no fear involved, no adrenalin - it was 'How do I get out of this? How do I escape this thing?' - and after far too long holding on to the horse I decided to let go and roll the dice.

Madness! It's clear he enjoys his work, and he'll soon be busying himself with the fifth Pirates Of The Caribbean film, but it's home life that means the most to Depp.

I've had worse jobs than acting, a lot worse, but work is work. Acting is a strange job for a grown man. My kids are my greatest achievement. My daughter Lily-Rose, who's 14, my boy Jack, who's 11, he says.

There's nothing I've done in terms of anything else in existence that comes close. My kids are most important to me.

The Lone Ranger is released in cinemas today.

'When we did the first Pirates Of The Caribbean film, they wanted to fire me so badly they could taste it. When I spoke to one of the executives at the time, I said, 'You're right, you should fire me, but you'll have to pay me for my time!'

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