MOTW: Celebrity Bio: Johnny Depp

Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures
January 23rd, 2014

On the surface, some of Johnny Depp's most famous characters have little in common. A macabre boy with scissors for hands, a cursed pirate and a slightly insane candy maker seem to come from very different places. In fact, they come from the same place: the talent of actor Johnny Depp, who uses expression, voice and a good deal of makeup to bring even the most fantastical character to life.

Depp has been part of the Hollywood film scene for so long that his humble cinematic beginnings are nearly forgotten. His first role, which he played at the age of 21, was as one of the victims in the 1984 slasher flick, "A Nightmare on Elm Street." After he stopped running from the infamous Freddy Krueger, he landed a role that made him a teenage heartthrob. Depp spent four years playing officer Tom Hanson on "21 Jump Street," a show about young police officers who worked undercover in schools to investigate youth-related crimes. While working on the television show, Depp completed several small movie roles, including a minor part in "Platoon," the Oliver Stone blockbuster about the Vietnam War.

Depp's breakthrough movie role came in 1990, when director Tim Burton cast him in the title role of "Edward Scissorhands." The fanciful story was about a ghoulish young man who had scissors for hands and a crush on a lovely girl, played by Winona Ryder. The movie offered Depp little dialogue, but his thoughts and intentions were clear as Depp used facial expressions and comedic movements to get his point across.

"Edward Scissorhands" was an instant success, which allowed Depp to leave "21 Jump Street" and have his pick of movie roles. He often chose roles that involved an oddball character, one with a slightly darker side. And while most of his movies were aimed at adults, Depp became a childhood hero when he crafted one of his most famous characters: Captain Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie series.

The original movie, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," came out in 2003 and spawned several sequels. The movie series made Depp a household name. He was so identified with the role that his likeness was immortalized in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. While the Jack Sparrow role made him a favorite with children, Depp continued the trend with the 2005 film "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," in which he starred as Willy Wonka, the role played by Gene Wilder in the 1971 movie version of the book by Roald Dahl.

No matter how much makeup Depp has worn to transfigure himself into some bizarre characters, no one has missed his dashing good looks, which have made him the target of many interested females. He has been engaged to some famous women, including Jennifer Grey, Sherilyn Fenn, Kate Moss and Winona Ryder, although he married none of them. Depp had two children, a boy and a girl, with actress Vanessa Paradis, with whom he shared a 14-year relationship.

Depp has mastered playing a variety of characters, both good guys and bad guys, but one of his favorite roles has been as a musician. Depp started his musical career when he was 15. He dropped out of high school and served as the lead singer in several small bands. Depp stopped pursuing his rock star dreams when he found acting fame, but he has continued to dabble in music. He brought his vocal talents to the big screen in the 2009 movie "Sweeney Todd," where he employed dramatic lyrics to play the title role of the deranged barber.

Depp has considered music his safe haven since his troubled teenage years. Born in 1963, Depp and his family moved from Kentucky to Florida when he was 7 years old. He was admittedly an unhappy adolescent, plagued by family problems that resulted in his parents' divorce when he was 15.

Depp clearly has learned to use the stress of his early life to add depth to his complex characters, individuals who often exist on the fringes of society. Watching one of his movies transports the audience to a different place, one where unbelievable characters become believable and sometimes even lovable. He makes over his image completely for each role, transforming himself into someone who is hardly recognizable as one of Hollywood's biggest stars. His ability to throw himself into each new character showcases his talent and delivers a magical experience for his audience.