NME looks back at higlights from the actor's chameleon-like career
Last year Depp gave his best performance for ages in crime biopic Black Mass. Now he’s released an apology video to the whole of Australia over his dog-smuggling debacle. It’s safe to say he’s been busy. So let’s take a look back at Johnny Depp’s career highlights to date. As you’d expect, there are quite a few Tim Burton films in this gallery.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
In the first of his eight collaborations with Tim Burton, Depp plays an artificial man whose creator dies before he has time to finish his hands. The character’s distinctive look has become classic Halloween costume fodder, but behind the black leather and bird’s nest hair (modelled on The Cure’s Robert Smith) lies a sensitive and charming Depp performance.
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
This coming-of-age drama is often remembered for Leonardo DiCaprio’s powerhouse performance as Arnie Grape, a young man growing up with a developmental disability in a small Iowan town. But Depp is impressive too as his protective older brother, Gilbert, anchoring the film with an affecting sense of melancholy.
Ed Wood (1994)
It flopped at the time, but Tim Burton’s lively biopic of eccentric filmmaker Ed Wood is well worth seeking out. Depp deservedly earned a Golden Globe nomination for his funny but affectionate performance as Wood, bringing likability to a man often branded “the worst director of all time”.
Dead Man (1995)
This surreal western from revered indie director Jim Jarmusch wasn’t a huge hit either, but Depp’s lead performance ranks among the actor’s best. He conveys his character’s gradual transformation from meek accountant to outlawed gunslinger with complete conviction.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
Depp bounces off Al Pacino brilliantly in this acclaimed crime drama based on a real-life story. He plays Joseph D. Pistone, an undercover agent who infiltrated the Mafia in 1970s New York by winning (and ultimately betraying) the confidence of Pacino’s ageing hitman, Lefty Ruggiero.
Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)
Terry Gilliam’s adaptation of the classic Hunter S. Thompson novel performed poorly when it opened in cinemas, but has since become something of a a cult classic. Though Depp and director reportedly clashed during shooting, Gilliam later hailed the actor’s memorably manic performance as “phenomenal”.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Tim Burton’s horror flick based on Washington Irving’s short story earned lots of praise for its lavish visuals, but Depp never gets lost in the gothic eye candy. Playing a New York cop sent to a remote village to investigate a series of murders by a mysterious headless horseman, he gives a finely-tuned and whimsically amusing performance.
Sure, this cocoa-themed romantic drama is about as substantial as a bag of Maltesers, but it’s enriched by delicious performances from Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench and Johnny Depp, who’s perfectly cast as a roguishly attractive love interest. Honestly, this one’s a lot better than you think.
A classic case of a great performance in a pretty average film. This biopic of infamous cocaine smuggler George Jung is uneven and sometimes a bit tedious, but Depp is completely convincing as he portrays the criminal’s shocking rise and crushing fall. After Jung was released from prison last year, Depp invited him over to his New York pad for a catch-up.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl (2003)
Disney bigwigs were initially sceptical about Depp’s depiction of Captain Jack Sparrow, asking: “What is that thing? Is it drunk, is it gay?” But the actor enjoyed the last laugh when his swaggering performance based on The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards earned him an Oscar nomination.
Finding Neverland (2004)
Depp bagged another Oscar nomination for his performance as Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie in this acclaimed semi-biographical drama. His subtle, understated approach to a potentially tricky role is a winning riposte to critics who claim he can only really play flashy or eccentric characters.
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (2004)
Tim Burton’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s book split opinion, and so did Depp’s take on Willy Wonka. Was this the actor at his weird and wonderful best – or was he trying a bit too hard to be freaky? Either way, it’s not a performance you’ll forget in a hurry.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007)
Starring in Tim Burton’s movie version of the gory Sondheim musical was a big risk for Depp. He’d never sung on screen before, so it could all have been a bit embarrassing (cf. Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia!). But after taking voice lessons for the role, Depp pulled it off and earned an Oscar nod for his creepy performance.
Alice In Wonderland (2010)
Despite mixed reviews, this Lewis Carroll adaptation became the first Tim Burton film to gross $1 billion at the box office. Behind the garish hair and make-up, Depp’s take on the Mad Hatter is almost understated, especially next to scene-stealing turns from Helena Bonham Carter and Anne Hathaway. All three actors return in next year’s sequel.
Black Mass (2015)
Depp adopts a broad Boston accent and rocks an unflattering haircut for his role as notorious mobster James “Whitey” Bulger. But it’s not just his superficial transformation that’s remarkable; the actor really gets beneath the skin of this ruthless criminal and should scoop a fourth Oscar nomination for his gripping performance.