Thursday, June 23, 2011

Literary Deppths

Written for the Foyles blog.

Everyone loves Johnny Depp. Simple as.

I had a conversation with a colleague the other day that went something like this:

"It lost the idea of the book," he bemoaned. "The munchkins weren't nearly as charming as they were in the book. And they got it all wrong, Wonka was supposed to be wonderful, not creepy. To top it all it had that guy in it."

"It had a few guys in it."

"You know the guy. Mr. Creepy. Tim Burton's favourite person in the whole wide world, apart from Danny Elfman."

"You mean, Johnny Depp?"

"Argh!" my friend cried out painfully, as if I had punched him in the eye with Depp's name. "Yeah, that one. I don't get why people like him. He can't act, he lets his make-up do the acting for him. He thrives on doing impressions of rock-stars. He's not even good-looking, and yet everyone falls at his feet."

"I think," I ventured carefully, "that you like to moan about him."

"Oh," he said, smacking the table. "I love to moan about him. There's so much material."

So, it seems that even people who don't like Johnny Depp love him in some way.

It does seem that most people agree, whatever else they want to say about Tim Burton's adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, that Depp's oddball performance was the most interesting thing about it. He took all the wonder and kinesis of the character in the book, and replaced it with creepiness and gracefullness.

Fan's of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland were divided when pictures were released of Depp clowning it up in costume for the Mad Hatter. But divisions quickly settled when the film came out and it was realised that the performance was nicely understated and perfectly suited the film's aesthetic, without shredding the original character.

The man's already proven that he can pull of a Hunter S. Thompson, albeit a Thompson in various stages of reality, and we're soon to see that he can probably pull off a Thompson character in The Rum Diary.

In fact, is this a trend? Is Depp now Hollywood's first choice for crackpot characters?

And just as Hollywood seems to be slowing up it's relationship with literary adaptations, Depp seems to be doing the opposite. Which literary character do you think he will go for next? Who would you like to see him 'bring to life'?

Personally, I think I'd like to see him in a fat-suit as Ignatius P. Reilly. Or possibly pragmatic Passepartout (although there doesn't really need to be another adaptation of this book).

If he wants to do creepy characters from Roald Dahl books, maybe he would make an effective Miss Trunchball...

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