Following the recent news that Johnny Depp is up for playing Captain Jack Sparrow for the interminable future, swashbuckling under the weight of the audience’s expectations rather than rinsing it for the money, apparently, we thought it was high time we took a look back at his best moments since he stepped onto a movie set in 1984.
If there’s going to be a dearth of interesting new characters for the forseeable thanks to the Bruckheimer / Disney juggernaut, we thought we’d revisit his classics, in no particular chronological or logical order. Let us know yours below.
Raoul Duke (Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, 1997)
May as well get the obvious one out the way first. The guy – based as I’m sure you know on Gonzo king Hunter S Thompson – rocks up to Vegas, dressed as a Florida fisherman going through a midlife crisis and carrying enough drugs to sedate a whale, rampages aimlessly through the town with a typewriter, a 300 pound Samoan, and the bendable gait of a Stone Circle survivor, before strapping a dinosaur tail onto himself, ruining a hotel suite, trying to buy an orangutan and even finding time to make Tobey Maguire shit himself. They really don’t make ‘em like that any more.
Sheldon Sands (Once Upon A Time In Mexico, 2003)
The third installment of Machete director Robert Rodriguez’ Mariachi Trilogy sees Depp cast as Sheldon Sands, the sociopathic anti-hero of the film whose name Depp chose himself and whose occasional wit served as a sign of what was to come with Sparrow. Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek take the other leads, but Depp owns this, not least after the point when he – spoiler alert – gets his eyeballs removed. He looked pretty cool too.
The Mad Hatter (Alice In Wonderland, 2010)
A role practically purpose built for Depp and a perfect chance for redemption following his underwhelming dip into similar fantastical territory as Willy Wonka, Tim Burton’s take on Lewis Carroll’s f’ed up mind provided ample fodder for Depp’s imagination and he turned in the best CGI-free performance of the film. And it was perhaps the quieter, more pensive faces that breathed life into the character above the general lunatic tomfoolery.
Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands, 1990)
Not only can he pick locks, carve ice scultpures, and give dogs camp haircuts with his bare (scissor) hands, but the Tim Burton Christ-like figure had Horrors hair waaay before Faris.
William Blake (Dead Man, 1995)
In which Depp plays a pretty straight man for Jim Jarmusch in the classic black and white acid western, but makes the role completely his own as usual. Can’t think of many other exciting accountants in cinema. Neil Young did the soundtrack.
Edward D. Wood Jr (Ed Wood, 1994)
A year earlier and Depp pulled a brilliant comic performance as cross-dressing film director Ed Wood. Who directed it? Tim Burton of course. Also stars Sarah Jessica Parker back before she was portaying airhead socialites in mildly racist girlie flicks.
Bon Bon (Before Night Falls, 2000)
Depp pulls off another challenging transvestite role (or roles), in the Javier Bardem-starring biopic of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas, featuring some man-on-man action that only seems to exist on Youtube as fan videos accompanied by inappropriate music, in this case Aerosmith:
Wade ‘Cry Baby’ Walker (Cry Baby, 1990)
Johnny Depp took the role in John Waters’ high school Grease-mocking classic as an attempt to shrug off his teen heartthrob status, which didn’t really work. He did manage to just about smoulder while crying though, and made Travolta look like the steaming slice of ham he was. Iggy Pop was also in the film but, pop question, which other film on the list did they both star in?
Glen Lantz, (A Nightmare On Elm Street, 1984)
His first major role gets a spot just for the death scene really.
George Jung (Blow, 2001)
OK so you need someone to play a long-haired Californian dude who dabbles in weed and blow, starts smuggling both across the border, racks up as many millions and he does lines and lives the rock star lifestyle to match. You’re not exactly going to call Martin Freeman are you? But while Depp was a perfect fit for Blow’s high speed story of drug smuggling, glamour and being married to Penelope Cruz, it’s the latter half of the film – the deaths, the downfall, the prison and the heartache where he really shines.
Depp has found time for a few other personas while in Sparrow’s boots – the role of Paul Kemp in Hunter S Thompson’s classic novel The Rum Diary should be one to look out for on its release in October, and he’s also playing vampire Barnabas Collins in the Tim Burton remake of Dark Shadows. He’s also signed up as Tonto for The Lone Ranger and is making a film about Keith Richards.