Johnny Depp is a Hollywood megastar and, as such, he has been afforded more opportunities than most to take risks and play characters on screen that other actors would likely only contemplate if they were considering career suicide.
Since his debut role in Nightmare On Elm Street, back in 1984, Depp has gone on to play a wide range of creepy, curious, and eccentric characters and, while some of the roles were certainly more memorable than others, one word that’s probably never been used to describe his any of his performances is “boring.” Here’s a look at six of Johnny Depp’s weirdest roles.
6. Tonto – The Lone Ranger
Despite getting scathing reviews and being a massive disappointment at the box office, The Lone Ranger is actually a pretty fun movie thanks largely to Depp’s performance as Tonto. Unlike the 1950s TV series, Tonto plays a much more prominent role in the movie, acting as narrator of the events which see the famous duo strive to bring order to the Old West. If you overlook the controversy surrounding Depp portraying a character who’s entirely Native American, it’s a little like watching Jack Sparrow in a Western.
5. Lord Charlie Mortdecai – Mortdecai
In this movie Depp plays a peculiar art dealer who faces off against terrorists, Russian mobsters, and British intelligence in an attempt to hunt down a stolen painting. Mortdecai has all the earmarks of a character Johnny Depp would play: a presumptuous British accent, a fancy cane, tons of over exaggerated hand gestures and, of course, a wonderfully antiquated handlebar mustache. Even though critics and audiences were unanimous in their distaste for the movie, you can’t blame Depp for staying true to his calling by finding increasingly unconventional roles to play on screen.
4. Barnabus Collins – Dark Shadows
Given his youthful good looks and penchant for oddball roles, it seems strange that it took Johnny Depp almost 30 years before he portrayed a vampire. He finally got the opportunity in 2012 when he played Barnabus Collins in Dark Shadows—a Tim Burton movie about the heir of a wealthy family who is involuntarily turned into a vampire, entombed, and then awoken 200 years later. With his chalk-white face, jet-black hair and spider-like fingers, Depp at least looks the part of a stereotypical vampire despite his character being extremely off-beat. This certainly isn’t Burton and Depp’s best collaboration, but Barnabus Collins, much like Edward Scissorhands, feels like a character who’s prolonged detachment from society results in both funny situations and some heartfelt emotional moments.
3. The Mad Hatter – Alice in Wonderland
Let’s face it, Depp was always a shoe-in for this character considering so many of his previous roles could be described as being “as mad as a hatter.” Sadly, in the one role where there should be no inhibitions about going completely bonkers, Depp doesn’t quite capture the same nonsensical joy of the source material. However, in his defence, he did say he wanted to bring a more human side to the Hatter, rather than just have him be a ridiculous character. One of the ways he accomplished this was by using a range of accents and connecting them to different emotions. The device definitely makes his version of the Hatter seem like a bit of a strung out schizophrenic, but it seemed to work with audiences, as Alice in Wonderland made over a billion dollars at the global box office, prompting producers to plan a sequel for 2017.
2. The Big Bad Wolf – Into The Woods
In the big screen adaptation of the Broadway hit Into The Woods, Depp plays a considerably small role as the rapacious Big Bad Wolf stalking Red Riding Hood on her way to grandma’s house. But rather than being outfitted with a mask and fur like in the play, Depp decided it would be best if he went with the ’50s gangster look—complete with a pointy-eared fadora—instead. This role also gave Depp the chance to do some more sing-acting, as he apparently got a taste for it after starring in Sweeney Todd. Whether or not that’s a good thing is still up for debate though; one reviewer from The Stranger describes his performance as “all eyeballs and aimlessness and weirdness for weirdness’s sake.”
1. Willy Wonka – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Given that Gene Wilder’s performance in the original Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is so treasured, Depp decided he wanted to do something very different with Willy Wonka in the 2005 remake—and different it was. Although the newer script adheres more closely with the Roald Dahl book it’s based on, Depp’s version of Wonka turns the weirdness factor up to 11 and then breaks the knob off. But even though his portrayal drew criticism for bearing too much of a likeness to Michael Jackson (who happened to be on trial for child molestation the same year the movie was released), it still managed to depict Wonka as a man who is tormented by his childhood, has very child-like tendencies, and also seems to hate children, all at the same time. This movie was also considered by many to be Depp’s “gateway drug” into the realm of crazy hair and make-up.