The Depp Caveat

(The Future of Cinema as described by Misters Spielberg and Lucas series will continue soon.)

This weekend, over brunch with the family, we discussed The Lone Ranger's flop in its opening weekend.1 Or rather, I pontificated about how Johnny Depp has essentially played the same character for the last decade.

"Why?" I wondered allowed to my family, "Would the man who literally acted insane to get out of the boredom of playing the same character over and over again (on 21 Jump Street), actively choose to play essentially the same character in numerous different projects for 10 years???"

My family, used to hearing me say this for a while now, mostly just nodded and "mhmm'ed" me. As they should.

Well, I certainly wasn't the only person to say this, and Kyle Buchanan, from Vulture, has written an excellent article about it, titled "Young Johnny Depp Would Hate Old Johnny Depp."

Mr. Buchanan says, about Mr. Depp's acting choices:

They’ve become part of the character actor package we now expect from him: With each big-budget part, Depp will employ a new voice, a new hat, and some new face paint, but the more Depp labors to make himself unrecognizable, the more we recognize the tricks he uses to do so. Tonto isn’t exactly like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, but they’ve both been assembled from the same familiar toolkit.

(Go read the whole article! It's worth it!)

Seriously, think about it:

Pirates of Caribbean came out in 2003, and the character of Captain Jack Sparrow was born. Then, in 2004 a bunch of Depp driven films were released (which were presumably shot before the success of Pirates.) I'm thinking of Once Upon A Time In Mexico, or Secret Window, or Finding Neverland (one of my all time favorite films!).

After that, it has been a waste land of makeup driven big budgets starting with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then the other Pirate movies2, Sweeny Todd, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows, and now, The Lone Ranger. And another Pirates movie planned for 2015.

In total, ten films with essentially the same character.

That's a lot.

Now, to be fair, Mr. Depp also made The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (which was great, but he only did it because he was filling in, due to the untimely death of Heath Ledger), The Tourist (which was awful, but mostly because the director didn't understand the script, not because Mr. Depp screwed it up), and The Rum Diaries and Public Enemies (I haven't seen them, so I can't comment). While not all of these movies were great, his performances were decent. Certainly more interesting than the Captain Jack Sparrow derivativeness we've been seeing. And here's the thing - he's not wearing as much makeup in any of them.

So, I've made a new rule: The Depp Caveat.

If more than 30% of Johnny Depp's face (including teeth) is obstructed by visible makeup/prothesis/costume, then I skip the film.

Because he's hiding laziness behind a mask. And he can do so, so much better than that. All you have to do is look at the sublimeness of Benny and Joon or Don Juan DeMarco or Chocolat to know that.

But I have a really huge problem. Which may make me break my rule.

And that is Into the Woods.

Into the Woods is one of my all time favorite musicals. I love every bit of it. And I would have told you that it's pretty hard to screw up - I mean, I've seen numerous low budget community theatre productions of it (i.e. those least likely to be good) and they've been fantastic. It's hard to imagine a movie version completely missing the point. Meryl Streep is signed on, for heaven's sake!

But Johnny Depp is playing the Wolf. Which means another mask, no matter how they work the part.

And I'll tell you right now. I am concerned.

So, please Universe, if there is any way to get this message to Mr. Depp:

Please, please, please do not make the Wolf another Captain Jack. It would break my heart. And a broken hearted AM the Elder is just not a pretty image.

Do something new. And nuanced. And wonderful.



1Incidentally, some are taking The Lone Ranger's lack of opening success, along with the lukewarm response to After Earth and White House Down, as evidence of Spielberg and Lucas being correct.

2 Or, as I refer to them, the Movies That Shall Not Be Watched. I have a whole rant about these films, but that's a post for another day.



Buchanan, Kyle. "The Lone Ranger: Young Johnny Depp Would Hate Old Johnny Depp." Vulture. July 8, 2013. Accessed July 8, 2013.