Mega-star Johnny Depp jumps ship and takes an exciting new role opposite Hollywood's biggest female mega-star, Angelina Jolie. The Tourist sees Johnny and Angelina high-tailing across Europe from Paris to Venice, and Buzzine recently grabbed an exclusive behind-the-scenes interview about life on the road, losing a fight for footie pajamas, and why you never want to actually swim in the Venetian canals.
Buzzine: You speak French and Spanish in the movie... Habla Espanol?
Johnny Depp: No, not at all.
B: In the film, Frank mistakes Spanish for Italian. He's got that electronic cigarette. He's kind of the least cool person in the room. How much of that was in the script, and how much of that was you playing with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck to create the part?
JD: I can't remember. I don't know that a fully formed Frank was in the script. We sat down and went through all these ideas, and that's what seemed to come out. The idea was to make him really the everyman's math teacher who doesn't have particular highs or particular lows in his life, and he's got a slight amount of obsessive compulsive disorder in his weird routines and things like that. And take this normal guy and put him into these situations that are...well, certainly less than normal--these high-stake situations. The electronic cigarette was obviously the device that would sort of ring the alarm that he's in panic mode.
B: Florian said that you added elements of comedy and that it was more of a suspense/thriller before that. What made you think that would be a good tone for the character and the film?
JD: I just thought that if you took this guy and put him into these situations, there's no way he wouldn't… Especially if he's going to stick around, he has to recognize the level of absurdity in what he's going through here and for what ultimately. Also, I'm a real sucker. If I see a gag coming around the corner, I snatch it up immediately. I can't help myself. You spend nine-tenths of the time when you're working trying to make your costar laugh, and then I guess some of it is in the film. I don't know.
B: Seven years ago, we talked to you about Pirates and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory being so successful. You said that it was a recent development--having successful films. How do you view your career now, after all this time?
JD: Certainly not like a huge, global movie star. I can't even think of myself on those terms. I can't help but smile because it just doesn't register as me. It feels like I'm still doing the same bits and just trying something different each time, exploring something new. That's what's important--to just keep challenging myself and try to come up with some new faces every now and again. Many years ago, Marlon Brando asked me, "How many films do you do per year, kid?" I said, "I don't know, maybe three or something." He said, "That's too much. We only have so many faces in our pockets." I thought, wow, that's really true. But I feel like I still have a few faces in my pockets, though.
B: You've done a lot of roles under quite a bit of makeup and costume, but this is just you and it's very funny and enjoyable. Do you think you'll do more roles like this?
JD: I think it really depends on the story. It depends on the script and the character. The script and the character on the page kind of dictate where you're going to go. My process is still the same as ever. I still get these kinds of images of someone that I may have known in the past which reminds me of the character. For example, Frank with his kind of heavily groomed beard--which, by the way, I can't grow and those were all glued on--that perfectly landscaped beard came from a guy that I knew years ago. I was always fascinated with that beard because it just looked like something in jar and you couldn't believe that someone could actually have that and be so pristine with it. So it depends on what comes to you, but it's really what the story tells you that you need to do. It's always changing from story to story.
B: I don't think we've ever seen an action sequence in a film before with a man in his pajamas. What's the background on that story?
JD: I wanted footie pajamas, but Florian wouldn't go for it. Little bunny ears. I think initially the guy was supposed to be either in a towel or in his underpants. I can't remember, but there was something about the image of a grown man in pajamas that look like Wally Cleaver's--they looked like something you'd pull out of Leave It To Beaver's dad's drawer. The imagery juxtaposed with the background of Venice--I just thought there was something really funny about it. So Florian went for it.
B: Were you actually in a Venice canal in the water? Because that water is not very clean...
JD: Oh no, it's not. Doing stunts and stuff, being yanked down a Venice canal in a boat, being handcuffed to the railing and all that stuff--that was way secondary to the immense fear I had of going into the drink because...God knows what that's like. The stunt guys that did have to go into the drink were on antibiotics for weeks and weeks and weeks--intense antibiotics for weeks prior to. So, no. I actually remember being cuffed up to that railing and getting ready to take off, saying to myself, "You're going in. You're going into this water." I didn't, luckily, but it was pretty close a couple of times.
B: But you did run across rooftops in your bare feet, right?
JD: Yes, I did. That was wild because, when you're doing it, your adrenaline is going and you don't really notice things like that, but I was standing there talking to Florian and I just went, "Oh, my God." I noticed that there was blood dripping down these terra cotta tiles. I guess I left a little trail of blood behind me.
B: You didn't actually feel your feet being cut up?
JD: No, I didn't--not when I was doing it. When I was in the scene, you're just sort of in the scene, and I didn't feel it until later. It might be ignorance. I don't know.
B: Can you talk about working with Angelina Jolie, how you guys met, how this came about, and if this is the beginning of a Hepburn & Tracy-type pairing?
JD: Boy, I sure would like to think so. I hope so because she's a real treat to get into the ring with. She's a lot of fun. She's deeply committed to the work, very smart, and with a great approach. Fun. Funny and very, very absurd and perverse sense of humor. We met, oddly, right before we did this, which is weird because I think we have a lot of mutual acquaintances--people we've worked with--but we'd never met. When we sat down together, it was kind of instant. We got each other. Within minutes, we were yakking about our kids and the perils of parenthood and all that fun stuff. If she'd have me again, I would be more than happy. She's a good girl. I have a lot of respect for her. Aside from the fact that, in the face of all that she and Brad [Pitt] and their kids, that life they have to deal with, being globally under the microscope every second of the day, she's as grounded and as cool and as normal and low-key a person as you'd want to meet. She doesn't take it all that seriously. She's a great mommy, which you have to take your hat off to as well, certainly. She's out there trying to do things in the world. She's trying to help. She's impressive. She's a force.
B: Making a movie in Venice, did you have time to be a real tourist?
JD: My tourist times were between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. That was the only time I could really wander and have a look around because there's virtually no one on the street at that point. So yeah, I was amazed. Everywhere you look is a kind of visual poem--these wonderful facades and clotheslines with people's laundry and little signs on churches: Bread for the poor... Beautiful. Really magnificent place. That's the sort of Venice that I like to see as opposed to going into the gondola and putting a flower my teeth or something. I like the nighttime Venice. I like the quiet Venice where it feels like the ghosts are around.
B: You were given a great deal of latitude to create this character, and that seems to be a hallmark of many of your roles. What was the first role you were given that latitude, and do you look for that in a role?
JD: What I specifically look for is if there's something outside the author's intent that maybe I can add which may be a little different, coming from the outside that's not done to death, as it were. Is there something I can add to this thing to make it more interesting? That's what I look for. I suppose I've always had that. It's probably a bad habit. I remember doing Platoon back in '86 with Oliver Stone and rewriting my dialogue. That's probably why he cut me out of the film mostly. I've always had that kind of thing. It's been a part of me. I suppose the first time that's really outside of it was Cry Baby. That was a character that I felt good about. Edward Scissorhands... Nobody really knew what I was going to do prior to that. Even Tim [Burton], bless him, was a little nervous initially with my take on him. But I think it all worked out. I guess it probably comes from being locked in to that... I was in that television thing for a few years, and the perimeters were so rigid. There was no room for movement. There was no room to grow. I was just that character. "Play that character," and that was it. I just swore to myself, after that, I couldn't do that again--that if I had to go back to construction, it was okay. I was pretty good at that. Pumping gas. I could do that too.
B: What do you love most about your adopted city of Paris?
JD: Everything. The history, whether it's the history of the French...the literary history of Paris has been and always be a fascination for me. The books that were written here, and also art history, the painters who wandered these streets. Great poets. Baudelaire and Dinoval... It's always been magical for me, and I've always oddly felt more at home here than anywhere else in the world. I have no explanation for it whatsoever. But I suppose just to be surrounded by all this art and all this incredible work that people have done over the years...or to go into the Café Fleur--you can feel that it's still there. You still feel all those great writers. You can see James Joyce sitting in the corner. Very inspiring.
B: Do you have a favorite French movie?
JD: I like Le Tatoue. That's Jean Gabin and Louis de Funes.
Columbia Pictures 'The Tourist' is released Friday December 10, 2010.