x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The 50 shades of Johnny Depp

On June 9, John Christopher Depp II will celebrate his 50th birthday - just a few weeks before the release of his latest movie, The Lone Ranger.

Johnny Depp. Chris Pizzello / AP
Johnny Depp. Chris Pizzello / AP

On June 9, John Christopher Depp II will celebrate his 50th birthday - just a few weeks before the release of his latest movie, The Lone Ranger.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

After meeting Nicolas Cage, who advised him to try acting, 21-year-old Depp won a small role in Wes Craven's classic horror movie. He plays Glen, the boyfriend of the heroine Nancy, and ultimately one of evil Freddy Kreuger's victims. Forgetting that he can't go to sleep because Freddy attacks teenagers in their nightmares, poor Glen nods off and is sucked into his bed, his blood gushing to the ceiling. A memorable, if somewhat gory, feature film debut.

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

While Depp followed Elm Street with a small role in Platoon and the lead in John Waters' Cry-Baby (spoofing his teen idol status as a 1950s brooding rebel), it was his stunning performance in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands that got people to sit up and take notice. As the creation of the Inventor (Vincent Price) who died before he could finish, leaving Edward with scissors for hands, he's heartbreaking, perfectly capturing the innocent boy-man who is brought down from his hideaway and falls in love with his rescuer's daughter (Winona Ryder). It remains one of Burton's, and Depp's, best movies.

What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)

One of three Depp movies released in 1993 (the others are the surreal drama Arizona Dream and the cute Benny & Joon), this drama from Lasse Hallstrom teamed Depp with a 19-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio, in only his second major film role. Depp stars as Gilbert, who cares for his mentally challenged brother Arnie (DiCaprio) because their mother (Darlene Cates) is morbidly obese and unable to leave their farmhouse. A really sweet, tender gem, this also starred Juliet Lewis and Mary Steenburgen.

Donnie Brasco (1997)

Mike Newell directed this gripping crime drama based on the true story of an FBI undercover agent who infiltrated the mob and befriended one of the Mafia's "soldiers" (Al Pacino), risking his marriage and career when he got in so deep he began to sympathise with the men he was meant to be exposing. Set in the late 1970s - cue lots of leather jackets with massive lapels - the movie also stars Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby and Anne Heche as Donnie's wife.

Ed Wood (1994)

Edward Scissorhands' director Tim Burton's second collaboration with Depp has the actor starring as the infamous "worst director of all time", Ed Wood, best known for his minuscule-budget movie Plan 9 From Outer Space. The black-and-white film follows the director as he attempts to make the movie, casting an ageing and forgotten Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau) in the lead role, and reveals his quirky group of friends, including Bill Murray as Bunny Breckinridge. Following on from the film's critical success (it won Academy Awards for Landau and Make-Up), Burton and Depp reteamed for 1999's Sleepy Hollow, 2005's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride, 2007's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, 2010's Alice in Wonderland and 2012's Dark Shadows.

The Brave (1997)

Based on the Gregory McDonald novel of the same name, this movie marked Johnny Depp's directorial debut, and he also co-wrote the script with his brother and Paul McCudden. While not wholly successful (it's very slow), it's nonetheless an interesting debut, telling the story of a native American named Raphael (Depp), who, seeing no other way to provide for his family, agrees to star in a snuff film that will lead to his own death. Marlon Brando - an idol of Depp's (the pair had starred together in 1995's Don Juan DeMarco) - co-stars.

Blow (2001)

Another true story for Depp, this time based on the life of George Jung, who starts off as a petty marijuana dealer in the 1960s and, after a prison spell, gets rich transporting cocaine from South America into the United States. Directed by Ted Demme, it's an interesting movie that charts George's rise to major drug trafficker for the Medellin cartel led by the infamous Pablo Escobar, and his subsequent fall when everyone starts to betray him. While the film itself received mixed reviews - it's too reminiscent of Boogie Nights and Goodfellas, for starters - once again Depp was deservedly praised for his gripping performance.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Depp isn't even the lead in this movie, but he steals the film from his co-stars as the pirate Jack Sparrow (his performance reportedly modelled on the rock star Keith Richards, who was hired to play Jack's dad in one of the sequels). With dreadlocked hair, a gruff, mid-Atlantic accent and heaps of swagger and charisma, he's the one who turned this film (based on the Disneyland ride of the same name) into a mega-success that spawned three sequels. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are the young couple Jack becomes involved with as he attempts to steal back his beloved ship The Black Pearl from his fellow pirate Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

Finding Neverland (2004)

After becoming a megastar thanks to Jack Sparrow, Depp returned to more low-key fare for his next few movies, including two period dramas, The Libertine and Finding Neverland - the story of JM Barrie's friendship with a young widow and her sons, who inspired him to create Peter Pan. Kate Winslet co-stars with Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie and Freddie Highmore (as the inspiration for Peter) in this lovely movie that earned Depp his second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (he had previously been nominated for Pirates of the Caribbean, and has since been nominated for Sweeney Todd).

Rango (2011)

A dad of two, Depp reteamed with his Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski for the animated family movie Rango, the story of a pet chameleon who ends up in a sort of reptile Wild West populated by evil gun-slinging snakes, spider undertakers and lizard henchmen. Certainly not for younger kids, it's a quirky adventure - that won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature - that's most appealing for older boys and Western fans. Isla Fisher and Ned Beatty also provide voices alongside Depp as Rango.

hberger@thenational.ae

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