Director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp joke that some people in the movie industry say they are like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, two characters made famous by author Lewis Carroll in "Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There," and who appear in the 3-D Disney film, "Alice in Wonderland," which is the 7th collaboration between the pair.
“I don’t think we have ever had a disagreement over the last 10 decades,” Depp, 46, joked during a whirlwind visit to Tokyo this week along with Burton, 51. “Tim is one of the only real auteurs out there, a visionary artist doing what he does -- not because of ambition, but out of artistic passion without compromising. He’s been that way since I first met him on ‘Edward Scissorhands.’ Making a movie with Tim is like being at home in a comfortable place.”
Wearing his trademark gray trilby hat, black-rimmed glasses and lots of accessories, Depp -- named the “Sexiest Man Alive” in 2009 by American magazine People -- said he is always moved by the reception he gets in Japan. His latest visit was his shortest ever -– less than 15 hours. When he arrived at Narita airport in a private jet, more than 1,000 adoring fans greeted him in the terminal at 7 a.m.
“It’s wonderful to come back here. Seeing so many people waiting at the airport is a special treat. There is no warmer welcome anywhere. The degree of belief in what we are doing is magnificent,” he said.
In “Alice in Wonderland,” Depp plays the Mad Hatter, which wasn’t too much of a stretch for him, he confessed. “I think he is a character that has been brewing inside me, ready to show his face. The costume and makeup helps, too. I've always found that to some degree, you are able to reveal parts of yourself a lot easier behind makeup.”
The Mad Hatter is yet another eccentric character in a long list for Depp, but the actor said he doesn’t feel he is repeating himself. “My characters all feel quite different. For me, the main job as an actor -- before you do anything -- is to observe people. There are so many interesting things to see and soak up like a sponge and draw on later. I just love watching people and stealing bits of their behavioral patterns so that I can try and do something different each time for the audience.”
Burton added that he is constantly surprised by Depp’s range. “If you look at pictures of all the characters he has done, there is such an amazing array of characters. When I work with him, each time is like the first time. That is the joy of making movies. It gives me energy and hopefully the audience feels the same thrill.”
“Alice in Wonderland” has been a smash hit in overseas markets, mainly due to the 3-D experience. “3-D and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ seemed like the perfect mix of media and material,” said Burton. “However, that’s not why I wanted to do the project. With all the crazy characters that Lewis Carroll created, what I liked about the story is that it was a about a young girl finding herself and gaining strength, using her dream life and her fantasy life to deal with real issues. Her personal journey is at the core. I can relate to that. There are certain times in your life that are transitional. At 19, you are becoming an adult and dealing with lots of issues. I remember how I didn’t fit into society or with people around me. At that age, you go down your own personal rabbit hole to figure out who you are and that’s why this project appealed to me.”
Depp said that he hasn’t seen the film yet (he seldom watches his own films). “But my kids have. We screened it for them and their friends. They loved the whole premise and walked away thinking I was insane,” he said.
After his brief visit, Depp flew back to Venice where he is completing his next film, “The Tourist,” with Angelina Jolie. After that, he will reprise one of his most famous roles, pirate Capt Jack Sparrow for the 4th installment of the blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” series. Joining him will be Spanish actress Penelope Cruz and Rob Marshall (“Nine”) will take over directorial duties from Gore Verbinski.
Depp said he is often asked how he managed to make it big. “If you have a strong drive and passion for what you are doing and believe in yourself, then anything is absolutely possible. I’ve proven that just from the fact that I came from nowhere and lucked into all this. Somebody handed me the ball and I ran with it. I’m still running with it.”
"Alice in Wonderland" opens in Japan on April 17.© Japan Today