Johnny Depp on fame: “the outside world has become unnatural”

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Johnny Depp has a new interview with the Daily Mail, given at his rented regal estate in London along with The Rum Diary’s director and screenwriter, Bruce Robinson. Depp gets tipsy and shoots the sh*t with the two, but he just waxes philosophical most of the time and doesn’t say anything offensive or dumb, like he did when he got wasted with the journalist from Vanity Fair. It’s a very long article and an interesting read if you have the time and inclination. Johnny tells some crazy anecdotes about his friendships with the late journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and with the remarkably still alive Keith Richards. He also discusses what fame means to him, and how it makes his everyday dealings bizarre and unreal. It’s clear that he cherishes his fans, though, and that he’s proud to have made a difference for them, in his way.

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On how fame is difficult for him
At the height of his fame, Depp, now 48, has become increasingly reclusive. He says he doesn’t enjoy the attention of paparazzi or fans with camera phones. Out in public he feels uneasy. He’s more at home, ironically more ‘himself’, on set in front of a camera.

‘I don’t know when it happened exactly,’ he says, removing his thick-rimmed black glasses and placing them on the table in front of him.

‘Outside in life people are looking and staring at you. You see them taking your picture all the time with their iPhones. You become a kind of novelty in the world.

‘At some point, it became more honest for me on set. I understand it – everything is defined. Here are the lights, here’s the scene I have to do. It has become very natural, while the outside world has become unnatural. It’s bizarre, because I’ve done interviews where there’s a camera on and I still feel uncomfortable. Yet if it’s a scene and I’m in character, then I’m not.’

On being an individual and being touched by a young fan’s story
‘I was all over the place and always the new kid at school, which is never easy,’ he says.

‘And now I go out and meet kids at premieres to say thank you and sign autographs. I remember many years ago this one kid, a little girl with glasses, maybe 12 or 13, said, “Thank you for making glasses cool.” You imagine the history of haranguing this poor kid had endured – four-eyes, or whatever they called her. It really got to me.

‘If someone is being bullied or feels like an outsider and they relate to something that I’ve done, even if it’s just igniting a spark, that’s great. I had that feeling as a kid. I was messed with no end. And then you fight back – and that’s the rage that’s just under the surface, and in the end it comes out.

‘I find it disheartening these days that everybody is like everybody else. Less and less you see real individuals. They all wear their trousers down below their crotch. I don’t understand that kind of lemming mentality.’

On his friendships with outsiders
‘The common link with these people is that they’re all outsiders, straight shooters. My grandfather was too (he was a moonshine bootlegger during the Depression); he was a great guy.’

On filming Pirates… with Richards, he says, ‘I’d have my glass of wine and he would have his usual. I’ve no idea what that is, because it looks like nuclear waste. We’d just hang out.

‘I’ve had relationships with amazing people in my life, individuals who play by their own rules, who in a way are totally indefinable. Hunter was intimidating. He could decimate people. He had an allergy to bull**** and I can’t stand it either.’

On finding The Rum Diary manuscript among a bunch of junk in Hunter S. Thompson’s basement
Depp would visit Thompson and his wife Anita at their unorthodox home – Owl Farm in Woody Creek.

‘One time I was using the ashtray next to the bed and discovered my night-stand was a keg of gunpowder. It would have blown us to the Moon! After having used it for some time, I figured out what it was and brought Hunter down and said, “Do you realise what that is?” And do you know what he said? “Oh, that’s where it is!”

‘The same night I found a brown recluse spider in the corner. It eats your skin away and causes horrible necrosis.’

Later that same night Depp unearthed the unpublished manuscript.

‘It was about 3am. I was staying with Hunter preparing for Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, looking at stuff in boxes in the War Room, which was in his basement next to the room where I slept. There was all sorts of stuff in there – cocktail napkins, toothpicks, old hotel bills, God knows what else – and I found this folder with a rubber band around it, and it just said The Rum Diary.

‘I started reading it and said to Hunter, “What’s the matter with you? Publish the thing – it’s great.” It was that night that he said, “Maybe we should make this into a movie together…”’

The Rum Diary was published in 1998 and Depp and Thompson began the process of securing backers to finance the film.

Then, on February 20, 2005, came the news that Thompson, 67, had shot himself.

[From The Daily Mail]

Maybe the outside world seems unnatural because he’s drunk out of his skull whenever he goes out. Johnny’s an interesting guy. At some point though his kind of outsider personality started to become a gimmick and overshadow what a great guy he’s been known as. Like it’s clear to me he’s caught up in the Hollywood game again, as much as he professes to find it hard to deal with. Maybe that’s what we do to our celebrities now, we can’t stand to see them on top for so long so we look at the chinks and we pick at them until they seem to take over the person we’ve come to know for years. I want to be wrong, I want to like him again, but sadly his popularity may be waning. The Rum Diary underperformed at the box office on this opening weekend, placing fifth with just a $5 million take, behind Footloose in its third week and Paranormal Activity in its second. Puss in Boots was number 1 with a $34 million opening. I find this pretty surprising, since I’ve been seeing ads for Rum Diary all over the place and Johnny has been a box office draw in the past.

Johnny is shown on 10/26 outside The Late Show and on 10/25 signing for fans at the NY premiere of Rum Diary. How drunk does he look there? Credit: WENN.com

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34 Responses to “Johnny Depp on fame: “the outside world has become unnatural””

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  1. madpoe says:

    I didn’t think drunk when I saw those pix, I thought who’s that grey haired man trying to kidnap/hump/bunny hop with Johnny!!! Like protect him cos the crowd lost their damn minds, not cos you’ve lost yours. lol

  2. Gabrielle says:

    Honestly, The Rum Diary was the best movie I’ve ever seen. Johnny is really hot in it too. Hopefully it picks up steam from word of mouth. Definitely worth seeing.

  3. Julia says:

    Johnny Depp is a box office draw in the Pirates and all Burton flicks, basicaly when he has lots of make up on and play some very charicatural animate like goofy character.

    Outside that, he usually bombs drastically any drama he makes, any movie where he play ‘normall’ guys character except for very few exceptions.

    I beleive that usually the public as a whole doesn’t dig him in those normal type characters and only perceive him as a goofy guy with make up on playing goofy or unusual characters they love to watch.

  4. Lisa says:

    I think Johnny is a box office draw for the “Pirate” movies…I mean…even his Tim Burton movies aren’t HUGE box office draws…they make money, eventually…but they do NOT start with a bang…

  5. Yep says:

    So Johnny is back to being the unlikable actor with lots of bombs. Love him more than the other a listers especially that one that constantly gets his butt kissed on this site

  6. gee says:

    I think he looks bloated and his ego looks bloated too. If he can just be JD from 15 years ago..

  7. jinni says:

    I kind of feel bad for people that came up in the business before camera phones, massive amounts of paps and blogs. When they started out they were still able to have some privacy in the real world, but now can’t because everyone has essentially become a paparazzi.

    He probably feel better in character because it’s not really him that everyone is looking at but someone else. So he probably feels like he doesn’t have to be so on guard all of the time. He also seems like a naturally anxious person, even in interviews he’s very twitchy. As an anxious person myself, I know how much I hate being the center of attention and thinking someone is looking at me. I’d imagine that pretending to be someone else is a great way to not feel anxiety over what people are thinking about when they look at you.

  8. journey says:

    poor celebrities, we stick them in a fish bowl, poke and prod them, and then complain that they’re not their old free-ranging selves. sort of like a bear in a roadside zoo.
    in a world of kardashians who revel in the zoo-ish frenzy, it’s too easy to judge the wild and roaming, just-want-to-make-movies-and-live-my-life actors like depp by the same yardstick we use to judge the kardashian type trash.

  9. NM9005 says:

    @Julia: Nail on the head!

    Johnny was never mainstream and really a box office draw until the Pirates films. He was an A-lister alright, but in an unconventional way. He stood out from the rest who seemed to care more about career, fame and money and I always thought Johnny was in it for the craft and passion (he even said so himself) taking up roles that other people would perceive as not good for their image. Until he sold out with the Pirates films. I still love him though since his talent and personality will always outshine his mainstream choices. It’s hard not to get caught up in the Hollywood game.

  10. lambchops says:

    I don’t know, go volunteer in East Africa, or Haiti or go to your private island where nobody sees you or go live in Neuilly in France where people will certainly ignore you or just retire. I get that he doesn’t like being recognized, but starring in films is a conflicting interest with anonymity. It’s so boring hearing celebs complain about these things.

  11. Tina says:

    I met him not too long ago. And he is a very very very sweet man. We were the dorks with the iphones taking pictures with him. He was totally cool with it. I felt like an idiot. I always thought if I met Johnny Depp that I would be so relaxed about it. I was shaking like crazy. But my Mother had just passed away and she adored him so much. When I told him that, he grabbed me and hugged me. He wrote her a note to put in her casket. He smelled wonderful and was not drunk in any way. I realized you should not judge until you actually meet the person.

  12. ! says:

    I hope that’s true Tina ’cause the part about the note is just…*tearing up*

  13. Sys says:

    what’s with the painted nails?

  14. Tina says:

    It’s definitely true. :) He even took time after writing each sentence to really put meaning into what he wrote. Can’t say enough great things about the guy.

  15. hammer says:

    Johnny’s schtick just has a warmed over flavor now. He’s only successful in a pirate costume, and he dresses in costume when he goes out. The old guy looks like he’s trying to keep Johnny from falling….too much to drink? Sad. It’s not that fans are mobbing him…they are all behind the barricade.

  16. Turtle Dove says:

    Journey (9) – good point and very true.

    I’d be able to live a celeb’s life for about one week; after that I would behave like a bear, and snarl and take swipes at people.

    Tina (12) – (hugs Tina) Sorry to hear about your mom. What a nice story. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Gabrielle says:

    @ Tina. Thanks for sharing that. I met him too after years of loving him. He took a picture with me and he did smell amazing. He was very nice to all his fans at the premiere I was at and spent more time with the fans than with the press.

  18. Tina says:

    @ #’s 17 & 18. Thanks so much.

  19. JaneWonderfalls says:

    @Gee I agree. This tortured soul MO is getting annoying. I was in love with Johnny years ago but now, I can take him or leave him.

  20. lin234 says:

    I think the Tourist movie with Angeline Jolie really did him in. It just seemed his movies were picked for their paychecks. Plus he looked so bloated in the movie. He seems to be one of the few mega movie stars who is nice to fans despite being uncomfortable with the attention. You’ve got to give him that.

  21. Julia says:

    @ lin234

    I haven’t heard any mega star who wasn’t nice to his fans, except drunk mel Gibson maybe.

    From the Brange to Georges Clonney to Will Smith, Sandra Bollock, Matt Damon and even Tom Cruise, I don’t recall any mega star in acting who isn’t great and friendly to his/her fans.

    When you hear something nasty between an idole and his/her fans, it’s usually newcomers and young stars (e.g. Megan Fox).

    But those who are at the top of their game and have been in the business for decades have all been on record as being extremely friendly with their supporters. ALL of them.

    So it’s the rule more than the exception.

  22. Tina says:

    @ Julia: Totally disagree with you. There are some out there that you hear that are major a-holes to their fans. Will Farrell anyone? He could have been an as*, but Johnny Depp went above and beyond. It says a lot about him.

  23. AcornPaste says:

    Hollywood celebrities these days are being two-faced with privacy. They want to be left alone, so why would they give interviews like these? Daniel Day-Lewis is the only one who comes to mind when I think of celebrities who actually REALLY doesn’t want the spotlight and is an intensely private person.

  24. Julia says:

    @ Tina.

    Will Farell is not a mega star (I had to check him because I don’t know him) Mega for me equal International houshold name, and even if he was, i still beleive those who are nasty towards their fans are the exception not the rule.

  25. Tina says:

    Let me put it this way. I’ve met celebrities (household names and some that aren’t) before and they were pleasant, yes. But what JD did was above and beyond what he could have done and needed to do. What he did meant a lot to my family and I. He’s a step above the rest in my eyes.

  26. RuddyZooKeeper says:

    My kid was Jack Sparrow tonight for Halloween and it was awesome. With all this talk about the “Pirates Sellout” I wonder how great JD must be as a fortune teller. i mean, how the hell could he have known walking into that role that the franchise was going to be so successful?

    And why not do your best work and be recognized in your career field? I’m glad that’s worked out for him at least. I’ve loved this guy since 21 Jump Street, and I still appreciate when he invades my dreams–bloated or not.

  27. CHRISTIAN_GIRL says:

    That older man is always carrying JD, even when putting him to cars. No fans are anywhere near the cars.

    I don’t recall bodyguards assisting others like that. If they did it would have to be someone like Lindsay Lohan. Certainly, not a major star yet this is ignored and has been for years. The videos look a mess.

    BTW, “The Tourist” made more boxoffice money than “Public Enemies” by $64,000,000 so there’s that.

  28. Genevieve says:

    I really liked The Rum Diary, maybe even better then Puss in Boots (yes, I saw both) although they’re totally different. I like Hunter S Thompson stuff though. My partner didn’t particularly like it though, she loved Puss in Boots. So yeah, liked both movies.

  29. sosy says:

    You must have met someone other than the man I met Tina. But nice story. In the crowd sure he is all nice but in private a real Ahole. He has all of his fans hypnotized and believing his mess. He could easily retire he is a billionare. But no he loves the attention if he didnt he wouldnt do it. Boo hoo Hey he even wants to do shows for publicity come one people wake up. He has you fooled and you bought it.

  30. Tina says:

    @ sosy: Well alrighty then. haha I’m assuming you know him personally or else that would be an ignorant statement. I guess I will take your word for it?

  31. Lily says:

    I’m disappointed he seems to be selling out these days but in spite of that, what a very sweet thing he did for you Tina

  32. Lucinda says:

    I think you will start seeing him out in public less and less. This interview is consistent with who he has been over the years. He hasn’t changed. Our perception of him has. Pirates really changed his career and who people thought he was. Before that he was doing all sorts of weird indie stuff that seldom did well but he was brilliant in them. Yes, I’m a fan and have been for years. But I really don’t think he has changed. I think we have.