Friday, July 3 by

Though he’s played a wide variety of roles over the course of his career, and is set to play the hardboiled John Dillinger in the upcoming Public Enemies, Johnny Depp has shown himself to be an actor of idiosyncratic but undeniably odd taste in roles.  Oh sure, he can do the Oscar-winning drama just as well as anybody (Finding Neverland, Donnie Brasco), but he just can’t seem to stay away from roles that send shivers down people’s spine or cause audiences to say, “WTF?” (Or for that matter make movies these days that don’t have Tim Burton’s name attached to them.) 

Whether he’s playing a serial killer (Sweeney Todd), a guy with scissors for hands (Edward, um, Something-hands) or a child molester (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Depp brings an originality and creepiness to odd roles like no other actor out there, and as a result he’s done some pretty strange things, which is why Screen Junkies presents, “The 8 Weirdest Johnny Depp Roles.”



Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003)

One of Depp’s chief assets is that he can take the most depraved character and turn him into a sympathetic figure for the audience, as is the case with Sheldon Sands.  Here’s a guy who will kill a cook if he doesn’t make a meal just right and is probably planning ways to screw you over the second you turn your back on him, but we care about him as a character mostly due to Johnny Depp’s charisma.  When he loses his eyes more than halfway through the movie, we actually cringe and kind of wish that the ruthless killer wouldn’t get hurt this much.  All Depp’s doing, though Robert Rodriguez having Sands allow a little boy to run to safety at the end of the movie helped, too.




Blow (2001)

A hard, cold look at the world of drug trafficking, and the steps someone takes to get there, along with all the personal decisions in between.  In this movie, both the script and Depp worked together in creating a sympathetic character by making him more human and flawed; in fact Depp may have been the perfect complement to this role – his ability to bring humanity to any character he plays does work perfectly for the movie, despite, once again, like Sheldon Sands, being about a man who often has no problems doing anything that he wants, no matter who’s in the way. 



Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Is there a better role that could have encompassed all of Burton’s bloody genius and Depp’s capacity for twisted, yet strangely sympathetic characters?  As the demented barber on a quest for bloody and musical revenge, Depp sliced throats with classic flair and laughed in the face of hilarious blood that would put Tarantino to shame.  And like a lot of Depp roles, there’s a forlorn, tragic side to the hero of the story, involving bloody revenge and how it can lead to one’s own self-destruction.  Depp’s singing voice may not have been up to par with the rest of the cast, but for being a first-time singer, it was pretty damn good.



Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Pirates of the Caribbean would not have been half the success it was were it not for Depp’s endearing, drunk and double-crossing swashbuckler Jack Sparrow.  Stumbling around in the movie with a mad, wild look in his eyes and eternally moving arms and hands and fingers, Depp gave Sparrow a freaky cleverness that lay just below the appearances of insanity, a man who knows that he know something you don’t, yet can’t always recall exactly what that something is.



Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (2005)

True, on some level this movie was a major disappointment considering it was a remake of a beloved children’s classic, and one of those reasons may have been Depp’s oddly Michael Jackson-like performance.  He played an extremely pale man who locked himself away for years inside a large warehouse and then proceeded to give candy to young children in hopes of making them stay with him in the warehouse, forever.  Gene Wilder brought a fatherly and wise tone to this otherwise creepy role, but Depp upped the creepiness factor to ten, and his portrayal is actually much closer the book’s than Wilder’s. That awkward smile and high pitched voice still haunt our dreams. 



Edward Scissorhands (1990)

An unfinished experiment name Edward who has scissors for hands falling in love with some chick.  Sounds like the plot for the next Transformers movie, but Edward Scissorhands ends up being a powerful tale about how gently we need to treat the things we love, ESPECIALLY if we have scissors for hands. I mean, really, we cannot stress this enough.  Another lesson?  If you have scissors for hands, they’re good for haircutting, murder, and ice sculptures.  Oh yeah, and the third lesson is Johnny Depp is awesome.



Ed Wood (1994)

This time around, Depp used his charm to bring to this homage to one of the worst filmmakers of all time to another level. (I wonder if they’ll do a biopic on Uwe Boll’s life after he’s left us). Whether he’s cheerfully negating his first poor review or sharing with his wife his fears of never making it big, (while giants of cinema like Orson Welles, who are younger than him, tower over him like hawks,), the guy always seems to never stop believing in himself, and that’s a quality any audience can appreciate, but with Depp playing the role the effect was doubled.  Nobody could have played Ed Wood like Depp did.



Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)

Nowhere did Depp top his potential for batsh*t odd insanity more than in his role as the drug-hyped-up reporter Raoul Duke, a role which in retrospect almost seems like Jack Sparrow Part 1.  You have the stumbling around and the hands that always seem to be reaching forward toward something intangible hanging in the air, and the knowing yet undeniably drunk look in the eyes.  Depp’s inner insanity and weirdness was fully unleashed in this role, as he does everything from see flying bats pour at him from the desert skies, or hallucinate that an entire bar has turned into humping, sexualized giant lizards. It takes great acting chops to react to drug-induced hallucinations believably and not actually be high at the time, and Depp’s cigarette-chewing, fast-talking reporter role solidified him as one of the weirdest and best actors in the business – he goes through more than a dozen kinds of drugs in this movie, and has to create a different reaction for each one, and does so hilariously, disturbingly, and most importantly of course, weirdly.

Any Johnny Depp performance that you think OUT-WEIRDED the above eight?  Hit us up in the comments section below!

-Thomas Anderson
aka MovieBuzzReviewDude.  Check out his movie/media/pop culture blog here

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