Here are a few things you may not know about Johnny Depp. He likes to bring his 1956 Fender Telecaster electric guitar with him to Japan, he was voted Sexiest Man in the World for 2009 by People magazine, he doesn’t watch his own movies and his grandfather used to run moonshine during the Prohibition era in the U.S.
The 46-year-old star was in Japan this week, his 6th visit here, to promote his latest film, “Public Enemies,” directed by Michael Mann. Ever popular, the quietly-spoken Depp – wearing his trademark shades and gray hat – was greeted by screaming teens from Narita airport to the movie’s Japan premiere at Roppongi Hills. “I always get a beautiful welcome in Japan,” said Depp, who was last here in January 2008 for “Sweeney Todd.”
In “Public Enemies,” Depp plays 1930s bank robber and murderer John Dillinger (1903-1934), who is dogged by G-man Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). French Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") is the naive hat-check girl Billie Frenchette who becomes Dillinger's devoted gun moll). Dillinger's exploits (he robbed more than 20 banks and broke out of prison twice) turned him into a sort of Robin Hood figure before FBI agents shot him dead outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago.
Depp certainly is a devotee. “Dillinger had charisma. That’s what attracted me to the script. He was a very solid man who did what he wanted without thought of compromise,” Depp said. “He was built into a criminal by being jailed for 10 years. Jail was crime school for him and he graduated with flying colors. When he got out, it was the Great Depression. The real enemies were the banks that were foreclosing on everybody. Dillinger’s attitude was ‘I’ll go and get what is mine,’ and he did it with class. If anyone was a public enemy, it was the FBI. Dillinger’s execution outside the Biograph was inexcusable.”
Depp added that he can identify with Dillinger on a lot of levels. “For some reason, I was always fascinated with him. I used to watch a lot of Chaplin and Keaton movies from his era and somehow, Dillinger struck a chord with me that I can’t explain. Maybe it was because my grandfather used to run moonshine during Prohibition. The more I learned about Dillinger, I saw a lot of parallels in our lives and I could have gone in that same direction very easily,” he said. “Sometimes, the cards are laid out. I think one of Dillinger’s traits I have applied to my life is to not allow myself to conform to others’ expectations.”
Under Mann’s direction, “Public Enemies” is meticulous in its detail. Filming was done in the same places where Dillinger had his shootouts with police and FBI agents, the jails he escaped from and places where he laid low. “Mann is an uncompromising, powerful figure,” Depp said of the director. “He’s very passionate about what he wants to get out of scenes and he’ll push the actors to do that, even if it means a bunch of takes. His action scenes were particularly realistic. In one shootout scene, we fired 7,000 rounds and I was constantly getting hit with bits of wood and plastic.”
The movie, which was released in the U.S. in summer, has not got very good reviews overall. That doesn’t bother Depp much. In fact, like most actors, he doesn’t watch his own films. “But I’ve heard good things about it,” he quipped. “In my profession, I just like to do different things and put my spin on it. Sometimes, as an actor, that means traveling to places emotionally that are too close to home. It’s no fun and can be difficult to watch.”
Depp will next be seen as the Mad Hatter in “Alice in Wonderland,” his 7th collaboration with director Tim Burton. That will be followed by “The Rum Diary,” a 4th “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, “Dark Shadows” (again with Burton), and then as Pancho Villa in a new Emir Kusturica biopic about Mexico’s 19th-century bandit-turned-revolutionary.
In between movies, Depp enjoys playing the many vintage guitars in his collection and lives in France with his partner Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two children, Lily-Rose, 10, and Jack, 7. Depp said it is a challenge keeping the horrors of the world from his children. “You turn on the TV and see what’s going on across the globe; that’s more traumatic than anything we do in the movies. It’s getting hard to protect the kids from the reality of what’s going on in the world,” he said.© Japan Today