Sunday, January 10, 2010

Johnny Depp: Actor of the Decade

I’m delighted with the “People’s Choice” pick of Johnny Depp as Actor of the Decade (2000-2009). Depp definitely deserves this honor. The camera loves him probably more than any other actor, and because of his incredible attention to detail, the diverse – and often bizarre -- characters he portrays come alive on screen with a special vibrancy. My favorite Depp performances during the past ten years can be found in CHOCOLAT, FINDING NEVERLAND, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, SECRET WINDOW, and all three PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies.

CHOCOLAT: Depp, who modeled his character Roux (an intriguing Irish drifter) after ex-Pogues singer Shane MacGowan, may not be in this movie as much as I would like, but he looks and sounds terrific. His musical brogue enchanted me, and I even liked his pony-tail hairdo. Depp’s exciting chemistry with Juliette Binoche also deserves mentioning. They sizzle together on screen. At the film’s London premiere, Binoche described Depp as "My perfect chocolate --- he’s dark, sumptuous, and tasty."

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: Depp claims his inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow came from Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards -- because "Pirates were the rock stars of their day." He also admits throwing a bit of Pepe Le Pew, the cartoon character, into the mix. Depp's extraordinary efforts to create another memorable -- even iconic -- screen character succeeded with flying colors: Jack Sparrow is every bit as unforgettable as Depp's squeamish Ichabod Crane in SLEEPY HOLLOW, released in 1999.

FINDING NEVERLAND: Depp portrays Sir James M. Barrie, creator of PETER PAN, as alternately sad and playful -- but always fascinating. Depp’s understated Scottish accent seems perfect for this character, and his soulful brown eyes register a range of emotions as Barrie faces his loveless marriage, a failed play, a new friendship with an ailing widow and her sons, and the work involved in writing a new play.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO: Playing a greedy, corrupt and downright evil CIA agent, Depp almost steals this action movie from leading man Antonio Banderas. Too bad he doesn't have a sexy outfit or at least one guitar. Depp's weapons? Just clever one-liners, a few silly T-shirts, and an extra arm.

SECRET WINDOW: Depp's portrayal of Mort Rainey, a troubled author, is fascinating to watch. It’s also the talented actor’s very best work to date, in my opinion. The film opens with the Depp’s photogenic face almost completely covering the wide screen -- his dark eyes staring directly at the audience. Fortunately, director David Koepp wisely gives Depp every opportunity to show the inner workings of a mind slowly coming to grips with its own demons. Depp uses little things like unusual voice inflections, worried frowns, intriguing grimaces, even a tattered old bathrobe to cast a spell over viewers and draw us into his confused world.

Congratulations, Johnny!

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