We had originally planned to run this column in conjunction with the release of Johnny Depp’s latest film Mortdecai. However, due to my new adventures as a father, full-time employee and editor of this site, free time just became non-existent.
Then I had this thought – maybe this column won’t be necessary. Maybe Mortdecai, despite the putrid-looking trailers, might actually be good. It might actually find an audience. This is Johnny Depp after all, the man has good taste in film and people love him, right?
Wow, was I ever wrong. Mortdecai not only got skewered by critics, but audiences were non-existent as the film opened with a paltry 4.4 million dollar opening weekend.
So, yes the question remains — what happened to Johnny Depp? Where did Depp go wrong?
I can actually pinpoint it. It comes at the very end of Tim Burton’s visually dazzling, but still pretty wretched take on Alice in Wonderland. Depp, playing the Mad Hatter, does one of the most idiotic and unfunny and unbelievable dance numbers (The Futterwacken) which distracted the evil Jabberwocky, allowing Alice (Mia Wasikowska) to slay it. It’s one of the stupidest moments I’ve ever seen on film. It’s this really out of nowhere moment that comes off like something on a show that airs late nights on Disney XD. It doesn’t fit the movie at all and Depp looks absolutely idiotic.
And that was the breaking point for Johnny Depp. He started becoming “that guy.” He was cast as the weird guy numerous, subpar, big budget blockbusters, and reprised his role as Jack Sparrow three times in the half-baked, but successful Pirates sequels. And we forgave him for it. We said, ‘Oh, it’s Johnny Depp, he’s always good. Just you watch he’ll carry this flaming pile of crap…because he’s Johnny Depp.’
And yet, we kept giving a him pass. Our “passes” allowed us (myself included) to forgive the shortcomings of Michael Mann’s Public Enemies (yes it was released in 2009 but you get the point), it let us put the blame on Angelina Jolie for the less than desirable box office of The Tourist and it made us feel less guilty about buying a ticket for the last Pirates movie.
While Alice might’ve been the turning point, the fourth Pirates was the the financial tipping point. Yes, it made a billion worldwide, but domestically, it didn’t perform to expectations of the previous films and was the final high note before Depp’s box office slide. Bomb after bomb came. And Depp’s performances were less and less beloved.
So what happened to Johnny Depp?
Well, we all got a bit lazy. We fell in love with Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow that we wanted to see it all the time. We didn’t care where, we want Johnny Depp all the time. So, in kind, studios threw absurd money at Depp to be their leading man. “Go be weird Johnny, even if it doesn’t fit, people will love it!” And to call him out, Depp got a bit lazy too. His performances over the past few years have been seemingly lazy, with the actor relying on his “greatest hits” — those acting quirks that people eat up like Sunday brunch. But, after getting the same old, same old for so long, people are tired of the same old Depp — the exact way they were tired of the same old Al Pacino or the same old Robert DeNiro.
Now, we’re here in early 2015, and people are looking at Johnny Depp like a has-been. He’s done, he’s toast. What happened to him?
For me, the silver-lining here is Black Mass, the big screen adaptation of the life and times of the most notorious Irish gangster of the modern era, Whitey Bulger. This could be Depp’s big comeback, the Oscar worthy film that reminds us he is indeed a special actor. Let’s face it, take away the big budget crap on his resume, and you’ll see Depp has an amazing body of work. And with another Alice, and another Pirates movie on the near horizon, Depp needs Black Mass to regain his street cred. So hopefully we won’t be saying, “What Happened to Johnny Depp” by year’s end, we’ll be saying, “Now there’s Johnny Depp.” =====================================================================================================
Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be six years old in 2015 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He can be read every Monday for the Happy Mondays Interview Series as well as his weekly reviews on Law & Order: SVU, Mad Men and Hannibal. His goal, once again, is to write 500 stories this year (a goal he accomplished in 2014). He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @PopBreakDotCom