Johnny Depp: Shinning his own light in Hollywood

By Michelle Talsma Everson

With more than three decades in Hollywood, 52-year-old Johnny Depp is one of the entertainment industry’s biggest stars. From a teen idol in the 1980s to box office hits in the decades following, Depp has played some larger than life roles. Known for embracing darker characters and a self-admitted “odd ball,” Depp has carved out a successful niche for himself and doesn’t show any signs of stopping anytime soon.

Humble beginnings

Commercial success hasn’t always been in the cards for Depp. Throughout his career, he has shared with several media sources that his early years were tumultuous and that he found solace in music. In fact, according to his profile on, Depp originally started out with the goal of becoming a professional musician.

His early musical pursuits had mild success and it was through one of his first bands, The Kids, which he made it out to Los Angeles. His first wife, Lori Anne Allison, introduced him to Nicolas Cage. The fateful meeting would be a turning point in his life.

“Cage saw potential in Depp, and introduced the hopeful musician to a Hollywood agent. After several small roles as a film extra, Depp landed his first legitimate movie role in the horror film Nightmare on Elm Street (1984),” cites

After Nightmare on Elm Street, Depp’s career begin to take off. In the late 1980s he became a teen heartthrob in the television show 21 Jump Street. In true Depp style though, being a manufactured star wasn’t his goal, so he began seeking out meatier roles.

A life changing friendship

As his career moved forward, Depp became known for oddball and sometimes even downright dark roles. He starred in Platoon, Cry-Baby and began his long-time friendship with director Tim Burton when he starred in cult classic Edward Scissorhands in 1990.

A recent E! article summed it up best: “Aside from inspiring some niche adult entertainment, Edward Scissorhands also cemented Depp’s reputation early on for being a risk taker, as well as a serious actor who was almost anxious to mask or otherwise alter his good looks on screen, as he would do in almost every Burton movie thereafter (not that Sweeney Todd wasn’t still strangely sexy) and in so many of his meatiest roles over the past two decades.”

Depp and Burton have gone on to make eight films together, including some of Depp’s most well-known movies such as Sweeny Todd, Alice in Wonderland, and more. Several sources point to the fact that the two not only enjoy collaborating but also are close friends.

“I never really analyze that too much,” Burton told Entertainment Weekly this past fall when asked about why he and Depp work so well together. “I think there’s a connection with people, and it’s not an intellectual decision. We have shared similar tastes in things, in movies and certain weird, lower suburbia upbringings. I don’t know, exactly, but I think that there’s kind of a connection in many different ways.”

Becoming a Hollywood icon

“Outside of his personal life, Depp continued to flourish, gaining critical acclaim and increasing popularity for his work,” cites “Several of his most notable roles included his role as the social misanthrope Sam in Benny & Joon (1993), which earned him a Golden Globe nod, and Gilbert in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993), which cast him as a young man dissatisfied with the confines of his small-town life.”

As his career entered the new millennium, Depp continued to churn out hits. Obvious stand outs include the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Corpse Bride, Transcendence, Into The Woods, Blass Mass, and more.

“Nobody has the range that Johnny has,” director Scott Cooper told GQ when interviewed about the film Black Mass. “To create Ed Wood and also be in Dead Man and Edward Scissorhands and The Libertine and Sweeney Todd. To play Jack Sparrow and John Dillinger, Hunter S. Thompson and Joe Pistone [in Donnie Brasco] and George Jung [in Blow]. And yet, for all his parts, I was mesmerized to see him turn from the man he is—gentle-natured, soulful, sweet—to Whitey Bulger. Whitey is always in control. If you stood 18 inches away, Whitey was going to make that 12. And Johnny captured him.”

While obviously an international success, Depp is known for insisting time after time that he’s not into acting for the money or fame.

“I’m gagging for the box office, it’s been the thrust of my interests from day one when I was about 19,” Depp told the Yorkshire Evening Post recently. “No, for me, with every character you play, if you feel like you’ve done service to the director, yourself, the author, then to me, that’s a success. Box office, that’s something else, and certainly none of my business. Once I’m wrapped on a film, you say goodbye and move forward.”

Embracing the present, looking ahead

According to Hollywood insiders, 2016 is set to be another great year for Depp. Major films include Alice Through The Looking Glass and Yoga Hosers. In 2017, he’ll star in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.

In his personal life, the one-time Hollywood wild child has settled down again and married actress Amber Heard in February 2015.

“We connect on a lot of levels, but the first things that really got me was she’s an aficionado of the blues,” Depp recently told E! News about Heard. “I would play a song, some old obscure blues song, and she knew what it was.”

“She’s very, very literate,” he added about Heard at a recent premiere. “She’s a voracious reader as I have been so we connected on that level as well. And she’s kind of brilliant. I’m a lucky man.”

While Depp will likely continue to have box office appeal and intrigue fans across the globe for years to come, he also plans to slow down and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

“I wouldn’t say I’m dropping out any second, but I would say it’s probably not too far away,” he told BBC Radio. “When you add up the amount of dialogue that you say per year and you realize that you’ve said written words more than you’ve had a chance to say your own words, you start thinking about that as an insane option for a human being.”

Although, given Depp’s penchant for the “insane,” the star will likely be on our radar for years to come.