Open letter to Johnny Depp

Dear Mr. Depp,

Enough already. We get it. You’re a weird, quirky guy. You prefer to work with other weird, quirky individuals. You play weird, quirky characters. That’s pretty cool, for the most part. I mean, you’ve made a very successful Hollywood career for yourself. You’ve dabbled in nearly every kind of genre available, you’ve made a lot of money, people swoon in your presence, and all of that.

But here’s the thing, Mr. Depp: Aren’t you the teensiest bit bored yet? Because I sure am, and while I’ve never been a massive fan, I definitely have been one, since 21 Jump Street, even. I do think that you’re a talented actor, and that you’re reasonably nice to look at. But this weird, quirky thing you’ve got going? Well, it’s getting old.

I do have to admit that the way in which you’ve managed to stay consistent is really fascinating. As I said earlier, you’ve dabbled in many genres along the way, and somehow you’ve been weird and quirky in all of them. For instance, being a handsome guy in Hollywood, you’ve done your fair share of what could most easily be termed romantic comedies, but they’re all a little bit unusual. I’m talking about things like Benny & Joon, Edward Scissorhands, and Chocolat (a favorite). They’re mostly humorous, certainly romantic, and not the normal fare. You’ve also done action (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Tourist), kid’s fare, both animated and live-action (Willy Wonka, Alice in Wonderland, Rango, The Corpse Bride), and even a musical (Sweeney Todd); all the while still pulling off being weird and quirky. It’s really quite an achievement, and I don’t mean to downplay that at all, but it’s just … would it kill you to do something normal?

When I think of all those movies, most of which I’ve seen, the ones I like best really do have less quirkiness going on. Chocolat is probably my favorite of your performances, and I think one of the best films you’ve done overall is Finding Neverland. Yes, you’re playing a bit of an eccentric character (J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan), but for the most part, that’s a nice, solid bit of not-too-heavy drama. And it’s great! You even got nominated for an Oscar, without being half as weird as you were in Sweeney Todd or Pirates of the Caribbean. So clearly, you are capable of being moderately normal, and even being convincing. And that’s ok. It’s fine to be normal sometimes. Some might even say healthy.

I theorize that the reason for your career trajectory is that you are averse to being considered “mainstream”. And I get that, absolutely. I am totally cool with indie films, and with breaking new ground, and all of that. But I’m going to let you in on something that I’ve noticed, Johnny. You don’t mind if I call you Johnny, do you? Here’s the thing. Since 2003, when Pirates was released, you’ve been the king of kook. You are the go-to guy for characters that are weird or fey or otherworldly. And in that way, I hate to tell you this, but you have become sort of mainstream. You’re the mainstream weird guy. Don’t believe me? Tell me this: what film are you working on right now? And with whom? Ohh, right. A remake of Dark Shadows, a “gothic soap opera” from the late sixties and early seventies, in which the lead character (that’d be you) is a vampire. This illustrates my point perfectly. Vampires are a big thing right now, right? They’re mainstream. And so naturally, Hollywood folks across the board want to get in on this action, but you, needing to do it in the most quirky way possible, opt to play Barnabas Collins. And hmm, who’s directing this feature again? C’mon, don’t be shy … oh, that’s right … Tim Burton. Only the weirdest, kookiest, quirkiest A-list director in circulation. Do you see what I’m getting at here? I think you do.

I’m trying to break it to you gently, Johnny, but the gist of this discussion is that I think you’ve become a cartoon character. You’re really, really famous, which would be the end goal for a lot of people, but I guess my idealistic viewpoint is that, at the end of the day, the actors who really feel successful are the ones who’ve had a full career. They’ve tried everything, failed at some and succeeded at others, and they’ve done things on their own terms. Put another way, the best actors are quite often those who are considered most versatile. Talk to your fellow pirate, Geoffrey Rush. Sure, he has a great time playing Captain Barbossa, but then he turns around and does something like The King’s Speech, in which he was brilliant. And which won Best Picture, in case you missed that. He’s also pretty quirky, but sometimes he puts away the crazy hair and the crazy accents, and he just delivers flawless performances. I think that could be something for you to aspire to, Johnny Depp. I think you could do it. You don’t have to quit putting on scary make-up and being creepy. I promise. You could just do some other stuff sometimes. You could call … I dunno, David Fincher instead of Tim Burton. Fincher’s still kind of weird, so it wouldn’t be that big a stretch for you. Baby steps, and all.

So what do you say, Johnny? How about giving everyone a break, and doing something interesting for a change? And by interesting, I mean “different from the last umpteen films you’ve done.” I really don’t think it’d go that badly. You might be surprised. You might have fun. You might even like it! And don’t worry-I’m sure Tim and Helena will still be your friends. They’ll understand. Everyone needs to shake things up every now and then. In the meantime, my best to the family, and do say hi to Mr. Rush for me, won’t you? He’s one of my favorites.

Quite sincerely,


14 responses to “Open letter to Johnny Depp

  1. [Clap, clap, clap!] Brilliant, Sam, what an entertaining open letter, you should do more of this! I so agree with you, Depp is affable, easy on the eye AND very talented, but enough already!! “…would it kill you to do something normal?” Ahah, I can’t say it better myself. Using Geoffrey Rush as an example is perfect, or Gary Oldman, both can find a nice balance between kooky and not-so-kooky and can floor us with their performance without the weird hair/makeup.

    Man, this makes me want to write an open letter to Christian Bale, enough with all the dark stuff 🙂

    • Thanks, Ruth! I’m so glad you agree. I’ll be looking forward to that Bale letter of yours, too. 😉

      • Oh no, pressure… I don’t think I can write it nearly as well as you but I’ll try. I’ll send this to a friend of mine who likes Depp a lot. Btw, he looks normal-ish in The Rum Diary btw, but 95% of the time he gravitates towards weird stuff.

  2. He definitely looks more normal in The Rum Diary, but It’s Hunter S. Thompson, right, so it still counts. 😉

  3. Also, it needs to make it so he doesn’t look like he smells.

  4. What about “Donnie Brasco”?–one of my favorites.

  5. I don’t see how he’s not versatile either. Yes he does a lot of quirky parts — which he does greatly, so why not? — but he’s done other films: Dead Man, Donnie Brasco, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. We have enough actors acting normal already. Not sure what the point is of writing this anyway, he’s not going to read it, and if he did, I doubt he’d take your advice.

  6. HAHAH I completely see your point.

    It is like those Teenagers trying so hard to be different that end up looking like everyone else around them!! He has become mainstream, by trying to be different

    Great idea Samantha!!

  7. Completely agree. He’s a great actor but I’m getting really tired of his shtick. He needs to seperate himself from Tim Burton (that hack) for a while

  8. Great letter. Thought I was the only one who saw Depp as being the same character over and over again. What, with Willy Wonka, Alice in Wonderland, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Tourist, Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd, etc!


  9. Great letter and I completely agree with you, his connection to Tim Burton is starting to feel old and not so interesting! Although, he will always be Cry Baby to me (it sounds cheesy, but that movie is my guilty pleasure, and has been since age 8-10 probably)

  10. You just don’t get it.He does what he wants and that’s why he is so lovable!!!

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