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Here's Johnny!

Writer: Nurul Yezid


Johnny Depp leads the ensemble cast of Dark Shadows.

Never has there been any actor who has held so many diverse roles in the span of his career than that of Johnny Depp. From his first role as Heather Langenkamp's boyfriend that was massacred by Freddy Krueger in "A Nightmare On Elm Street" to playing the naïve and awkward man-child with scissors for hands in Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands", Depp's non-quirky roles are few and far between, such as the hardboiled criminal John Dillinger in the Michael Mann's "Public Enemies". Now, with Burton's reimagining of the gothic soap opera 60s "Dark Shadows" looming ahead and Depp set to play the role of an eccentric vampire who was doomed to walk the Earth forever after breaking the heart of a witch, Barnabas Collins looks set to be one of his most memorable characters to date. While we are waiting for Burton and Depp to bring on the weird, let us go on a journey and have a look at some of Depp's previous portrayals of outrageous and unique characters in the movies below!

"Cry-Baby" (1990)

Depp grew up to be one of those actors with pin-up faces, however, his early ventures into the acting scene did not quite find its footing during the late 80's. It was in 1990 that fans caught a glimpse of the first-rate actor he is in the form of "Cry-Baby" Walker. The movie, "Cry-Baby", is an infectious spoof of teen musicals of the early '50s, which showcased Depp's talent for deadpan comedic timing, only matched by his rock and roll charisma and his musical style. The movie chronicles the not-so-bad boy "Cry-Baby" Walker (Depp), a straight-faced rebellious teen channelling the likes of James Dean and Elvis Presley who dares to romance the pretty society girl, Allison Vernon-Williams (Amy Locane), despite their class differences and a scandalously tragic past that gave Walker his nickname as he sheds a single tear from only one eye whenever he feels moved.

"Edward Scissorhands" (1990)

This movie marks the first of many collaborations as well as a close friendship between Depp and director Tim Burton. Profoundly unique at its time of release, it has been one of Depp's greatest and most memorable characters to date! Not only that, "Edward Scissorhands" made Depp's name as an oddball star. The movie tells the tale of an unfinished experiment named Edward who, as a result, has scissors for hands. When a kind Avon saleswoman named Peg Boggs (Dianne West) visits the mansion, she finds Edward and decides to take him home, upon which he meets the Boggs' teenage daughter Kim (Winona Ryder), and falls in love with her. Yes, at this point of time it sounds a little cliché', but "Edward Scissorhands" ended up being a powerful tale about how gently we need to treat the things we love, ESPECIALLY if we have scissors for hands. And despite his prosthetic make-up, Depp managed to skilfully adapt to the bulky, cumbersome outfit and shines through it with his subtle performance as a fragile being.

"Ed Wood" (1994)

After "Edward Scissorhands", Depp and Burton continue their oddities by making a biopic titled "Ed Wood", about the director Edward D. Wood, Jr, who is also known as the worst director of all time. Whether he is cheerfully negating his first poor review or sharing with his wife his fears of never making it big while giants of cinema like Orson Welles, who are younger than him, tower over him like hawks, Depp's Ed Wood never seems to stop believing in himself, which endears him to audiences. Nobody could have played Ed Wood like Depp did as Depp instils his character with unflagging optimism in the face of every obstacle. The result is a comedic yet sympathetic performance that leaves viewers looking at films like "Plan 9 from Outer Space" and "Glen or Glenda?" a little differently.

"Don Juan DeMarco" (1995)

Finally, a role that gives Depp the chance to use his strikingly good looks and charismatic charms. In Francis Ford Coppola-produced romantic comedy-drama, Depp plays the titular Don Juan, who is actually a young man known as John R. DeMarco. Clad in a cape and domino mask, DeMarco undergoes psychiatric treatment with Marlon Brando's character, Dr. Jack Mickler, to cure him of his apparent delusion in which he believes that he is the Spanish Seducer. The movie manages to balance between being funny and genuinely charming, earning Depp the London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor along with "Ed Wood".

"Sleepy Hollow" (1999)

A movie based on the tale of Ichabod Crane, the protagonist in Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", Depp and Burton's collaboration this time around has one foot in the horror waters and one foot in comedy land. As it turns out, despite the dark subject matter, Depp's antics will not fail to make viewers laugh, for unlike the unpleasant Ichabod Crane from Irving's original tale, Depp's Crane is a nervous wreck of a constable who is sent to the village of Sleepy Hollow to discover the truth behind a series of murders said to be committed by the mysterious Headless Horseman. Burton's trademark gothic style works wonders for the period horror genre, and we get to see yet another side of Depp, as fallible but ultimately heroic man.

"Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl" (2003)

This is the movie that launched a thousand cosplayers and imitators. As the first in the series to feature one of Depp's best and most memorable characters, Captain Jack Sparrow, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl" would not have been half the success it was were it not for Depp's endearing, drunk and double-crossing swashbuckler. Constantly stumbling around spouting random yet sensible remarks and flailing, Depp imbued Sparrow with a certain charm that no other can possibly imitate. Taking a style cue from guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones for the character (who acts as his father in the later instalments!), Depp's character will leave you with an impression as deep as the depth of the high seas.

"Charlie & The Chocolate Factory" (2005)

On some level, this movie was a disappointment considering it was a remake of beloved children's classic, but one still cannot overlook the commercial success that it was. Depp's character, Willy Wonka, is the contemporary Marilyn Manson, with extremely pale features who locked himself away for years inside a large chocolate production factory in hopes of finding his successor. It was a stark contrast to Gene Wilder's portrayal of Willy Wonka in the original, as the latter opted for a more fatherly and wise approach. Not only that, Depp's portrayal have been compared to the late superstar Michael Jackson in real life, especially in regards to his alleged behaviour towards children, and some people find it less than amusing. Either way, Depp has definitely left his mark on fans and viewers alike.

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (2007)

If anything, this movie is best known as the one where Depp sings. With singing chops that does justice to Stephen Sondheim's musical compositions, his turn as the murderous barber Sweeney Todd has certainly elevated the actor to a whole new level. Directed by his best friend Burton, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street" is the story of a barber with a tragic past, leading him on his single-minded journey for vengeance and ultimately, against the man who wronged him and his family, Judge Turpin. As the demented barber Depp sliced throats with a flair and laughed in the face of the ensuing gore, a trait that puts Tarantino's killers to shame. It is only through Burton's stylistic genius and Depp's ability to portray twisted characters in a sympatheticlight that this movie turned out to be the success it is.

"Alice in Wonderland" (2010)

Labelled as a reimagining of the 1865 classic novel by Lewis Carroll, Depp and Burton are back together with a movie unlike the previous Disney release. It is much more dark and sombre, with Depp looking as mad as he can be as the titular Mad Hatter, with his oddly proportioned tea cups and garish get-ups. Mia Wasikowska plays the now nineteen-year-old Alice who, 13 years after her previous visit, returns for the first time to Wonderland as a young woman. She is told that she is the only one who can slay the Jabberwocky, a dragon-like creature controlled by the Red Queen who terrorizes Underland's inhabitants, and helped along by the Mad Hatter, she prepares herself for the battle. Despite Depp and the rest of the cast's, save for Alice, nightmarish appearance, the movie won Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design at the 83rd Academy Awards and various nominations for Depp himself, which testifies to his marvellous sense of character embodiment.


Cinema Online, 02 May 2012

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