WHEN Johnny Depp thinks about what it is he does for a living and how well he’s paid for it, he has to laugh.
Currently starring in the fourth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, which will ironically be screened at Cannes this year, Depp was paid somewhere between $32m and $35m (€22.2m-€24.3m) for this film alone.
“To an outsider standing around watching this going on, it’s ludicrous. I mean it’s really an insane thing,” he says, laughing. “I mean, there are moments where I go, ‘alright, you’re someone’s Dad and this is what you do for a living!’ There you are bouncing around and making strange noises for a living and you’re someone’s father! It’s a strange realisation.”
Being Johnny Depp seems like one very cool gig indeed. His Midas touch when it comes to his movie career continues to allow him to move between hugely commercial projects like Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and then back to more boutiquey projects like the Rum Diaries, or his ongoing documentary on the life of Keith Richards.
“I’m so lucky and blessed with regard to my kids, who definitely keep me in the right now. And to be in an occupation that’s fun and that I enjoy, that’s really it for me,” he says in that sexy, low voice of his.
“In terms of living and just enjoying life, not to get horrifically metaphysical, but the idea of dwelling in right now, as opposed to worrying or stressing about the past or the future which don’t exist — that works for me.”
Depp has been in a relationship with the French singer Vanessa Paradis for the past 14 years and they have two children, Lilly Rose (13) and John Jack (nine). Although he can’t bring himself to look as his own movies, Depp’s kids are still big fans, with Captain Jack being a particular favourite.
“I don’t watch myself. I’m still not comfortable with it. Whenever my kids put on one of my films, they’ll do it without me there. If I happen to walk into the room, I’ll immediately backtrack and go somewhere else. They still break out the Pirates DVDs or Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Vanessa likes Captain Jack a lot — she’s slightly biased. But she also has a fondness for Ed Wood. Can you believe that was almost 20 years ago?”
He and Vanessa are working together on adapting a Simone de Beauvoir short story called My American Lover in which they will co-star and which is to be directed by Lasse Hallestrom.
Spending time with his very pregnant co-star and close friend Penelope Cruz during the making of Pirates of the Caribbean and since the birth of her first child in January, Depp has no problem admitting that he found himself becoming a bit broody.
“It’s pretty great to watch herself and Javier and the baby in action — it’s really adorable. Javier knows how to spoil his woman and child and the one thing is, it does make you incredibly broody and clucky. You start thinking ‘Oh wow, I’d like to have another one of those’, because you can’t really rewind, can you? The three of them came to the house and to see brand new parents with their little angel, it definitely brings back very fond memories and the first thing you want to do is rewind, but I don’t know — two’s pretty good, you know.
“Penelope and I first worked together on Blow a long time ago and we got super close. There’s a wonderful chemistry that happens very naturally between us and there’s no need to push it. During the filming of this Pirates, Penelope was seconds away from giving birth. It was scorching hot and 1000% humidity and she was unbelievable, she just kept pushing forward. A pregnant woman doing a sword fight was a pretty strange image, but she was so accurate and made it look so effortless.”
Depp is wearing his hair short these days, in preparation for the up-coming vampire movie Dark Shadows which he will also co-produce with director Tim Burton. His ongoing documentary on the biopic of Keith Richards is also still in full swing, with nearly 40 hours of interviews and performances committed to tape. He was also asked by Richards to lend his voice to the audio book of Life — an honour he absolutely could not refuse.
“Having Keith back in the Pirates series was such fun. We shared a trailer and just hung around for several days. I actually built up the nerve to ask Keith about a chord in a song of his called Make No Mistake. It’s been years and though my ear is usually pretty good, I could never figure it out. So he picked up his guitar and goes brrrrrrm and showed me the chord! It was one of those moments that gets seared in your brain and will be one of my images when I’m dying.
“We’re going to start assembling the material for the documentary soon and see what we’ve got. But there’s no real rush. We’re taking it moment by moment.
“With his book, I was sent the galleys before Christmas and then Keith asked me directly if I would read the audio for the audiobook. What an honour to be chosen to read his words! I was shooting Pirates at the same time and would record in the evenings after filming. At a certain point, with deadlines and all that, I had got to chapter five and we made a compromise and a musician called Joe Hurley came and did the middle. I came back and did chapters 11 and 12 and then Keith did chapter 13. It was truly a great honour.”
It might sound as though he’s name-dropping, but Depp appears to make and stay friends with quite an assortment of cool artists and to collaborate with them whenever he can.
His friendship with Shane McGowan goes back more than two decades and Depp starred in a music video for The Pogues song That Woman’s Got Me Drinking. The two also collaborated with Nick Cave and Chrissie Hynde last year to record a version of I Put a Spell on You, the proceeds of which went to relieve victims of the Haiti earthquake. “Shane is just great. I don’t see him anything like as much as I wish I could, but we stay in touch by phone and text.”
Given how reclusive Depp is known to be and his total aversion to the public and the paparazzi’s expectations of celebrity, how does Depp manage to straddle his need for solitude with having to go out and sell the movies he’s made?
“For me, it’s the balance that makes it all work. On the one hand, I don’t think I could be in public more than I am now, within the confines of the stress of the business. But at the same time, I don’t think I could be on an island for years and years on end, essentially alone. I need to create something and at the moment, I like to create characters. If I was on an island, I’d probably end up whittling palm trees into human figures or something. But what makes it all work and makes it tolerable is the balance between the two.”
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opens nationwide on May 18.