Most know him as Captain Jack Sparrow, while some might recognize him from his stints as Edward Scissorhands or Willy Wonka. What all these characters have in common is their eccentricity, and there’s nobody better to portray them than Johnny Depp

Early life and career break

Born in Kentucky, on June 9 1963, the actor has had a chequered past – as he himself admitted – but always harboured a love for literature. Depp, before becoming an actor, started off as a musician. He dropped out of high school at the age of 16 to pursue a career in music. Depp’s band, the Kids, moved to Los Angeles. He married Lori Anne Allison, in 1983, while she was a makeup artist, and he was a struggling musician. 

While the couple split in two years, Allison had her friend Nicolas Cage, the actor, arrange for an audition with horror master Wes Craven. This resulted in Depp landing a role in ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, the 1984 movie, where he played a teenager getting eaten by his own bed. This was Depp’s feature film debut. 

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However, his professional break came with the role of Officer Tom Hanson in ’21 Jump Street’, the television police series. It made him a teenage heartthrob, and the actor showed his range in 1990 – starring in ‘Cry Baby’ by John Waters and ‘Edward Scissorhands’ by Tim Burton. 

This would start a long and fruitful collaboration between Burton and Depp spanning movies like ‘Corpse Bride’ and ‘Sleepy Hollow’.

With a little help from my friends

Acting chops aside, Depp managed to cultivate long-lasting friendships with various intellectuals and talent powerhouses. These include gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson, who Depp portrayed in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’. Not only was the 59-year-old responsible for scattering Thompson’s ashes in a cannon, after his death, but also built a bomb with the writer, the first time they met. 

“So we built this bomb out of propane tanks and nitroglycerin, took it out in his backyard, and he gave me first crack. I fired upon it from about 30 or 40 yards away, and I hit it square on, and the thing went into a monumental, amazing fireball about 80 feet in the air. I feel like that was my test, my rite of passage. From then on we were either inseparable or on the phone a lot”, Depp spoke of his first meeting with Thompson. 

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Another such example is the bond between Depp and Marlon Brando, who played Don Corleone in ‘Godfather‘. The two met on the sets of ‘Don Juan DeMarco’, a movie which didn’t do too well but introduced two great actors of different generations. 

It was William Saroyan’s play ‘The Time of Your Life’, which brought the actors close. Depp had a page of a monologue with him, which happened to be close to Brando’s heart. Ever since then, Depp had a mentor in Brando. “So, after a while, Marlon Brando just became Marlon. One of the funniest humans I’ve ever known”, he said in an interview with Jonathan Ross. 

Yo ho, a pirate’s life for me 

Depp had already cemented his position as a bankable actor when he landed the role of Jack Sparrow in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. The actor also saw his first Oscar nomination for a portrayal somewhat inspired by Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones guitarist.

The father of two went on to appear in five of the movies, and there are rumours that Disney has approached Depp to reprise his role. 

Wedding bells again and other projects 

In 2015, Depp had a number of things on his plate. He got married to Amber Heard, appeared in ‘Mortdecai’ and ‘Black Mass’, and also started a supergroup called Hollywood Vampires including Alice Cooper, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, and Kids’ bandmate Bruce Witkin.

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His later films include the ‘Fantastic Beasts‘ movies, which are a spinoff of the ‘Harry Potter’ films and see Depp play Grindelwald, the dark wizard who the magical world feared before Voldemort’s rise. 

One of his most recent projects has been ‘Minamata’, where Depp plays photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, who documented the impact of industrial pollution on the residents of a village in Japan. 

Marriage, financial crisis, and career – a life on the rocks

Depp and Heard split up in 2017, but the ‘Aquaman‘ actor came out with an explosive op-ed in The Washington Post where she didn’t name Depp but insinuated that he was responsible for sexual abuse. 

At the time, Rolling Stone had interviewed Depp, noting that the actor was in a financial crisis. However, this was mostly due to Depp’s lifestyle and expenses.

Heard’s op-ed saw Disney distancing itself away from Depp and he would eventually be replaced in the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise too, and the role of Grindelwald is now essayed by Mads Mikkelsen

The road to redemption 

While Depp had been all but cancelled and left out of films after Heard’s allegations, he countersued for the op-ed and won in a Fairfax, Virginia court. 

Heard has been instructed to pay Depp $10.5 million, but the trial has, more importantly, put Depp in the spotlight again. There’s been a wide outpouring of support and Depp received a lot of love on joining TikTok after the verdict. 

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Though it remains unknown if Depp will ever return as Jack Sparrow again, the actor was recently seen playing alongside Jeff Beck and might have more musical appearances lined up, as he tries to return to unblemished stardom.