Johnny Depp is one of the world’s biggest movie stars in an era where movie stars are a dying breed. Over the course of a career spanning 30 years, Depp has managed to deliver more memorable performances and characters than perhaps any other actor working today.
From Pirates of the Caribbean's Captain Jack Sparrow to the titular Edward Scissorhands to Willy Wonka in The Chocolate Factory, Depp's insistence on portraying quirky, obsessive, sometimes deranged roles has not always been received warmly, but that doesn't stop him. “This is the one. 'This' is the one I'll be remembered for,” he says as Ed Wood. And that is the spirit with which Depp takes on every role.
Depp’s frequent collaborations with director Tim Burton is one of the greatest actor-director pairings of all time, like De Niro and Scorsese, Refn and Gosling, Herzog and Kinski, Fellini and Mastroianni, the partnership has given us some of his wildest roles.
So let today, his 52nd birthday, be remembered as the day we look back on some of Johnny Depp’s wackiest, most iconic roles; all the times he ventured further out of the box than anyone had ever expected, and despite recent failures, continued to deliver committed performances.Edward Scissorhands in Edward Scissorhands
This was the first of his many collaborations with goth-icon Tim Burton. Depp portrays a Frankenstein’s monster of sorts, a classic Burton trope, in a warm fantasy about life, love, loneliness and everything in between.Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Depp played a Hunter S Thompson stand-in in Terry Gilliam’s acid trip of a movie. This would not be the star’s only attempt at the anarchic gonzo-inspired works of Thompson: he played a version of the celebrated writer in 2011’s The Rum Diary and Rango.Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
Johnny Depp’s most iconic role. The swashbuckling, wisecracking, suave pirate propelled him into blockbuster territory, and numerous get-out-of-jail sequels after the failure of new experiments.Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Depp’s odd character choices set apart his Willy Wonka from Gene Wilder’s. He made his Wonka a flamboyant, overgrown child, a combination of Marilyn Manson and Michael Jackson.Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
This collaboration with Tim Burton won Depp his Golden Globe. His portrayal of a deranged, murderous barber who makes minced pies out of his clients, was a glorious representation of Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical.
The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland
Depp’s portrayal of the Lewis Carroll character continued his trend of playing psychedelic variations of iconic parts. His Mad Hatter was bi-polar, transforming into an angry Scottish gangster from a lovable fool every time the going got tough.Rango in Rango
This quirky, existentialist animated film curiously featured one of the best recent Depp performances. Somehow, Depp and his Pirates director Gore Verbinski managed to put together a cartoon movie featuring not cuddly animals but dirty vermin, in a plot inspired by classic Sergio Leone westerns and Chinatown and won an Oscar for it.Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows
This time, Depp and Burton tackled a rather horrible vampire soap opera from decades ago and turned it into an ode to an era and a curiously jumbled vampire comedy. It proved less than immortal at the box-office though, but Depp, as usual gave a supremely dedicated performance.Tonto in The Lone Ranger
Trying to emulate the success of the Pirates franchise, Disney set into motion a grand western by the same team. A greatly misunderstood film, it lost millions for Disney, but deserves a second chance for Depp’s deeply melancholic performance and that stunning action sequence atop speeding trains set to the classic Overture theme.Charlie Mortdecai in Mortdecai
The universally panned Mordecai proved to be a new low for Depp fronted movies, making about half its production budget. Despite the toxic levels of eccentricity, Depp’s performance maintained a consistently committed pitch throughout the movie.