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January 30, 2008

Everybody loves Johnny. That, I’ve learned, is an undeniable universal truth.

For two weeks before I left for London to meet the cast and creative team behind the film adaptation of the stage musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, everything that anyone said to me was Johnny Depp-related. I would text message a friend about dinner plans and the reply would read: “Please swipe Johnny’s water bottle for me. Want his DNA for Christmas”.

I arrived at the immigration counter at Heathrow and was interrogated by an officer with a face so crumpled and grumpy, you’d think a flock of angry sheep had fallen out of her dreams and thumped her on the head.

“What is the purpose of this visit?” she growled at me as if I had left her broken-hearted at the altar last Valentine’s, and was back to take custody of our dog. I informed her politely that I had made the trip to England to interview Johnny Depp.

I swear the previously cantankerous woman giggled like a schoolgirl, professed her undying love for Johnny, and merrily stamped my passport.


In Sweeney Todd — Depp’s first musical — he plays a murderous barber whose victims end up as pie-filling. The gruesome role is far from loveable, unlike his iconic takes on Captain Jack Sparrow or Edward Scissorhands, but it will do little to quell the public’s adoration for the one-time teen idol.

Sitting in a function room at the very fancy Claridge’s Hotel in swanky Mayfair, it was clear the cosy gathering of the world’s press had also braved turbulence and Nazi airport security just for Depp.

“I can’t believe we have to sit through all the interviews with all these people just to talk to Johnny Depp at the end,” I overheard an Asian journalist complain with a pout.

“These people” included celebrated composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd, West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), legendary film producer Robert Zanuck (Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), the wonderful Alan Rickman (Harry Potter’s Severus Snape) and a very pregnant Helena Bonham Carter (Howard’s End, Fight Club and mother of director Tim Burton’s children).

It was hardly a group to snub one’s nose at, and the journalist was being highly disrespectful. At least I pretended to listen to those people talk. Never forget your manners — even when you’re being dismissive.

First, it was Sondheim’s turn to talk. The composer speaks with his eyes almost completely closed, as if he’s constantly squinting at the world. This is what happens when you read musical sheets all the time — they should totally use bigger paper.

Oscar-nominated costume designer Colleen Atwood talked about her inspiration for the clothes, but I was too distracted by her scuffed suede shoes to pay attention.

The two young actors who play lovebirds in the film — Jayne Wisener and Jamie Campbell Bower — popped in for a chat. I asked them how they set about playing love-struck innocents without being terribly irritating.

Wisener asked if I thought they were annoying on screen. I laughed and said: “Of course not!”

I lied.

I hated their performances the way I detest fava beans. Rickman was taller and larger than I had imagined he would be, and he has a way of speaking that makes any drivel that comes out of his mouth sound utterly intelligent. Bonham Carter wore frightful miniature doilies in her frizzy hair.


Finally, after an entire morning of chatting to people who didn’t star in 21 Jump Street, Johnny Depp appeared, accompanied by director Tim Burton. The actor was swathed in a mountain of clothing. He had on a thick tweed jacket over a long-sleeved denim shirt, which was in turn over another shirt. He finished his look with a thick scarf, a great big hat and a large haul of necklaces. It turned out the actor was keeping himself warm because he was nursing a bad flu. “I go through bouts of, like, shivering and then just sweating,” he said to his handlers. But that didn’t explain why he had on more necklaces than Mr T at Mardi Gras.

The notoriously private Depp is soft-spoken and rather shy. He’s not unfriendly. On the contrary, he was cracking jokes and speaking candidly. He sounded thoughtful and philosophical — if only I could understand what he was saying.

The 44-year-old mumbles at a decibel lower than that of most vibrating devices. It doesn’t help that his American accent is now hooded by a strange European slur. Imagine an eccentric old man drunk on grappa and you wouldn’t be too far off the mark.


During the rare moments when Depp was audible, he showed a palpable rapport with Burton — a director he has worked with six times.

When asked why he chooses quirky film roles like an all-singing murderous barber in Sweeney Todd, he answered: “I think it’s probably a combination or something in between being hard-headed and ignorant in terms of taking the road I’ve taken … And for something like Sweeney Todd, Tim comes in the picture before all of that, and anything he would ask me to do I would jump at the opportunity.”

“Except ballet,” teased Burton.

“No, I actually would! I would try,” said Depp with a laugh.

The men continued to sing each other’s praises.

“Since the first second that we met all those years ago in a café in Los Angeles, for me, there was an instant connection on a lot of different levels. He had a weird fascination and understanding of the absurdity of things … like macramé owls and fake fruit on the kitchen table,” said Depp, who is the godfather of Burton and Bonham Carter’s three-year-old son, Billy.

“Ever since then, I have only wanted, as an actor, to give him as close to what he wants as possible … With Tim, before I think about what I feel for the character, I’m just hoping that I won’t let him down. He comes first.”

According to Depp, even filming a movie as dark and macabre as Sweeney Todd was fun together.

“Filming was like a laugh riot. We were constantly laughing. It was a great time,” he said.

Burton, 49, returned the compliment: “Johnny tries anything … He’s just willing to go out there. It’s an artistic pleasure to watch somebody try different things and actually achieve it beyond your expectations.”

Yes, everybody loves Johnny.

But nobody, it seems, more than Tim Burton.

By Phin Wong for Channel News Asia

  • Jan 30sarah Saunders says:  

    Get well Johnny

    Good luck with sweeney todd movie

  • Jan 30Evie says:  

    haha i love that reporter. very funny and HONEST
    yay johnny! get well soon:]]

  • Jan 30Luciana says:  

    Me too, Evie… I laughed with this article!

  • Feb 01philips says:  

    I love Johnny Depp! I love the article too! I saw the article published on The Straits Times in Singapore on 30th January 2008, Wednesday in its full content.

  • Feb 01Melanie says:  

    haha that was great I love how the reporter talks about Johnny’s decibel lower than that of most vibrating devices voice….classic! I can’t wait to meet him one day :)

  • Feb 01anna says:  

    XD i laugh really hard with this article!

    i love Johnny, of course we all do!

    i enjoy the words of the reporter, very entertained.

    and yes, get well Johnny!

  • Feb 02LAUREN DEPP says:  

    I love you Johnny!

    Get well soon!!!

    I met you at the Sweeney Todd premier and it was brilliant!

    I really hope to meet him again at his next premier!

    Johnny takes over my life I swear!

    In school all i talk about is Johnny Johnny Johnny and he’s all i think about!

    I put him in all my homework in any way I can.

    I even get told of for talking about him too much!

    All my friends think I have an obsessive problem!!!

    I’ve seen Sweeney Todd 4 times and it’s brill!!

    I Love you sooo much



    Always in my heart forever and ever

  • Feb 03Madzz says:  


    Johnny is so gorgeous !

    the clothes and jewellery he wears is just so …. unique !

    i love it.♥

    and he just doesnt care what anyone thinks of him !

    i watched an interveiw the other day with Tim and Johnny and they are so cute.. like every second they are laughing…. they just have so much fun together !

    I ♥ you soooooo much Johnny


  • Feb 03sarah Saunders says:  

    Get well soon

    congrats on the sweeney todd movie

  • Feb 03beatrix says:  

    i love Johnny Depp
    a great actor

  • Feb 04Naiomi says:  

    hope you are feeling better johnny!

  • Feb 04Lena says:  

    everybody loves him!!!! YEAH!



    WE LOVE U JOHNNY!!! ^^

  • Feb 05sarah Saunders says:  

    execllent work keep it up.

    We all love you Johnny .

    You are an amazing actor

  • Feb 06Isidora says:  

    I love you Johnny!

    You are THE BEST!

    Hope you are feeling better!

  • Feb 07Leigha says:  

    Dear Johnny,

    I wont say I love you for I have not yet met you, so to say such a word so bold is unfair. I am in love with the image portrayed of yourself. You are one of the finest actors of all, up there with Marlon Brando. For I no our paths will never cross, we live different lives, in different countries although not so far away. Should our paths meet I will sit in silence and look upon yourself comfortably in your presence, without a word needed, just a smile, a glimpse and I shall forever be happy. I know I am your number one fan, but am I truly? You no what I mean dont you?! I wish I knew the day would come where I could meet you even for half hour, I doubt that it will, I wish that it would.

    Yours Forever LJD x

  • Feb 08vicki says:  

    im writting in hopes someone here may read this and actually pass the word on to johnny and tim i live ind lacrosse wisconsin and am very pleased that the new depp movie may be shot here or near by,yeah! we really need the revenue. also i think tim would be interested in our local mystery . it would make a good movie plot.every year near spring someone goes missing and ends up in the river boarding our downtown area , the strange thing is they are all men, same age or close and they all look alike.our fbi doesnt think we have a serial killer,but there are alot of people who say differenty.theres alot more to the story but may take all night to type.. so for now i will say goodnight sleep tight and you know the rest..-victoria from lacrosse.

  • Feb 09Sarah saunders says:  

    You are an awesome actor johnny,

    I would like to meet you one day

  • Feb 11april says:  

    That was a nice article. I loved the article. Like another gal said earlier, I also live in Wisconsin and am hoping to get to see Johnny in action in Oshkosh for his next adventure. It’s a 2hr drive for me, but it would be worth it.

    Johnny you’re the best!

  • Feb 13Ann says:  

    well, I’m still a new johnny depp’s fan, all this started with captain jack sparrow, and of course jack4ever and always 1st (lol), but now I’m realy a big johnny’s fun, and I see I’m not the only one who is getting obcessed about him (ok, let’s not over react), but “uff”, I’m much more relifed…lol sweeney todd it’s a fantastic film, and that’s also a fantastic interview…(so lucky…),
    and Johnny, continue your good work, as always… regards from Portugal

  • Feb 13Ann says:  

    a big johnny’s *fan…(sorry, this is the problem of writting too fast)

  • Mar 10Tammy says:  

    I would like to meet you one day. It would be such an honor. You are a wonderful person and you are my favorite actor in the world. Love you so much! Hope you are feeling better.

  • Jun 12leila says:  

    this is leila from Iran.You are my favorit actur
    in the world.Iwoud like to meet you one day.

  • Jun 13leila says:  

    This is Leila from Iran . You are my faivorit acur
    in the world.
    I woud like to meet you one day.

    Hopp you will get well soon.

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I love the idea of changing my look. I think one owes it to the audience, to go out there and give them something different each time, so as not to bore them to death. And I always felt that if you're not trying something different each time out of the gate, you're being safe, and you don't ever want to find that place of safety. I like that, each time, before I even go in front of the cameras, the studio's reaction will be fear. They have those hideous pangs of fear where they go, "He's fucking killing the movie." And I can't argue with them, because I might be. But I just know for the character that this is the right thing to do. And I've always enjoyed hiding behind these characters. It's a strange thing, you're more comfortable as a character than you are in life. You know what I mean? I could stand up in front of, it doesn't matter how many people, as a character. But if I had to do it as myself and give a speech, I would be liquid.

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