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Feature: Movie Idols Profile

Johnny Depp

Before Night Falls

Having hit mainstream success as a TV heart-throb taught a certain star to never be predictable.

Johnny Depp is an interesting man. As an actor he has that rare chameleonic quality that allows him to inhabit a role and convince you that what you see on screen isn’t a performance but a possession. Yet if you see or hear him being interviewed he can seem inarticulate, hesitant, something of a cipher. So you may conclude that he is one of those performers who, lacking a clearly defined character of their own, is able to put on new characters like a suit of clothes. Then again, if you were to read any of the articles he has written about his influences and heroes, or pick out key quotes from printed interviews, he seems to be a deep thinker, a true eccentric, a strong and unique individual.

He is, in short, not an easy man to profile, a figure of apparent contradictions and paradoxes. Only one thing is certain – he is probably the finest actor of his generation. You can be assured that whatever film he is in it will be worth watching for him alone. Also, the fact that he has chosen to make it indicates that it has something in the script or the vision that will make it outstanding on one level or another. He doesn’t make popcorn trash, he is a genuine artist and his choices command respect.

John Christopher Depp III was born on the June 9, 1963 in Owensboro, Kentucky. Yes, he’s nearly 40 years old, though you’d never guess it from looking at him. His mother was a waitress, his father an engineer, and Johnny was one of three children. His childhood was one of constant change. “By the time I was 15,” he revealed, “we had lived in about 20 houses.”

They moved house almost at the drop of a hat, although they stayed roughly in the same area, so he didn’t have to change schools too often. There’s a sense from interviews that this lack of stability and predictability in his life left him restless, rootless and looking for some sort of certainty to hold onto. “To this day, I hate it when I have to move from location to location.”

He was a difficult and mischievous kid. “I hung around with bad crowds,” he said. “We used to break and enter places. We’d break into the school and destroy a room or something. I used to steal things from stores.”

He liked tape-recording people when they didn’t know. He dug a huge tunnel in his front yard, trying to reach his bedroom and “pretty much any drug you can name, I’ve done it,” he claimed. He lost his virginity at 13 and dropped out of school at 16, the same year his parents divorced.

by Scott Andrews

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Photo © El Mar Pictures
Feature © Visual Imagination 2003. Not for reproduction

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