Woody Guthrie captured the mood of Great Depression America in his songs. Now, 46 years after his death, another legacy of the troubadour of the poor is about to surface thanks to a new publishing company set up by Johnny Depp.
IN FEBRUARY 1940, a gay Communist actor called Will Geer – you might know him as Grandpa Walton – got in touch with Woody Guthrie and invited him to New York. As Guthrie hitched north, Irving Berlin’s God Bless America seemed to be playing on every radio. He loathed the song.
As soon as he booked into a two-bit hotel on the corner of 43rd and 6th street – now, ironically, the headquarters of the Bank of New York – he started thinking back on the journey there from the Midwest. In his mind, he went further back too. To the trains he had ridden on three years earlier, when he left the Texas Panhandle in search of the better life in California. To the hundreds of thousands of poor farmers who had made that same journey, fleeing their dustbowl-ravaged land in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
If there was to be an anthem about America, Guthrie resolved, it wouldn’t be as anodyne as God Bless America. It would be radical, socialist even. It would highlight the division between the propertied rich and the poor waiting in line for welfare. God wouldn’t come into it, but the people would. “This land is your land,” it would begin.
Lucinda Williams is one of those Americana icons in the tradition of Johnny Cash, a singer-songwriter who fights for social justice and the disenfranchised. She’s spent years working with Amnesty International, and dedicated hundreds of hours to prevent convicted killer David Lee Powell’s execution in 2010. Her efforts failed, but it reaffirmed Williams’s fight against the death penalty and for fairer prison conditions.
So Williams was something of a natural fit when producers of the new documentary on the West Memphis Three, West of Memphis, sought contributions for the soundtrack, West of Memphis: Voices for Justice (streaming now on CBC Music). Williams told CBC Music how Johnny Depp brought her into the project, about capital punishment and the complicated case that continues to captivate.
Years ago I saw that first documentary that came out on HBO [Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hills]. Then flash forward several years and I happened to meet the woman [Amy J. Berg] who made this new documentary. One thing led to another and I told her I’d been involved in a case where this guy was on death row and I was trying to help because I’m anti-capital punishment and everything and we just started talking about that subject. And I’d done that Bob Dylan tribute album for Amnesty International ’cause I like getting involved in those kinds of things. So we talked about whether I’d want to have a song involved and they were going to do this CD, and I said, “Absolutely.”
Helena Bonham Carter has revealed she is always surprised by how strange Johnny Depp makes himself look on screen.
The actress has worked with the Hollywood heartthrob on six films, including Sweeney Todd and most recently The Lone Ranger, and said Johnny always seems intent on hiding his famous good looks.
Helena said: “He is funny because he’s one of the most beautiful men in the world and he just covers himself up to such a degree, but he does make me laugh.
“It’s always fun with Johnny because you’ve no idea what he’s going to come as. His make-up and his costume is always like – pile it on more… he’s somewhere in there.”
“Actually the first time I worked with him he was 120 years old, old, old, make-up, so it might not have been Johnny, in fact it probably wasn’t!”
“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” hit theaters in 2011 and went on to break the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office. And now comes word that Disney and Johnny Depp are ready to return for a fifth installment.
The studio just hired “Catch Me If You Can” writer Jeff Nathanson to provide the script. Jerry Bruckheimer is once again on board to produce andJohnny is set to return as Captain Jack Sparrow.
At this point, very little is known about the plot or whether actors from previous films, like Geoffrey Rush and Keira Knightley, would reprise their roles. Stay tuned.
Even as he anticipated the sunset of his filmmaking career recently, Quentin Tarantino is looking ahead to who he’d like to work with, and Johnny Depp tops the list. The Django Unchained director said he’d like Johnny to star in a future pic, but will only cement plans once he’s written the perfect part for the Pirates of the Caribbean actor.
Tarantino told talk show host Charlie Rose that it would be “magical” to work with the 49 year-old actor, adding: “We would love to work together. We’ve talked about it for years. Not that we get together and talk about it for years, but from time to time.”
The two appear to have mutually high esteem for the other, according to Tarantino. But the key is finding the right moment.
“We’re obviously fans of each other,” he said according to Contactmusic.com. “I just need to write the right character that I think Johnny would be the right guy to do it with. And if he agrees, then we’ll do it, and then it’ll be magical.” Continuing, Tarantino shared that he hasn’t as of yet, “written the perfect character for Johnny Depp as of yet. Maybe someday I will, maybe someday I won’t. We’ll see.”