Johnny Depp, Acting Stagnation and the Promise of Retirement

Today brought the news that Johnny Depp has an eye on retirement in the not too distant future. This will devastate some, and please others (myself included) who think Depp hasn’t really looked passionate about his chosen profession for a long time. Fear not! He still wants to do more ALICE IN WONDERLAND and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies! Joy of joys…

While Depp hasn’t indicated exactly when he might bow out, or indeed whether he will remain involved in the film industry in another, less front-and-centre capacity, most will simply want to know one thing – why now? While I can’t claim to know Mr Depp’s mind, there are a few indications. He’s indicated in interviews that he’s tired of the pressures and lack of privacy linked to being a film megastar. He’s been stuck with recycling the same oddball characters for over a decade now (though this admittedly is partly his own doing) and he’s currently weathering the considerable backfire from his “racist” performance as Tonto in Disney’s much-derided exercise in excess THE LONE RANGER. In short, it’s not a good time to be Johnny Depp.

Depp gave his greatest, most vivid performances in the 1990s, in EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, ED WOOD and SLEEPY HOLLOW to name just the Tim Burton collaborations. Burton and Depp were a winning combination back then – a kookily artistic hive-mind, rather than the tired, dull and uninspired partnership they have become post-CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY.

Depp’s star had begun to fade by the early 2000s, and then Jack Sparrow came along. Sparrow and Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean series gave Depp a second life on the big screen, and the shambolic pirate “captain” was a joy to watch…for a couple of films. But Cap’n Jack is starting to grate now, and the prospect of more Pirates films isn’t exactly an enticing prospect.

You could blame Depp’s career stagnation on many things – his poor script choices, his tendency to churn out the same old stuff when collaborating with his director chums (Burton and Verbinski), or maybe he’s just bored with the whole showbiz lifestyle.

If he does indeed retire following another God-awful Alice and/or Pirates film, then it might not be such a bad thing, It would be more satisfying if he went out on a career-high (and maybe next year’s Sondheim musical film Into the Woods will be it), but regardless we’ll always have his more interesting early performances to remember him by.

Johnny Depp has been a towering figure in film for nearly 30 years now, so maybe we should cut him some slack, and allow him to bow out gracefully. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourites include Sam Mendes, Guillermo del Toro, Bong Joon-ho, Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle, Edgar Wright, Taika Waititi and the Coen Brothers. All reviews and articles are original works owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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