Favourite Johnny Depp Character?

Still working on my review of 21 Jump Street which should be up in the next couple of days. In the meantime I leave you with this video of WatchMojo.com‘s Top 10 Johnny Depp Performances. 

As far as characters go, I think my favourite is Depp’s Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for over the top character with Ed Wood and Jack Sparrow close seconds.

If we’re talking great straight up performances, I think his role in Donnie Brasco as the undercover cop and his relationship with Al Pacino‘s ‘Lefty’ Ruggiero is Oscar worthy more so than his nomination for Pirates of the Caribbean.

Do you have a favourite?

Platoon (1986)

Just a little disclaimer for anyone stumbling upon this review via a search engine. This is the third in a series of reviews discussing Johnny Depp’s acting career. If you’re looking for straight up review of the movie Platoon, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.

Oliver Stone's Platoon

Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986)

Written and directed by Oliver Stone, Platoon is based on his own experience in the Vietnam War. The film was initially released at Christmas in 1986 in order to qualify for the all important award season. It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won 4 including Best Picture and Best Director as well as Best Sound and Best Film Editing. Platoon was followed later in 1987 by Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) John Irvin’s Hamburger Hill (1987) both of which featured the Vietnam War as well.

Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen as Chris Taylor

The plot revolves around naive college-aged Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) who volunteers to serve as an infantry man in Vietnam. While the main arc of the story follows Taylor’s transformation from a wide-eyed “cherry” that the regulars ridicule and devalue to a man of action, hardened by the grim realities of war, the plot is driven by the war itself and intense rivalry between Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) and Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger).

Johnny Depp as Pvt. Gator Lerner

Depp’s youthful soldier – Pvt Gator Lerner

Depp turns up in Platoon in a blink-and-you-might-miss-him role as Pvt Gator Lerner,  the platoon’s interpreter. Despite this being his third film, he looks almost younger than in either A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) or Private Resort (1985) and manages to portray the innocent clean cut American soldier by just walking through the shot.

Lerner Interpreting for Sgt. Barnes

Lerner Interpreting for Sgt. Barnes

Depp’s screen time is limited to two key scenes – the encounter with the villagers where he acts as interpreter and later when he is wounded in the ambush and rescued by Taylor (Charlie Sheen). He pops up in a few other scenes in the background mostly, but if you look hard you catch a glimpse of the real Johnny in the scene during the drug den at base camp when Taylor and King enter. Johnny’s character Gator is sitting on the couch with a guitar and smoking up next to another soldier hot-boxing in a gas mask. This version of Gator appears nothing like the other “clean-cut” version we see in the field – here Gator exhibits more of the Depp flair for fashion that we’ve become accustomed to over the years. He’s sporting a bandanna (pre-Jack Sparrow!), his tattoos are visible in his white wife-beater t-shirt and if it’s not a trick of the light, there might even be some sign of that Johnny Depp scraggly facial growth that he somehow manages to make look manly.

Johnny depp as Lerner

Want a toke?

It’s little wonder that Depp is but a bit player in this movie awash in talented actors with larger parts. Besides the leads Tom Berenger (Sgt. Barnes), Willem Dafoe (Sgt. Elias), and Charlie Sheen (who actually looked like a serious thespian in this movie) the supporting cast is fabulous. Keith David plays the paternal King who takes Sheen’s Taylor under his wing, Forest Whitaker turns up as lovable Big Harold, Kevin Dillon is riveting as the shotgun wielding redneck Bunny, Francesco Quinn as the philosophical drug king Rhah, and John C. McGinley as the fast talking, brown-nosing Sgt O’Neill all command more screen time and juicier roles than Depp and his fellow background players.

Wounded in Action - Lerner being EVACed.

Wounded in Action – Lerner being EVACed.

In Platoon Depp, like his character Lerner, is doing his part, paying his dues and biding his time until he comes into his own. In an Actor’s Studio interview Depp reveals that this film, shot in the Philippines, was his first opportunity to travel outside of the US.

On returning from filming Platoon, Depp received his next big break in his acting career by landing the role of Officer Tom Hanson in an undercover cop drama 21 Jumpstreet that was being debuted by the fledgling Fox network. It’s also coincidentally the topic of discussion for next week’s installment in my year long review of Depp’s acting career.

Edit: Not sure what happeend with the pics in the original post, but they turned out a lot darker than the screen caps originally looked. I’ve since lightened a few of them, hopes it a little more readible now.

 

Private Resort (1985)

Private Resort (1985)

Private Resort (1985)

The second film in my year of watching Johnny Depp films is the 1985 comedy Private Resort that features Johnny and Rob Morrow as two horn dog teenagers (early 20s?) that spend a weekend at posh resort trying to nail anything that moves. (Wow, I think I just slipped into 1980s speak there for a minute, does anyone actually use the phrases horn dog and nail anymore?) The plot, what little there is of it, is further complicated by the Maestro, a would-be jewel thief played by Hector Elizondo, and his wife Bobbie Sue (Leslie Easterbrook) who are at the resort to steal a diamond from wealthy grandmother.

Rob and Johnny on the Prowl

Rob and Johnny on the Prowl

The opening scene of Jack (Johnny Depp) and Ben (Rob Morrow) arriving at the resort and sizing up the pool-side bikini clad guests leaves you feeling like you walked into the movie late. There’s no context to their relationship or what they are doing at the resort other than trying to get laid and I suppose that’s the point. No mention is made of whether they are rich kids out for a lark or middle class kids crashing the place. At least the director and writer make it clear up front that this is the level of plot and character development that you can expect for the rest of the movie.

Its hard to believe that there was a time before internet porn where the promise of a flash of a bit of skin and sexual innuendo was enough to get people, well teenage boys at least, to part with their cash. As far as 1980s sex comedies go Private Resort (1985) is close to scrapping the bottom of the barrel. I’d have to argue that Revenge of the Nerds (1984), Porky’s (1982), Zapped (1982), and perhaps even Spring Break (1983) are much better examples of the T&A genre from that period.

Boxer or Briefs? Johnny bears it all in the name of art.

Boxer or Briefs? Johnny bears it all in the name of art.

To the film’s credit the nudity is equal opportunity with both Rob Morrow and Johnny Depp dropping trouser and flashing their pasty white backsides in the name of their art.

The situational and physical comedy in this film is so ridiculous its as if the writer or director were trying to shoehorn their childhood memories of Marx Brothers films or maybe Three Stooges short into a modern comedy. It all falls so amazingly flat that it was painful to watch. I was so desperate to laugh or smile at least one joke or gag, but it never came. The closest scene to prying a smile from my frowning lips was during an absurd fight between the House Detective, Reeves played by stage actor Tony Azito, and the hotel Barber played by the German-accented Ron House. The scene was like some tired skit that you might find on Saturday Night Live, but at least the two actors were committed to the scene and their characters.

Andrew “Dice” Clay also pops up in the film as Curt, a meathead womanizer, that crosses paths with Johnny and Rob in what is meant to be a farcical scene, but just had me cringing. Mainly at the display of Clay’s back hair and how high up he has his boxers hiked. You can thank me later for sparing you a screen capture of that scene!

Johnny and Rob carry the movie as best they can given the material and have decent chemistry on the screen as friends. While some of Depp’s charm with the ladies comes through, it feels awkward when he’s hitting on the older women in the movie like Bobbie Sue.

The movie predictably ends with the jewel thief foiled and the boys finding true love. Aww.

I have to admit that Private Resort had me seriously reconsidering my decision to watch all 43 of Johnny Depp’s films this year. In the end it wasn’t Depp’s acting or screen charisma that got me through the flick, but rather a boy-ish looking Rob Morrow and his 100 Watt smile. Its a bit goofy, but also charming in a way this film wasn’t.

Rob Morrow as Ben

Smile Rob, Smile!

Up next on the list is Oliver Stone’s mainstream breakout film Platoon in which Johnny plays Pvt. Gator Lerner to Charlie Sheen’s Chris Taylor.

 

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

A Nightmare on Elm Street - Poster

Poster for A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Before Johnny Depp became the Johnny Depp we’ve come to know and love for his unique characters that fall outside society’s norms, he played the clean-cut, prep/jock, boy next door Glen Lantz in the 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street. His role in this movie consists of being the supportive, good-looking (but non-threatening), boyfriend to Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy.

The movie itself revolves around four teens who are having nightmares that involve the same disfigured man who wears a glove with knife-like fingers on one hand. While invading their dreams, Freddy Kruger has the ability to affect them in the real world, and begins to pick them off one by one. Afraid to sleep, Nancy tries to devise a plot to capture Freddy, only to discover the truth behind who Kruger is and why he’s haunting Nancy.

Being of a certain age, I had the pleasure of seeing Nightmare on the big screen many moons ago when it first debuted. Actually, I saw it at the local Drive-In complete with screaming teenage girls in the back of a pick-up truck, but that’s a story for another time. When it was first released it was a very enjoyable flick and memorable for its creepy atmosphere and unique premise of a killer haunting your dreams. In terms a younger generation might appreciate, Freddy Kruger and A Nightmare on Elm was the equivalent of what Jigsaw and the SAW franchise is today.

Watching A Nightmare on Elm Street a second time around, it’s a lot harder to love it as much as the first time, partly because its harder to look past the bad 80s fashions, old school special effects, and ancient artifacts like boomboxes, rotary dial phones, and portable tv’s.

Glen's got a rad mixed tape he would just love you to hear.

Glen’s got a rad mixed tape he would just love you to hear.

Johnny has said in interviews that he took the role basically to support his music career and had no real desire to become a full-time actor. In a way we have Nic Cage to thank for Johnny Depp’s career, since it was Cage who first introduced him to a casting agent that eventually led him to the role in A Nightmare on Elm Street. He looks so young in this movie, you can almost believe he’s in his teens watching it now despite that he was likely 20 at the time of filming.

That's can't be comfortable!

That’s can’t be comfortable!

Depp’s performance as Glen doesn’t stand out in a way that might lead you to think he would go on to have a long career in Hollywood, but it’s probably a good thing that none of the trademark Depp eccentricities came out in his portrayal of boyfriend who eventually meets his demise by being sucked through his bed, portable TV, stereo turntable and all only to be regurgitated as some kind of human slurry. I’m no CSI-like scientist but I am pretty sure even if you could put a human into some sort of giant blender it would be physically impossible to create the sheer volume of goo that is produced in that scene.

Surprisingly there are only 4 deaths in the movie, Tina, Rod, Glen, and Nancy’s alcoholic Mom, but its not the deaths that are so memorable as the interludes between the deaths. The scene where the body of Tina is dragged through the school in a body bag by an invisible hand, leaving a gruesome blood trail for Nancy to follow is creepy as hell and was one of the scenes I vividly remember from nearly 30 years ago watching this.

Someone to watch over me.

Someone to watch over me.

Other old school effects like the scene where Freddy menaces Nancy through what looks like an Olympic sized dental dam on the ceiling may be dated but are still creepy looking even if they would be rendered in CGI today.

While I have not seen the 2010 remake (and hope never to have the misfortune to) the original still holds a fond place in my heart equally for the acting debut of Johnny Depp as well as the memories of those teen years that it invokes.

Tune in next week when I review the 1985 comedic masterpiece Private Resort in which Depp teams up with Rob Morrow (Numb3rs, Northern Exposure) to chase girls and get mixed up in a jewel heist gone wrong.

Welcome to a Year of Living Depp-erously.

So despite having both a website  Andy’s Anachronisms since 1999 and a personal journal over at LiveJournal since 2003, I felt the overwhelming urge to join the masses and start my own blog in 2013.

What prompted this awakening you ask?

Well, besided the fact that I have owned the SooGuy.com domain for a few years now and have done nothing with it, I was looking for an outlet to post my ramblings on topics other than Time Travel (see Andy’s Anachronisms).

Yes, fine, but why now?

Well, I was stuck today with belated New Year’s resolution fevor, asking myself what challenge could I possible take up for 2013 that would be just the right kind of crazy and not actually benefit myself in a way what so ever. Then it hit me…

I could spend the year reviewing all of Johnny Depp‘s films from his humble beginnings as a hapless victim of Freddy Kruger in Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984 all the way up to his turn as Tonto in The Lone Ranger this coming summer.

Yes, you heard me correctly – Johnny Depp  as Tonto. Go ahead, I’ll wait right here while your head explodes as you digest that.

Okay, so why Depp? Why not Robert Redford, or Robert DeNiro, or Meryl Streep, or hell, even Bruce Willis?

Well not that there is anything wrong with any of those fine actors and their films, but I’ve always had an affinity for Johnny Depp and his acting. I don’t think its a stretch to say that of my generation Depp has been the most versatile and one of the most prolific actors. He’s fearless, eschewing the Hollywood machine, taking on characters and roles that appeal to him regardless of their box office potential. He can gender bend with best, playing characters as masucline or as a feminine as the role requires and audiences love him. That and June 9th, 2013 will mark Depp’s 50th birthday. So what a better way to celebrate the man’s 50th birthday and a nearly 30 year career making movies than with a retrospective of his body of work.

I first became interested in Depp as an actor around the time that 21 Jump Street was on the air in the late 1980s. He’s screen presence was unmistakable and I followed him into the movies when he took on starring roles like Edward Scissorhands in the early 1990s. While I am a huge fan of his work, I’ll admit I have not seen all of his films. For whatever reason, school, work, other life commitments I have gaps in my Depp Filmography. For this reason too I will enjoy trying to squeeze in all of his films.

Looking through the Internet Movie Database today I counted about 43 films that Depp had a role in. That’s almost a film a week to review. I plan on doing them chronologically as much as I can starting with 1984’s Nightmare on Elm Street.

Let the madness begin…