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Johnny Depp has found great success by choosing quirky movie roles, his latest being that of a chameleon in the animated Western Rango, which topped the box office this weekend with a $38 million opening. [Read The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the movie here.]
Here are five of his oddest acting choices:
1. Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise: No one could have predicted that the idea of basing a movie on a theme-park ride would go on become a huge moneymaker for Disney. In fact, Depp — who would go on to be Oscar-nominated for his role of the pirate Jack Sparrow — got some resistance from Disney execs when he set out to create the character for the original 2003 film.”They couldn’t stand him. They just couldn’t stand him,” Depp told CBS News of Disney’s reaction to his interpretation of Sparrow, which he based on Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and imbued with a bit of a slurred, British accent. But Depp’s instincts paid off: He was rewarded with an Oscar nom and is gearing up for the release of the fourth installment of the highly successful franchise.
2. Edward Scissorhands. Before being cast in the 1990 movie, Depp was best known for his role Fox’s series 21 Jump Street. He reportedly wanted the role of Edward, a young man who has scissors for hands, to break out of his teen idol status. To prepare for the role, ”I watched a lot of Chaplin stuff, because he was a genius at expressing himself without words,” Depp told Entertainment Weekly. “The one thing [director Tim Burton] stressed was keeping the character of Edward pure without begging people to feel sorry for him. To me, Edward is that feeling of insecurity — the feeling you get when you’re growing up and nothing you do is right, everything you touch breaks.”
3. Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The role of a murderous barber in the 2007 film required Depp to sing. He and the rest of the cast also also had to audition for Stephen Sondheim, who produced the score for the 1979 Broadway production of Sweeney Todd. “I really didn’t know if I could pull it off, which is why I said to Tim [Burton] that I was going to go off and try some stuff,” Depp told the U.K.’s Daily Mail. “I went to a buddy’s little garage studio and I started to record the songs to see if I could get over the initial fear of that type of exposure. So I did that and sent it to Tim and he felt we were OK. I started to get more confident, but then the idea of me standing in front of a guy at a piano singing scales seemed against my instinct. It said, ‘This is wrong. It doesn’t matter if you know how to sing. Just sing.’ So that’s what I did. Although Sondheim was probably weeping after that performance.” Depp ended up receiving an Oscar nomination for his performance.
4. Edward D. Wood Jr. in Ed Wood. Of his role as the cult filmmaker in Burton’s 1994 movie, Depp has said “within 10 minutes of hearing about the project, I was committed.” The role, which required Depp to cross-dress, gave him a new appreciation for the opposite sex. ”I’d get home, put a slip on, some high heels, hang out,” Depp told EW. “Wearing bullet bras, garters, the whole shebang has given me newfound respect for women and profound respect for transvestites. It takes serious commitment for a man to really want to dress as a woman.”
5. Sam in Benny & Joon. The 1993 romantic comedy centers on two eccentric individuals, Sam (Depp) and Juniper “Joon” (Mary Stuart Masterson), finding each other and falling in love. “Somebody who is different, who is judged on appearance instead of heart, who is looked upon as a freak — well, all I can say is, freaks are my heroes,” Depp has said.
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