Today, I create a new semi-regular feature on this blog. I call it the “Let Me Fix the Downward Spiral That is Your Current Career” feature.
What this means — I will, whenever I feel like it, dedicate a post to an actor who I would like to make movies other than the ones he or she is currently making. These actors may actually be in a serious career slump, or they may simply be making choices that are stupid and make me sad. Regardless, I will tell you why I don’t like what they’re currently doing and what I wish they would do instead.
Today’s Featured Actor?
You have to understand: I love Johnny Depp. I used to have this, like, entire wall-sized poster of him in my living room — it was, roughly, the size of three or four normal posters, and all Johnny Depp was doing in it was soulfully playing the piano, but I loved it. And yet when we moved, I knew I didn’t want to dedicate the space to him anymore because — pretty and talented as he is — I haven’t been interested in one of his movies in years. The last one I saw, I think, was Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street back in 2007. (Which was . . . okay, I guess? I’d have to watch it again. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting.)
But I wonder if the trouble might not have started even earlier, right after Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, as a matter of fact. First off, this is the only Pirates movie that should have been made, period. I mean, I know it’s easy saying that in retrospect and all, but it’s true: Dead Man’s Chest was overcomplicated and ridiculous and At World’s End wasn’t a whole lot better. I never even saw the fourth one, and I still have absolutely no interest in ever doing so.
But it also feels sometimes like the success of his Awesome Crazy in The Curse of the Black Pearl might have gone to Depp’s head a little because in a lot of his movies since — At World’s End, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, Dark Shadows, The Lone Ranger — he doesn’t seem to have the ability to edit himself anymore, to pull back from the outrageous and think, “Hmm, maybe this actually isn’t such a good idea. Maybe instead of looking like a talented character actor, I just look like a crazy person that no one has the balls to reign in.”
And you say, Carlie, you can’t say that about movies you haven’t watched all the way through yet, certainly not about The Lone Ranger, which doesn’t even hit THEATERS until this summer. And to that, I offer this as a rebuttal:
And I think I win.
What I Want To See Instead:
I’d really like to see Johnny Depp do something restrained again, something that’s actually about the character and not the spectacle. I want him to play a supporting role and actually be a supporting role, instead of trying to hijack the movie with his ridiculousness. The thing about the first Pirates: Depp sort of stole the movie from Orlando Bloom, but I never got the impression that he was trying to showboat. He just had this crazy idea for how to play Captain Jack Sparrow, and — to everyone’s shock — it worked. But now I feel like he — or maybe the studios behind him — keep trying to replicate that success, and most of the movies that he’s in have become about being an even Crazier Hero, no matter what part he’s actually playing.
Recently, I’ve been considering trying out Gosford Park again– I had mixed feelings, the first time I saw it, but it’s been about a decade now — and I was thinking that something like that, a quiet English murder mystery and a big ensemble piece, would be just the kind of thing I’d like to see Johnny Depp in. Something where he’s much more restrained, something where he’s pulled back but still acting — it would be a little like watching Helena Bonham-Carter in The King’s Speech after watching her play Bellatrix Lestrange for all those years. (Note: I love Bellatrix Lestrange. It was simply refreshing to see Bonham-Carter do something very different, as this would be.)
In this English murder mystery — almost certainly a period piece — I wouldn’t care exactly what role Johnny Depp played, as long as he wasn’t the murderer or the super detective. He could be a suspect. He could be a servant. He could be the victim. Just an honest-to-God supporting role.
And — as an incentive for him — he can have an accent.
I miss you, Johnny Depp. Please come back from the Dark Side.