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JOHNNY Depp in “Alice in Wonderland”

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“THE Keith Richards documentary came about in a very strange way,” says Johnny Depp. PHOTO BY RUBEN V. NEPALES



Only in Hollywood
Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter

By Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:42:00 02/27/2010

Filed Under: Celebrities, Entertainment (general)

LOS ANGELES?Johnny Depp recently revealed details about the documentary he is making on Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones legend who inspired his Captain Jack Sparrow character in the ?Pirates of the Caribbean? movies.

?The Keith Richards documentary came about in a very strange way,? the actor told us in an interview at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood. ?Keith and I have spent a lot of time together over the years, whenever he?s off the road and I?m off a film. We would usually end up in the living room of his hotel suite or my house or his place in New York. We would talk and I get all these incredible stories that just haven?t made it out there in the world. I suggested to him that maybe we could try something like that on film and he went, ?Yeah.? For a number of years, he was like, ?Yeah, we?ll see.? Finally, bless him, he deigned to give it a shot so it?s something that we?re doing together.?

?Keith has been unbelievably generous with his time,? Johnny said of the rock guitarist. ?We shot for about five days which I consider the first installment of the piece. The only reason why I?m doing it is because I wanted to capture stuff. There?s no directing really.?

Johnny will be back as Captain Jack in a fourth ?Pirates? movie. ?I signed on without a script but that was going to be based on the script,? he clarified. ?If the script was a real dog, I wouldn?t be doing it. Very happily for me, they?ve involved me in the creative process, in terms of developing the script. They?ve been very welcoming in having me come in and give some ideas.?

Stimulating experience

Asked about working again with Penelope Cruz in the latest installment titled ?Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,? the actor answered, ?I?m looking forward to it. I think it?s going to be great. I?ve run into Penelope here and there over the years. She is as funny, sweet and beautiful as ever. I had a wonderful time with her on the movie ?Blow.? She was a lot of fun because you could throw anything at her with regard to a scene and she?d catch it and throw something equally surprising back. It was a very stimulating experience for me.?

In Tim Burton?s ?Alice in Wonderland,? Johnny adds the Mad Hatter to his list of colorful roguish characters. But he revealed the tragic story behind his character created by Lewis Carroll in the 19th century from the books ?Alice?s Adventures in Wonderland? and ?Through the Looking-Glass.?

Johnny explained: ?The M in ?Mad? represented mercury for the Hatter. In those days, the hatters used a very toxic glue which contained mercury and which rendered them nuts.?

To play the pivotal part in Burton?s vision of Alice?s wonderland, a digitally created environment inhabited by White Rabbit, Dormouse, Jabberwocky, March Hare and Dodo, Johnny had to act against a tennis ball or a piece of tape in a green screen room.

Johnny said that he welcomed the challenge of acting with inanimate objects: ?When you?re working in an environment that is potentially so absurd and ludicrous, something happens. For example, if I?m doing a scene with a tennis ball, something happens that is very different but equally as interesting. I?ve always been fine with being in a giant sound stage surrounded by this horrific color green whereas the majority of the actors and the crew are sick to their stomachs by the end of the day. I enjoyed it because it was so weird that I think it helped what I was doing with Hatter. It was so bizarre.?

Trusting his instincts

He sketched what he thought the Mad Hatter looks like. The only other time he did that was with Captain Jack. He said, ?With any character, you start to get these images of what you think they should be. No matter how far out they go, especially with something like this, you have to trust your instinct and I did. So my initial watercolor paintings?with the orange hair, different colors around his eyes?didn?t really change from who we eventually came up with. Tim and I got together. Miraculously, his little drawings of the Hatter were very similar to my watercolor paintings. I knew we were on the right page.?

In our chat, Johnny also shared that he was excited about appearing for the first time with Angelina Jolie in a movie, ?The Tourist,? a drama thriller being filmed in Venice. There?s hot buzz about this film because Johnny and Angelina are two of cinema?s most charismatic, attractive actors.

And we may finally get to see Johnny and his wife, singer-actress Vanessa Paradis, in a movie. He disclosed, ?The title will be ?My American Love.? It?s based on a relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren who was about as macho and existentialist as one could get without even trying. We?re in the very early stages. The meetings have gone beautifully. Vanessa has done a lot of research on De Beauvoir.? Mr. and Mrs. Depp in a film about the love affair between the American novelist and the French writer and philosopher? We?re there!

Caribbean hideaway

Our actor is certainly busy lining up projects. He bared another one: ?Tim and I have tossed the idea for ?Dark Shadows? over the years. It was a TV program in the States in the late ?60s and early ?70s that I remember watching as a kid. I was obsessed with this character, Barnabas Collins, who was a vampire. I came to find out many years later that when he was a kid, Tim ran home like I did to watch that Gothic soap opera. It was a very strange thing back then.?

He added, ?We looked at ways to go, story-wise. We?ve started to come up with something interesting. If all goes well, I will jump into that toward the end of this year.?

When all these projects bog him down, Johnny hies off to his island in the Caribbean or to his retreat in the South of France. ?We have a great place down in the South,? he said. ?It?s a little hamlet, about 15 hectares. When I go there, I don?t do anything. I wake up and check the garden, see the vegetables growing. It?s a pristine existence. I never talk about movies. More importantly, the phone never rings. We take the kiddies out on walks or picnics. It?s the perfect existence. It?s a very beautiful, simple life.?

E-mail the columnist at rvnepales_5585@yahoo.com.

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