One of the most beloved actors of all time, Johnny Depp has a knack for playing some very weird characters. Taking his acting into consistently unpredictable directions, it should be absolutely no surprise that Depp has done some crazy things in order to prepare for roles. While he might not be as boundary pushing as some of his peers (we’re looking at you Christian Bale) Depp is unafraid to take some pretty big risks in his acting.
With his boyishly good looks, Depp never really had to go the extra mile to get roles. Cast as a teen in the first Nightmare on Elm Street, he quickly jumped to television where he starred in 21 Jump Street. That was never enough for the young actor though, who desperately wanted to be taken seriously. He was ready to push himself to the limit in his cinematic roles. Working with Tim Burton in the early 90’s, who was fresh off of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, the pair thrived, and to this day are considered among the best actor-director collaborations.
Whether you prefer Depp when he’s playing a pirate or a gangster, there is no denying he is one of the brightest stars of his generation. With more fantastic performances under his belt than any actor could ever dream of, Depp is always pushing the envelope and wowing both mainstream and independent audiences with his skills. Let’s have a look at just some of the craziest things he’s done for his craft.
13. Emulated Keith Richards
Legendary Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, eventually appeared in the third entry of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but with the debut of the first film, people were very worried about Depp’s unconventional approach to playing a pirate. A far cry from Captain Hook from the beloved Disney animated film, Depp created his character as an ancient rock star – a slurring glam rocker who wavers rather than walks. While now we consider Jack Sparrow one of the most beloved characters of the 21st century, this was all hinged on an enormous risk. We’re honestly still surprised they let Depp get away with it!
12. Developed Characters With Barbie Dolls
One of the most difficult parts of being a jet-setting actor is balancing your home life with your work. Depp found a nice compromise, and would blend role preparation with quality time with his daughter, Lily-Rose. He apparently tested out both Jack Sparrow and his eccentric Willy Wonka out this way, working out details for the role. While his daughter eventually grew out of it, she has since been bitten by the acting bug and will be starring alongside her father for the second time in Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers.
11. Practiced Cross Dressing
While the real-life Ed Wood was infamous for his cross-dressing, that didn’t mean that Depp had to take his work home with him! To prepare to play the infamously untalented film director, Depp would spend his evenings getting dressed in women’s clothing including bras, panties and high-heels. Not necessarily something that would be off the table for a method actor like Depp, not all acting requires that kind of in-depth research. Though to be fair, I’m sure after the experience he really started to appreciate the lengths women in his life went to look their best – seriously, high heels are no fun.
10. Lived As A Comanche
Johnny Depp’s’ turn as Tonto in The Lone Ranger was the subject of a lot of controversies, as many felt they should have cast a first nations person in the role. While Depp claims to have Native American ancestry, for some audiences this just wasn’t enough. That being said, Depp went above and beyond to rectify what he felt was a history of racist representations in his performance and even spent time living with a tribe in New Mexico. In that time, he participated in sacred rituals and became close friends with many members of the tribe, which only strengthened his resolve to do the best he could with the role.
9. Had Dentist Apply Extra Gold Teeth
Knowing full well that his portrayal of Jack Sparrow would make Disney nervous, Depp often pushed things a little too far – knowing full well, that Disney would ask him to scale back. In one case, he wanted Jack Sparrow to have a fake nose which executives balked at. In the case of Jack Sparrow’s gold teeth, Depp knew that no matter what producers would ask him to scale back, so when he went to the dentist to get some of his teeth capped he purposefully asked for extra teeth done so that when Disney saw the result and asked him to remove some, he would be left with exactly the amount of teeth he wanted.
8. Wore A Dead Man’s Pants
For Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, which depicted the real life story of gangster John Dillinger, Johnny Depp went through his typical research phase. During this process, he went to the John Dillinger museum in Indiana, where he was able to read personal letters by the now infamous gangster. Well after the fact (it doesn’t matter if you’re Depp or not, museums don’t let you just try on people’s clothes) Depp admitted that he had actually tried on Dillinger’s pants at some point in the night. Even more surprisingly, they actually fit perfectly. Talk about destiny!
7. Was Nearly Trampled By A Horse
While shooting The Lone Ranger, which involved a lot of stunt work with horses, behind the scenes Johnny Depp was thrown from his horse at one point. After falling off his horse Scout, and being dragged over 25 feet the actor narrowly escaped an even worse fate when the horse carefully jumped over him to avoid causing significant damage to the actor. While Depp walked away with just scrapes and bruises, his near tragic accident is exactly why most producers and insurance companies don’t let their big stars perform their own stunts. Lucky for Depp fans, he wasn’t more seriously injured. This isn’t the first time Depp has done stunts with horses, as he did all of his own horse stunts on Sleepy Hollow and even end up adopting one of the horses from that set after learning it would otherwise be put down!
6. Hunter S. Thompson Shaved His Head
To play Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Depp got close to the eccentric gonzo reporter. When it came time to have his head shaved for the role, Thompson took it upon himself to do the deed. Not only was this a sacrifice since Depp had a really nice head of hair, rendering it into an awful comb-over seems like a crime, but well… friends or not, we can’t say we would necessarily trust the notoriously unstable Thompson with any kind of sharp object. You just have to watch the film to understand why trusting Thompson with such a dangerous task would be unwise, but hey, Depp has a lot of trust in his friends.
5. Gave Up Sobriety After Two Years
In a Rolling Stone interview published in 2014, Depp revealed that he had been sober for nearly two years. While he has never had too many documented problems with drugs or alcohol, the eccentric actor felt it was time to stop self-medicating and give up alcohol. Unfortunately, this new lease on life could not stand up The Rum Diary and Hunter S. Thompson’s booze soaked words. Not even two weeks on the set, and Depp was back off the wagon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for a better film, but hopefully, Depp isn’t underplaying his problems with alcohol and is taking care of himself.
4. Was Skinny And Lost More Weight
While recently the paparazzi has been critical of Depp, saying he looks bloated and fat – up until recently he’s always been pretty svelte. So, at the height of his 21 Jump Street teen heartthrob phase, for him to lose 25 lbs was a pretty big deal – he was already pretty skinny. Eager to escape being typecast as a pretty boy, in the early 90’s Johnny Depp worked very hard to take bizarre and unconventional roles. To this day, Edward Scissorhands might very well be his most beloved and bizarre film role ever. It also helped him slowly become one of the most respected and sought after actors of his generation.
3. Met Up With Narcotics Convict
Being a movie star is a very glamorous business, but sometimes you find yourself in some very unexpected situations. While doing research for the film Blow, the film about the American cocaine industry in the 1970’s, Depp met with drug dealers to better understand the drug and the industry. In particular, he met George Jung, the man he would be portraying – who at one point was responsible for 89% of all cocaine smuggled into the United States! Jung was behind bars at the time, serving a 20-year sentence on conspiracy charges (at the time of his arrest, he was in possession of 796 kg of cocaine). While Jung was safely behind bars at that point, he’s still not the kind of guy you cross – especially since he got released in 2014.
2. Lived Four Months With Subject Of Role
Now, Hunter S. Thompson is not only one of the most influential writers of the 20th century – in short spurts, he’s probably incredibly fun. Drugs, booze, guns and all out wackiness exemplify the public persona we’ve come to love, but 4 months of Hunter S. Thompson is a kind of marathon most of us would not be willing, let alone be able to survive. Clearly, though, not only did Depp and Thompson become good friends, they found a sort of kinship in each other’s eccentricities. Initially, John Cusack had been cast, but being stubborn and intrusive, Thompson refused to let the film be made unless Depp was cast.
1. Had Costume Induced Heatstroke
Johnny Depp had a lot hinging on Edward Scissorhands. Tim Burton was not the household name he is today, and even if he was, the story of a loveable man-child-creature with scissors for hands and scars all over his face would still be a tough sell. Depp was devoted to creating an entirely real and empathetic character, and part of that process was the refusal to use any kind of cooling agents or methods in his all leather suit. What was good enough for Ed, should be good enough for Johnny – but unfortunately, this choice led Depp to suffer from heatstroke.