“Johnny Depp: Unlikely Superstar” by Sean Smith

   Who doesn’t love a good swashbuckling pirate movie? No one! Especially when Johnny Depp stars in the film. Ask any American and most would know who Johnny Depp is. In his article, “Johnny Depp: Unlikely Superstar” Sean Smith writes about Johnny Depp’s acting career, his roots, his tumultuous success in Tinseltown, and how fame and fatherhood has altered his focus.

    With the first few sentences, Smith immediately draws in the reader. “Fatherhood has a way of changing people, even iconoclasts. ‘When I became a dad for the first time, it was like a  veil being lifted,’ Johnny Depp says, as he leans forward, rolling loose tobacco into dark brown paper and using his knee as a table” (860). In these simple, yet jam-packed sentences, Smith presents the iconic actor, as his usual rebel self, rolling a cigarette, yet he’s talking about how wonderful fatherhood is and how it’s  changed him. Such a juxtaposition may seem odd for some, but not for the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow. “I just…there was a long period of confusion and dissatisfaction, because I didn’t understand any of it. There was no purpose to it. . . I was never horribly self-obsessed…but when my daughter was born, suddenly there was clarity. It was the first  purely selfless moment that I had ever experienced” (860). Here, the reader can ascertain that Depp may play a heartless pirate flawlessly, but his true love is family, making him more relatable, tangible and human to his fans than ever before.

   Throughout the article Smith intertwines Depp’s aspiration to act in different, uncommon roles, and the reality of him landing roles that don’t fit his description of an ideal role. “Despite a physical beauty that had studio executives slobbering to make him into a Romantic Leading Man and hordes of teenage girls (and a few boys) dreaming of touching his hair just once, Depp escaped from the Hollywood star machine around 1990, and managed to elude capture for almost two decades. He hid out in strange, sometimes beautiful films, playing unforgettable characters–Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Hunter S. Thompson, GIlbert Grape–in movies that rarely made a dent at the box office” (863). Depp himself can list his poor acting choices, at least according to his critics, “Oh, yeah,” he says, then rolls of the list of crimes: ” ‘That guy can’t open a film. He does all those weird art movies. He works with directors whose names we can’t pronounce.’ ” He smiles. “But there are worse things they could say” (863).

  Despite his odd choice of characters to portray, his gambling has clearly paid off in Captain Jack Sparrow. Even director John Waters says that compared to other actors, moviegoers aren’t tired of Johnny (861).

   Smith provides a look into Depp’s beginnings in Hollywood. He arrived in L.A. broke with his band, and decided to take  a crack at acting at Nicolas Cage’s prodding. He played small roles in films, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Platoon, but signed on for the series 21 Jump Street to pay the bills. He self-destructed due to his time on the TV series, and then went on to a “self-destructive period.” Depp found guidance from mentor Marlon Brando while filming Don Juan DeMarco; Brando helped Depp harness his ‘hillbilly rage.’ (864, 865).

  When Depp fell for French actress-singer Vanessa Paradis, he found bliss; but really it was his daughter entered his life that he became grounded and clarity. “Being a father released him from the pressure of finding meaning and identity exclusively in his work” (865). Depp says, “Now I know where home is” (865). It was Depp’s children that fueled his desire to act in a film that they could enjoy as much as him. Depp played a big role in shaping the character he portrayed, flummoxing his producers and other film executives, but he finally won them over with his idea of a vain, slightly drunken, pirate–and he has done a  fine job playing such a likable fiend.

   Smith’s finally paragraph beautifully concludes the article. ” ‘I think everything happened the way it was meant to happen, but I don’t know why,’  he says. ‘I remember every bump in the road, and I still don’t know how I got here. But who am I to ask why? The fact is, this is where I am. So I enjoy it, salute it and keep moving forward.’ He smiles, a flash of gold. ‘None of it makes any sense to me, but then, why should it?’ ” (867). Even Depp’s inner Sparrow is forever peeking out…

  I admire how Smith is able to write about such a beloved, talented actor that is known and adored by all, for his renowned rebel-without-a-cause persona, that chooses roles that are almost always atypical, and delve beneath his mysterious persona. He is able  get the answers that fans crave. When rumors spread that Depp  was only acting in the Pirate movies because he was broke, Depp easily brushed off such claims.  Depp explains that he never feared about going into debt again, because he felt he had an influential voice. “If I was going to do something, it had to be on my terms–not because I’m a hideous control freak–but because I don’t want to live a lie. You really don’t want to look back on your life and go, ‘I was a complete fraud.’ “(863). Smith strippes away an false pictures of Depp that people may have, making sure that they get  a look at the real Johnny Depp, not the one they’ve heard about. He sets the record straight, and Depp’s fans applaud him for it. Smith’s article shows society who Johnny Depp really is, not the one that has been concocted by critics and naysayers. 


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