Inside the Actor’s Studio – Johnny Depp
Directed by Jeff Wurtz
Starring Johnny Depp, James Lipton
Inside the Actor’s Studio: The Depth of Depp
Over the years, Johnny Depp and I have enjoyed a healthy, long-term, committed relationship. And by ‘healthy’, ‘long term,’ and ‘committed’, I of course mean ‘unhealthy’, ‘obsessive,’ and ‘stalkee-stalker’ respectively. My admiration for the man goes beyond the realms of sanity.
Currently, his movies occupy the 4th, 9th, 13th, and 25th positions on my Top 50 List. His creative processes, personal philosophies, and overall outlook have all been a source of inspiration to me personally.
It is fitting, then, that my first review published by someone other than myself is James Lipton‘s quest to lead us all into the psyche of the Teen-Idol turned Hollywood Rebel turned Acting Legend that is Johnny Depp.
The world of video interviewing consists of several styles. There is the Pop Culture Talk Show Interview that consists mainly of humorous antectdotes, rambling banter, and the plug of a new movie, show, book, or plea of insanity. There is the Larry King School of Comfort interview where the interviewer’s job is to relax the interviewee into a casual conversation and get answers to the questions that intrigue the audience. Finally, there is the James Lipton School of Exhaustiveness where every possible question is meticulously researched, written on blue index cards, and delivered to the subject in biographical and chronological order.
The advantage of Lipton’s style is the assurance that every topic revolving around the interviewee is approached. The disadvantage is that it makes for very boring television. As a result, the original filming of each episode poses a nightmare to editor Jeff Wurtz. In some instances, as with the instance of Johnny Depp, there is a profusion of knowledge to be had (fitting for the student audience that sits in on the show), and no way to fit all of it into the allotted forty-five minutes. The result is a patchwork of information where answers and questions don’t seem to add up and elaborations on answers are lost. The insights that fell to the editing floor in this particular epsiode are likely as intriguing as anything in the Martin Lawrence or Matt Damon iterations (the former being little more than a class clown, and the latter being a poster boy for Hollywood smugness).
However, that lone weakness in this DVD speaks volumes to its strengths. James Lipton interviewing Johnny Depp is intrigue incarnate. It is for those that find passion in the passions of others; it is food for the creative spirit; it feeds that unquenchable desire for knowledge, insight, and inspiration; it is fodder for writing long run-on sentences riddled with semicolons.
As always, we begin at the beginning…
The DVD opens with an introduction from Lipton that was not a part of the original broadcast. He divulges on the experience — the mob scene outside of the studio, the standing-room-only audience inside the studio, and the ovations Depp received during the interview. The original broadcast airs with Johnny Depp entering stage left, and sparking up a rolley (Bali Shag, for those interested). From there, Depp is immediately stretched out on a table, sliced from scrag to scrotum, and explored from inside-out by Lipton himself. Depp’s roots and Native American ancestry are touched upon before delving into his career, and the admirable decision to move away from mainstream, leading-man roles. His reasoning is admirable, if not financially misinformed. Tom Cruise should be sending a gift basket to Depp every Christmas for avoiding his corporate machine. If he hadn’t, film audiences might be remembering Depp for A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, and Mission Impossible.
What is your favorite curse word?
The most intriguing conversation between Lipton and Depp is not in the number of tattoos (9), his favorite curse word (sh!t), or his desired response from God (“Wow!”), but how Depp prepares for a role. This is where Lipton reaches into his dissected subject, pulls out a large heaving mass, and violently declares to the audience, “This is what genius looks like!” Despite having only taken a few acting classes, Depp has an almost metaphysical grasp (he likens acting study to seeking religion) of what it takes to portray a character. When developing characters, Depp feeds off of imagery that he associates with the source material. For Edward Scissorhands, he envisioned a newborn baby, and his unconditionally loyal dog. For Ed Wood, he used Ronald Regan, The Tin Man, and Casey Kasem. When he portrayed Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he spent two months in Thompson’s basement using God-knows-what chemical enhancements to create visions of indisputably unspeakable horrors. Truly, he is a man dedicated to his craft.
Here are your students…
Mixing method and system, Strassberg and Chekhov, angora sweaters and pre-pubescent girls, Depp has built foundations for characters that act as building blocks for an enviable career. While this episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio lacks the pizzazz of a guest like Robin Williams or the star power of Tom Hanks, no interview fits the title of the series like Johnny Depp. The viewer will learn more about acting here than they could possibly hope to from the more popular Dave Chappelle or Angelina Jolie interviews. This is bare-bones Actor’s Studio. For better or worse, it is what the series was made to be.