September 13, 2018
Saying Goodbye to Johnny Depp: How to Let Go of One of Your Former Favorite Actors
(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: a former Johnny Depp fan struggles to let go.)
Who would have thought that, one day, the name “Johnny Depp” would become a dirty word?
Johnny Depp used to be one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. He was attractive, alternative, zany and cool. He was the offbeat art kid’s entryway into Hollywood idolization. He was awesome.
Now, though? Depp is a tired mess of his former self. Growing older is something that can’t be held against anyone, but aging disgracefully certainly can. He’s an actor trying to hold onto his youth in the worst ways. He’s a caricature of his former self. Worst of all, he’s now plagued with scandal.
So how does someone who used to love his work deal with this?
Life as a Johnny Depp Fan
My interest in Hollywood began at an early age, but despite my love for movies, I never got into the ‘90s fangirl trends of buying magazines dedicated to Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonathan Taylor Thomas. As much as I was (and still am) a dork, I always had a “too cool for school” streak, which is probably what attracted me to Depp and his filmography. I loved how he was a beautiful actor who didn’t want to rely solely on his looks to get by in the industry. His roles in Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Cry-Baby and Benny & Joon defined him as the thinking girl’s heartthrob, the type of actor who took his fans on creative, strange, and gripping journeys.
I was such a fan that when I happened to buy an edition of The Celebrity Black Book, a book full of actors’ fan mail addresses, I gathered the courage to send Depp a fan letter, one of the few fan letters I’ve ever sent in my life. I never got a response back, but I wasn’t sure if I was even looking for a response; I was happy enough knowing my letter would be among the monstrous pile of stuff I’m sure he received on a daily basis. I’m pretty sure I also tried to draw a portrait of him as a way to practice realistic portraiture. Whatever became of that drawing is anyone’s guess.
I continued to be a fan throughout the early part of Depp’s Pirates years and even went to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street solely because Depp was in it, even though I knew the film would not stand up to any of the Broadway versions.
So when Depp’s star did truly begin to fall, I was heartbroken.
The Downward Slope
Some might argue that Depp’s downward spiral started around 2010 and 2011, when The Tourist bombed at the box office and Depp did yet another costume-heavy turn as the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately, the latter is also another film I saw solely because of Depp and it was and still is terrible. 2011 also saw yet another entry in the on-life-support Pirates franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Again, it was a film I saw just because Depp’s name was attached and hated it.
While Alice in Wonderland and the later entries in the Pirates series weren’t great, they still found an audience and were able to financially justify themselves by their monetary returns. But 2012 is when Depp truly started becoming a star past his prime. Even though his uncredited role in 21 Jump Street took fans by surprise and made people chuckle, his subsequent role in Dark Shadows bored audiences. His 2013 follow-up,The Lone Ranger, quickly became an infamous bomb. There’s also the fact that Depp was derided by many for taking on the Native American character Tonto and possibly imbuing it with the same stereotypes he said he was trying to erase from the character.
His last “serious” acting role was probably Whitey Bulger in Black Mass in 2015, which was better received than many of his other recent films. But his previous film that year, Mortdecai, was deeply unpopular, with the Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus calling it “aggressively strange and willfully unfunny.”
Even big budget films like Murder on the Orient Express and the Fantastic Beasts series aren’t reviving Depp’s career. Of course, those films have issues beyond Depp, but they do little to instill new and positive thoughts about the actor.
The Fantastic Beasts series, for instance, didn’t do any favors for itself when the first film was released in 2016, the last year before the Me Too era. Even though Depp’s role was a surprise in the film, many people were angered to see him so soon after news broke of physical abuse charges levied by his ex-wife Amber Heard. That anger grew even more heated when Depp wasn’t recast for the sequel. Instead, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter creator and Fantastic Beasts screenwriter, defended the casting decision. As she wrote on her site, “As David Yates, long-time ‘Potter’ director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting. I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen…Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.”
Depp’s latest film, City of Lies, a portrayal of the investigation of the murder of Notorious B.I.G., is also mired in controversy. The film was pulled from its original September 7 release date, according to Deadline, not long after “the film’s location manager sued Depp, accusing the actor of assault and battery on the set in April 2017.” According to The Wrap, the lawsuits continue to rack up, with Israel-based Bank Leumi filing lawsuits against Miramax and Global Road Entertainment, claiming that the bank “is owed millions in unpaid guarantees on the real-life crime drama.”
All of this bad news would be enough for one actor’s career. But for Depp, the problems continue.
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