Johnny Depp is notorious for giving very few interviews, but he agreed to go on Inside the Actors Studio in 2002, a year before Pirates of the Caribbean. That appearance is now available on DVD from Shout Factory and Bravo.
Most celebrity interview shows are vapid, but a few, like Charlie Rose or Inside the Actors Studio, rise above.
This interview contains 50 minutes of questions and answers that take us from Depp’s childhood through his work in Sleepy Hollow. It is edited tightly; some might say it’s edited too tightly. The conversation often takes an abrupt turn, and there is even a jump cut from a segment where Depp is wearing a jacket to a segment when he’s in just a t-shirt.
Lipton is a gracious and attentive host. He is very well prepared. He knows the answers to many of his questions before he asks them, rather than wasting time getting to know his guest personally or coyly fishing for anecdotes. So when he asks Depp about his family — even reminding Depp to give his daughter’s full name — Lipton is not prying, but rather giving his guest a chance to speak about the people he loves.
Of course, what really makes this DVD interesting is Depp himself. Before Pirates of the Caribbean, it was probably easier to praise Depp for his risk taking: the cross-dressing director Ed Wood, the speechless monster Edward Scissorhands, and the real-life gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. With the guaranteed box-office of the Pirates series, it’s harder to say he’s “taking risks.” Still, for those of us who followed his career before he became Jack Sparrow, this interview with Depp — and the audience’s warm response — is a nice tribute to a talented man.
Highlights from the interview include Depp discussing his technique for finding his character. When reading the screenplay, he’ll often visualize a few key images that give him the essence of role. For example, for Depp, Ed Wood was a combination of the blind optimism of Ronald Reagan, the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, and Casey Kasem. In Sleepy Hollow, Depp says he played Ichabod Crane as a girl detective.
If you don’t like Depp, this DVD won’t do much for you. Also, if you’re looking for advice from Depp on your own career, you probably won’t find get much from it. When asked for advice, Depp encourages the young actors in the audience not to let the industry package them in any way they don’t like. Good advice if you’re a young Johnny Depp: teen heartthrob, but if you’re one of the other 99.5% of actors out there, that situation doesn’t seem likely to come up.
The DVD is bare-bones. The only “extra feature” is an introduction by host James Lipton, who explains that Depp was their most popular guest ever, and that he got away with smoking on stage on a no-smoking campus because, well, he’s Johnny Depp.
Some outtakes or an extended Q&A might have been nice for die-hards, but as it stands, this DVD is a quick little easily digested hour of television, sans commercials, and it’s far better than your standard celebrity interview.