I Have Lost Faith in Johnny Depp
Posted by: Brad Sturdivant
It seems sacrilege to write anything scathing about one of the nicest, most charming actors in Hollywood, but I guess I’ve finally grown tired of the bad roles Johnny Depp has chosen since he reached galactic fame in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. Even with so many lackluster performances, audiences still love him and many people still hail Depp as their favorite actor. But lately I’ve challenged Depp fans by asking them to be specific in what movies they like of Depp’s. Inevitably, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN is the first response and a good response at that. Depp was/is great as the quirky Jack Sparrow and knowing Sparrow was a creation of Depp’s makes it all the more impressive. Aside from Pirates, we then get a string of Tim Burton movies that people love, but then the list dries up. So I’ve come to the conclusion that audiences love Johnny Depp as long as he’s not being Johnny Depp.
I can’t think of an actor in recent memory that was more famous for playing characters that made them virtually unrecognizable, but Depp has managed to pull it off. Movies where he’s basically being Depp, such as SECRET WINDOW, PUBLIC ENEMIES, THE LIBERTINE, THE TOURIST, etc. have all been mediocre or worse. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Depp being Depp doesn’t work, but for an actor who made a point to choose quirky, unorthodox roles early in his career, he’s making a habit of choosing the blandest, most boring roles possible now that he’s reached A-list status (again, excluding Burton and Pirates films). It’s odd because most actors sell out in the beginning and then do the smaller films after they make their millions (Clooney being the best example of this).
Even going back through his pre-Pirates resume, it’s hard to be impressed. None of his non-Burton or Pirates films have achieved box office success, but most of them haven’t received critical praise either. Until recently, I always chalked up his taste in movies to him rebuking the Hollywood system and wanting to do roles that challenged him as an actor. But now I’m thinking that he just isn’t very good at choosing scripts. Maybe he never really was an actor’s actor that just wanted to do small, character driven pieces like we thought. Maybe he always wanted to be an A-list actor that chose unchallenging, embarrassingly simple roles like THE TOURIST. His inability to carry a non-Burton or Pirates movie on his own is what sets him apart from his A-list counterparts, and not in a good way.
All indicators are that Depp is a class act; a truly great person that people like and like being around. He seems like a nice guy and is arguably the most charismatic actor working today. So it’s tough to sit back and judge his filmography with an unbiased eye. But when you do, you can’t help but be disappointed with what you see. We all know he’s a handsome man and charming in a way that few humans are, but if someone doesn’t help him choose his scripts better, his looks and charm may not be enough to keep audiences coming to the theaters.