"I was born and raised in Kentucky. I was weaned on pork fat and grease. It's part of my chemical make-up. I need it!"
Johnny Depp is a former teen idol who progressed into a cinema artiste. He continually goes against the grain by choosing off-beat roles in films such as Edward Scissorhands, Cry-Baby and Chocolat.
Born 9th June 1963, John Christopher Depp III originated from Owensboro, Kentucky where he lived with his mother and father and older siblings Danny, Christie and Debbie. Johnny was very close to his mother and grandfather who he called Pawpaw. They picked tobacco regularly together until Pawpaw died around the time Johnny was seven.
Just after this traumatic event, the family moved to Mirimar, Florida where he grew up moving house frequently.
"I don't even have a mental picture of the houses we lived in because there were so many, We were like gypsies." from Cosmopolitan magazine
Later in life, the adult Johnny gave his mother a $300,000 house close to his Los Angeles residence, gave his brother a chance at a screenplay writing career, and employed his sister Christie as his manager.
Johnny's parents didn't have a good start when they reached Florida. They had to live with their young family in a motel for a year until Johnny's father found a job. Three years later, they split up and Johnny had to go to see his dad for his child support cheque each week. Five years later John Senior and Betty Sue divorced.
During his unhappy childhood, Johnny took refuge in music which he had discoved when attending the church where his fundamentalist minister uncle preached in Owensboro.
"Puberty was very vague. I literally locked myself in a room and played guitar." from Cosmopolitan magazine
He sneaked out on on the odd occassion though and by the time he was 12 he had started to smoke, by 13 he had lost his virginity, and by 14 he had experimented with drugs. He also flouted authority when he mooned at a teacher. This got him suspended from school.
A couple of years later he decided to concentrate on a career in music.
"I was bored with high school, so I dropped out." from the Los Angeles Times
He started a punk rock group called The Flame and moved to Los Angeles. Here he began to study acting at the Loft Studio with Peggy Feury whilst pumping gas to make ends meet. After The Flame changed their name to The Kids, they got a gig warming up for Iggy Pop.
By this time, Depp, who was now 20 years old, had married a Florida make-up artist called Lori Allison who was five years his senior. She had moved to Los Angeles to be with Depp whilst the tried to make it rich with his band. However, the competition was harsh, and the band wasn't being as succesful as they had hoped. Allison's relationship with Depp also struggled. It finished after 2 years. Near the end of their relationship, Allison introduced Depp to one of her friends, the actor Nicolas Cage who suggested that Depp should meet his agent. The agent set up an audition for Depp for a small role in A Nightmare On Elm Street which was quite a suprise for the cash-strapped young musician, who was working in advertisement telesales to make ends meet.
A Nightmare On Elm Street
So, in 1984, Depp had a small role in A Nightmare On Elm Street, the first in a series of horror flicks. He played Glen Lantz, the boyfriend of a girl who was at risk of being attacked by Freddy Krueger. His girlfriend, knowing that if she went to sleep she would become a victim, asked him to make sure she didn't fall asleep. He failed and she almost died.
The next year, Depp starred in a tittilating film called Private Resort. As teenage boy Jack, he goes to Florida with his friend for the the weekend. Once there they only have one thing in mind, sex.
Parts started rolling in steadily from them on for Depp. In 1986 he played a small part of a soldier in Platoon, and Donnie Fleisher, a teenager mixed up in a web of deceit and betrayal in Slow Burn.
21 Jump Street
1987 was the start of a new episode in Depp's life. After starring as Rob Cameron in an episode of Hotel, he was offered the lead role in a high school police drama for television. He decided that as a serious actor, the role wasn't good enough and turned it down, only to be convinced by his agent that the show would be cancelled after one season but would give him good exposure in the mean time. Depp made 21 Jump Street popular in the role of Officer Tom Hanson and he became a teenage heartthrob with the series lasting three seasons.
When 21 Jump Street ended, Depp was determined to shake off his image as a teen idol. When he was approached by John Waters with the role of Wade "Cry-Baby" Walker, he jumped at the chance.
"I told him if he did Cry-Baby, we'd kill that image. So he parodied himself by playing a teen idol, and it totally worked." John Waters
This lead role the cult director's movie was the first of many bizarre decisions which shaped Depp's career which if he had not made might had allowed him to fade into the shadows. Within one role, he had demolished his public image and gained respect from the Hollywood establishment.
Depp continued with his decision to play offbeat characters when he accepted the role of Edward Scissorhands the same year in Tim Burton's film of the same name. He was grateful for the role thanking Burton for helping him not become
"a loser, an outcast, just another piece of expendable Hollywood meat". in the foreword of Mark Salisbury's biography of Tim Burton.
In order to portray the lonely creature with metal hands longing for acceptance, Depp wore his steel hands around the house to try to understand the problems Edward would have in his everyday life.
"I loved Edward. He was total honesty. Honesty is what matters, and I have an absurd fascination with it, whether it means being true to your girl, your work, or yourself."
After working with Burton, Depp starred in another Freddy film, Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare but for reasoons of his own, wasn't credited as Johnny Depp, but Oprah Noodlemantra instead.
The same year he appeared in a Tom Petty music video for Into The Great Wide Open.
What's Eating Gilbert Grape
In 1993 Depp played Gilbert Grape in the film What's Eating Gilbert Grape alongside 600-pound actress Darlene Cates as his mother. In this well executed small movie, Depp is a restless young man who bears the heavy load of keeping his dysfunctional family together.
The same year Depp starred in another film about a dysfunctional family called Benny and Joon. Here he plays Sam, an illiterate and almost speechless circus performer who falls in love with Joon, a mentally ill woman who lives with her brother played by Aiden Quinn. Fascinated by Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, Sam touches Joon's heart and helps her though difficulties which she faces in her everyday life.
The Viper Room
Also in 1993, alongside Chuck E. Weiss, Depp bought a nightclub on Sunset Boulevard for $350,000 and turned it into The Viper Room. This club is frequented by stars from around the world who relax there in style. The club isn't without it's faults though. On Halloween 1993, River Phoenix died outside the club after taking a drug overdose. He was taken to the nearby Cedars-Sinai hospital but wasn't about to be resuscitated. Two years later Jason Donovan was taken to the same hospital from The Viper Room after taking an overdose, and was saved.
A role as Edward D. Wood, Jr came next for Depp in the film Ed Wood. Clothed in an angora sweater in parts of the film, he re-enacted parts of the cult B-movie director's life including the filming of Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda.
The same year, 1994, Depp's temper was highlighted in the press after he vandalised a $1,200-a-night room at Mark Hotel in New York where he was staying with his girlfriend at the time Kate Moss. He was arrested for criminal mischief and was ordered to pay a $9,767.12 fine by the courts.
After the event, John Waters said,
"The whole thing hasn't hurt his career. Criminal movie star is a really good look for Johnny."
Co-star in Cry-Baby, and friend, Traci Lords commented,
"He's the kind of guy that would be really sweet to a girl and bring her flowers, but still takes a pee in the alley."
Don Juan DeMarco
1995 was a busy year for Depp. With his criminal mischief charge behind him, he went on to star in United States of Poetry, Nick of Time as Gene Watson, and Dead Man as William 'Bill' Blake. He was also named as the Sexiest Star in film history by Empire magazine.
Don Juan in the film Don Juan was a role he played in this year too. The schizophrenic character relieved his anst by pretending he was the world's greatest lover. His psychiatrist, played by Marlon Brando, gets drawn into Juan's obsession whilst trying to help him.
By 1997 Depp decided to branch out a little by enlisting his brother to help him write a film of his own which he was also to star in and direct. This film, The Brave turned out to be very long and tedious to watch even for the most die hard Depp fan. Since then Depp has stuck to directing music videos.
Acting roles continued to flood in for him though with a number of films in 1999 including The Astronaut's Wife, The Ninth Gate and Sleepy Hollow as Constable Ichabod Crane. After Sleepy Hollow, Depp adopted Goldeneye, the horse he used in the film as he was going to be sent to a glue factory.
Johnny's next succesful role came in the form of Roux in Chocolat in 2000. This film gave him the opportunity to use his musical skills on screen in a scene where Roux plays his guitar by the river.
For this film Depp modelled himself on the former singer from The Pogues, Shane MacGowan. Roux, the french gypsy with a broad Irish accent, is a bit of a rebel like MacGowan, and is seen as a lovable rogue.
Around the time Depp was filming Chocolat, he wrote a letter to imfamous murderer Charles Manson asking for an interview to research him for a controversial new project. Depp wants to meet Manson in his Californian prison and had to write a letter to request a meeting.
A prison spokesman said about this incident,
"It is totally up to Manson whether or not Johnny Depp gets the visit he wants. Mr Depp will have written directly to Manson and if he wants the meeting to take place, he will send a visitor's pass and Mr Depp can come in here. It is possible he will say 'yes', although he doesn't have a lot of visitors. Like I say, it is up to him."
Before Night Falls
Depp appeared in another role as a transvestite in 2000 when he played Lieutenant Victor and Bon Bon in Before Night Falls. Lieutenant Victor is a military officer who liked dressing up in women's clothing. For this role Depp did much research by practising his make-up techniques and learning to walk in high heel shoes.
"During the filming, Johnny walked and talked like a woman. He's a great actor with a tremendous range." A crew member from the film
The Fast Show
In addition to Chocolat and Before Night Falls, in 2000, Depp also appeared in the last episode of his favourite television programme of all time, The Fast Show. Depp takes video tapes of this programme, renamed Brilliant for the US market, on the road with him when he has to work on the move to keep him entertained between jobs and was happy to appear on the grand finale.
Since his divorce from Florida make-up artist, Lori Allison in 1985, Depp has had a series of monogomous relationships where he has become engaged in each.
"I'm very true. Fidelity is important as long as it's pure, but the moment it goes against your insides, if you want to be somewhere else, if she wants to dabble, then you need to make a change. I'm not sure any human being is made to be with one person forever and ever, amen."
After brief liasons with Sherilyn Fenn and Jennifer Grey, Depp met Winona Ryder whilst making Edward Scissorhands. They got engaged in 1990 which led Depp to have Winona Forever tattooed on his arm. After they split in 1993, the tattoo was surgically altered to say Wino Forever.
After Ryder, Depp met waif supermodel Kate Moss at Cafe Tabac in New York. They became engaged and were very much a Hollywood couple for quite some time. This relationship eventually dwindled though with the partnership breaking up after a period of indecision.
Depp is now married to French singer and songwriter Vanessa Paradis. They live together in France with their two children Lily-Rose Melody Depp, born 27th May 1999, and Jack Depp, born 10th April 2002.
The couple already have high ideas for Lily-Rose as at a young age, she is already bilingual.
"We talk to her in French and English and she understands both. She is 15 months old, and she talks, walks, sings, dances and runs... She is absolutely great. I have never seen someone so cute in my whole life."
Due to the recent terrorist strikes in America, Depp isn't very keen on returning to his homeland. Instead he focusses his time on his family and other business opportunities. After the sucess of The Viper Room, he has decided to expand his empire of social clubs. Already a partner in the Man Ray bar in Paris, he is a partner in The Column in London with British football player Lee Chapman.
He continues his musical activities which were started in The Kids as a guitarist, at one point playing support to Iggy Pop.
"When I was a pre-teen and I picked up the guitar for the first time that was life changing. It put me on a road and helped me to discover who and what I was. To be able to do something that is so close to me in terms of playing the guitar, it's one of the true loves of my life."
The band he now plays with is called P, although he did play on Fade In-Out by Oasis when their regular guitarist was too drunk to perform in 1997.