I wrote this years ago when people loved Johnny Depp and I received death threats for expressing my dislike for his acting. I knew this day would come (21/06/22).
Anybody who has known me for more than a day will know how much I dislike Johnny Depp’s acting. I think he’s the most overrated actor of our time. Granted there are a couple of his films I quite like, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Donnie Brasco. However, the rest of his films are crap and this is why.
Two words, Tim Burton. The merest mention of this man’s name has me taking shelter under a pile of soiled mattresses. I remember going round to a friend’s house circa 92’ for a movie night and I was told that she’d found ‘the most amazing film ever’ and that I was in for a treat.
Thirty minutes after I arrived I found myself running down the street towards the nearest pub in a state of abject agitation. I’d just sat through the first twenty minutes of Edward Scissorhands. I’ll never forget Depp’s simpering face under all that make-up and the thieving pikie, Winona Ryder swanning around enjoying the halcyon days of her short-lived career. Every frame of that film exemplified everything that’s wrong with post modernity, a concept dreamt up by the French and promptly denied in true postmodern style.
The world Burton delivers is occupied by the kind of people this world has been built to oppress. It’s a cross between The Big Bang Theory and Hansel and Gretel, basically, Saccharine Gothic, peppered with good intentions and half-baked homilies.
Depp is in most of Burton’s films, pretty much reprising the same role over and over again: the hapless hero, often misunderstood by the community, who obviously wins the day because that’s the whole point of Burton’s transparent philosophical outlook; the weak endure and succeed if they try hard enough. I remember being told that in primary school and thinking, “Well, that’s that sorted. Can I go home now?”
The next reason I dislike Depp is that he has desecrated the good name of one of my heroes, Hunter S. Thompson. I first read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when I was 19 and I’m confident in saying that it completely fucked up my life in a good way. It served as a green light to a life of hedonic, self-indulgent abandon, and I’ve been staggering up that tarnished road ever since. I’ve never found God but I have found something similar in books, and Fear and Loathing is up there in my top 5.
Depp crucified Thompson with one of his worst characterisations to date. Instead of portraying one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, Depp gave us a bumbling journalist devoid of Thompson’s sense of style and erudition. The book is replete with deep philosophical insights into life and it charts the death of the American dream. Depp and the director, Terry Gilliam, placed far too much focus on the magical realism of excessive drug use and not enough on Thompson’s unique stance on life. And don’t even get me started on The Rum Diary.
Exhibit three is Chocolat. 90 minutes I will never get back and I did it for sex. Years later, I was to do the same thing for The Notebook, whilst seeking medical attention for drug and alcohol problems in a facility that taught me how to effectively conceal what’s really on your mind. Chocolat is the worst film I have ever seen and the Irish nation should have sought the extradition of Depp for the worst Irish accent in a film or television series since Brad Pitt in The Devil’s Own.
All Depp did in Chocolat was smolder on cue and openly denigrate one of the finest Celtic accents. He didn’t even try to make it county-specific. To make matters worse, I had to put up with Juliette Binoche getting sexy with chocolate and not in a good way, like Nigella Lawson does but in a preconceived kind of way devoid of Nigella’s delicious finger ballet.
When I announce my dislike for Depp’s acting it upsets people, to the point where they’ve written me off or I’ve been asked to see myself out. Especially by men. I’ve noticed that men are the greatest defenders of Depp, which used to confuse me until I thought about it. There is no denying that Depp is a handsome man and he’s always well turned out but there’s that twist of femininity to him that straight men are unconsciously drawn to. The immaculate skin, the symmetrical features, the deep brown eyes, the lithe, perfectly formed body and the underplayed masculinity of his roles – a straight man’s guilty wet dream, wrapped up in fame and fortune. He’s the straight dude’s pin-up boy.
But let me finish with this irrefutable fact: Even if you love Depp and regard him as one of the greatest actors of our time, can you forgive him for the Futterwacken Mad Hatter Dance at the end of Alice in Wonderland? Did that moment make you doubt Depp? Perhaps, even for a nanosecond, force you to reconsider your admiration for the actor? Burton should be ashamed of that film, truly ashamed but Depp should be cast out into the wilds for that dance and told to see himself out.