Johnny Depp

The Rum Diary marks Johnny Depp’s return to Hunter S. Thompson territory, following his cult favorite work in Terry Gilliam’s delirious adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Yet audiences expecting more of the same drug-fueled mania will be disappointed. While it’s filled with offbeat characters and the occasional stylistic quirk, Bruce Robinson’s film offers a straightforward, earnest narrative about a young marble-mouthed author finding his writing voice while fighting capitalist corruption. Set in a volatile Puerto Rico, circa 1960, Thompson’s semi-autobiographical story follows struggling journalist/alter ego Paul Kemp (Depp) as he joins the staff at a local rag run by domineering editor-in-chief Lotterman (Richard Jenkins). It’s a day-to-day portrait of Kemp’s hard living in paradise, set against a backdrop of conflict between the natives hoping to protect their land and the capitalistic cronies interested in transforming the archipelago nation into an overdeveloped tourist spot.

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Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming spy movie The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which is an adaptation of a popular television series from the 60s, has had some trouble finding a leading man. The movie will tell the tale of the teaming of two spies under the banner of the United Network Command for Law Enforcement. If Soderbergh’s vision of the material stays true to the TV show’s, then those men will be American secret agent Napoleon Solo and his Russian counterpart Illya Kuryakin. Originally, like in most of Soderbergh’s movies, George Clooney was just going to play the lead role. He had to drop out of the production due to the always looming scheduling conflicts or whatever though, so Soderbergh has been on a mad rush to fill Clooney’s shoes. Since all of the man’s movies that don’t star George Clooney usually star Matt Damon instead, he was the next guy to get a look for the role, but he ended up passing. Then things got desperate, Soderbergh went way out of his wheelhouse and tried to get Johnny Depp to play the part, but he passed as well. That’s a lot of Hollywood’s biggest leading men telling you that they can’t be in your movie. What is a director to do? What Soderbergh seems to be doing is moving on to the next big thing. According to Variety he is in intense negotiations with Bradley Cooper to step in and be his guy. Cooper has been in a good number of films […]

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Frequent fright wig-wearing actor Johnny Depp is teaming up with Infinitum Nihil and Illumination Entertainment to produce a live-action look at the life of author Theodor Geisel. He was an eccentric type, given to talking in rhymes and working under pen names. Geisel started his career drawing advertisements and comic strips, he then later published legendary children’s books like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Cat in the Hat.” He was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and attended college at Dartmouth. Yikes, that doesn’t sound like a very exciting movie, even if the guy ends up going by a crazy name like Dr. Seuss. The concept gets a little bit more interesting though, with word that Depp is very likely to star in the film, along with his duties producing the project. He already has experience playing real life writers Hunter S. Thompson and J.M. Barrie, so it seems like the role would be right in his wheelhouse. And if scenes of him creating his most famous works are included in the film, complete with trippy visualizations of the things he’s writing about, then who better than Depp to put on ridiculous outfits and bring characters like The Grinch and The Cat in the Hat to life? And don’t say Jim Carrey and Mike Myers. Bad memories, man. [THR]

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I try not to report on set photos very often, and that’s for a of couple reasons. First off, it’s one thing to look at official images that are released by the studio and are ideally meant to create hype for a project without giving much of it away, and it’s another to look at spy photos that, quite frankly, give away a lot more about a movie than I want to know before I’m sitting in the theater to watch the finished product. And also, seeing things out of context, not through the lens of the cinematographer, and without any of that special “movie magic” attached to it, can give you the wrong impression of how a film is going to look and make you go into your actual viewing of the finished film battling unfair prejudices. Case in point are some recent spy pics from the set of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, which made the rounds and gave Internet fans a glimpse at what Johnny Depp would look like as the vampire Barnabas Collins. His face was covered in a thick layer of grease paint, it looked like he had plastic hair, and generally the picture made Dark Shadows look like it was going to be one of the over-the-top cartoon movies that have become a hallmark of Burton’s recent career. That aesthetic doesn’t jibe much with what the original Dark Shadows was, and would have probably been a pretty stupid way to approach the material. Probably if […]

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And The Joker is his stylist. CelebBuzz (via Cinema Blend) has a handful of shots that prove that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have begun shooting Dark Shadows, but the design work going on here is absolutely atrocious. Fortunately, there are more where the one above came from. Of course, we don’t know if this is the costume and make-up work for Barnabas Collins or just Depp arriving to work, but if it’s the former, applause is in order. It’s nice to see that they’re keeping this thing as cartoonish as possible. Dark Shadows was never meant to be taken seriously.

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I’ve reported on the Thin Man remake that Johnny Depp is attached to star in a couple times before. First, there was the news that “Permanent Midnight” author Jerry Stahl would be writing the new screenplay for the film. Then there was word that past Depp collaborator Rob Marshall would be stepping in to direct. A new round of updates on the development of this project seem to confirm that, yes, Marshall is still attached to sit in the director’s chair. However, it seems that Stahl never actually did any writing for the film, so the suits have gotten a new guy to start a script from scratch. According to Deadline Rockland, veteran screenwriter David Koepp has now been charged with the duty of updating the exploits of married P.I. team Nick and Nora Charles. Koepp’s name doesn’t really tell me much about what to expect from this movie. He’s responsible for completely acceptable literary adaptations like Jurassic Park, but he’s also responsible for completely unacceptable literary adaptations like Angels & Demons. I guess his involvement is going to be a bit of a crapshoot.

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Getting The Rum Diary to both page and screen has been a real trip. Hunter S. Thompson wrote the book back in the 1960s, chronicling his adventures writin’ and boozin’ and livin’ down in Puerto Rico (as told through the eyes of his alter-ego “Paul Kemp”), but it was not published until 1998. A film adaptation has been kicked around since 2000, with the film ultimately lensing in 2009, though the film won’t be released until later this year. Johnny Depp plays Kemp in the film, marking Depp’s second attempt at playing Thompson (or, more accurately, a Thompson-based character from the author’s own work), after turning in one of his best performances as the gonzo journalist in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back in 1998. Depp again takes on his Thompson twang for another dip into the life of the icon. This time, drugs have been swapped for rum, the deserts of Vegas for the oceans of Puerto Rico. The Thompson follies will likely not abate, however. The film also stars Amber Heard, Aaron Eckhart, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi, and Amaury Nolasco. Kick back, take a sip, and check out the trailer after the break.

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It may be considered old news since it happened a whole week ago, but Disney passing on The Lone Ranger is a remarkably good sign. It’s noteworthy for more than the average news of the day because it hints at a crack in the current foundation of studio thinking. It’s barely ever publicized, since a studio refusing to make a film is hardly newsworthy, but a project this high-profile, featuring talent like Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski, that’s been reported on so thoroughly used to be a done deal. Now, that’s not the case. It’s not like this is the end of the story crisis or anything, but it’s the Hollywood equivalent of a crack addict putting down the pipe, and it should be celebrated.

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Despite the fact that the storytelling went off the rails and the budget’s bloated to bursting, Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy ended up making Disney more money than most spoiled aristocrats will see in their lifetime. Given his rep as a franchise builder, I thought it was pretty shocking when Disney recently pulled the plug on his upcoming movie The Lone Ranger. Yeah, a $250m budget is ridiculously high for a movie about a couple of guys on horses, but with Verbinski teaming back up with his Pirates star Johnny Depp, and The Lone Ranger already being a property that people are familiar with, I figured this project would be bullet proof. Not so, as according to THR, a Lone Ranger with a $250m budget would have to hit upwards of $800 million to make a profit after all of the necessary marketing costs and shady backroom money trading were handled. Despite the fact that a movie needing to make more than three times its budget to turn a profit is ridiculous, and the surest sign that the studio system is broken, that’s just the way it is. And with John Favreau’s Cowboys and Aliens not coming close to that number this summer, pumping so much money into a Western isn’t a risk Disney is looking to take, even in their Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland magic man Johnny Depp is on board.

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Culture Warrior

A genre nearly as old as filmmaking itself, the western thrived throughout the years of the studio system but has zigzagged across rough terrain for the past forty or so years. For the last fifteen-ish years, the struggling, commercially unfriendly genre was either manifested in a neoclassical nostalgic form limited in potential mass appeal (Appaloosa, Open Range) or in reimagined approaches that ran the gamut between contrived pap and inspired deconstructions (anything from Wild Wild West to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). But last December, True Grit – a bona fide western remake that relied on the opportunities available in the genre’s conventions rather than bells, whistles, or ironic tongues in their respective cheeks – became a smash hit. Did this film reinvigorate a genre that was on life support, as the supposed revitalization of the musical is thought to have done a decade ago, or are westerns surviving by moving along a different route altogether? Three westerns released so far this year – Gore Verbinski’s Rango, Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, and, as of this weekend, Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens – suggest mixed directions for the dusty ol’ genre.

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Ahoy! Yeah, I know that’s a lame way to start. Especially when you consider this week’s Commentary Commentary, our third, goes from essential classics like The Thing and Die Hard to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. We’re not scraping the bottom of the barrel just yet, and even though Curse of the Black Pearl is by no means a bad movie, it just hasn’t reached a level of beloved nostalgia like our first two. Okay. Enough preamble. This DVD offers three separate commentaries featuring various members of the cast and crew, but rather than hear the insight Jack Davenport had to offer – we love you, Jack – it’s probably best to hear from the film’s director and star. So here, without any further waggery or warm-up, is what was learned from their commentary.

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For a while, the only thing we really knew about Disney’s upcoming The Lone Ranger is that Johnny Depp would be starring, curiously enough, as Tonto. Then, as the project began to take shape, we learned that he would be re-teaming with his Pirates of the Caribbean and Rango director Gore Verbinski, who came on to helm things. Then the third big piece of the puzzle came into place when The Social Network’s Übermensch Armie Hammer signed on to play The Lone Ranger himself. And now that the big names are in place, it has come time to begin filling out the rest of the cast.

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Like most giant stars, Johnny Depp is attached to far more projects than he could ever appear in, so any news of upcoming development is near meaningless. With that in mind, here are three more pieces of meat that Depp is adding to his plate. Slashfilm is reporting that he’ll be continuing his engrossing and high grossing relationship with Disney by developing an adaptation of the 1970s made-for-TV movie The Night Stalker which features a journalist who starts to believe that serial killings in and around Las Vegas are actually the work of a vampire (which sounds curiously like the new Fright Night). Along with The Mouse, Depp is also trying to bring the story of Paul Revere’s midnight ride to life. Here’s hoping he doesn’t do all his research for it on Wikipedia. If that weren’t enough, Depp wants to start moving on In the Hand of Dante with Julian Schnabel as the director. According to The Playlist, the project isn’t exactly official, but Depp owns the rights, and Schnabel claims, “We’re gonna work on writing it, developing it.” The story, adapted from the book by Nick Tosches splits its time between Dante finding inspiration to write his “Divine Comedy” in the 14th century and a fictionalized Nick Tosches sinking into the underworld in 2001.

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It was in early May that we reported Disney was ready to get another Pirates of the Caribbean film off the ground, but that the series’ star Johnny Depp wanted them to hold off a little bit. He seemed to want a chance to do other things, but also intimated that he would come back for a Pirates 5 only if the right director and script were in place. Well, just two months later, On Strange Tides has made one billion dollars at the box office and The Wrap is reporting that Depp is already in negotiations to appear in a fifth film. It’s amazing how fast a billion dollars can move things along. The Wrap seems to be talking to sources close to the production (their cousin knows this guy who knows a guy) and apparently a rough draft for Pirates 5 has already been written, and Jerry Bruckheimer and his team of chained up screenwriters are meeting 3 to 4 times a week to get it up to snuff and make sure that it passes muster with Captain Jack. Perhaps that’s a bit of overkill on Bruckheimer’s part. The fact that the last two had terrible scripts didn’t seem to deter anybody from making these movies or going to see them in droves. Screw Pirates 5, I’m already getting excited for Pirates 17. I just hope they can get Depp back for it.

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While enduring the mild pain caused by Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I thought to myself, “Man, this Sam character is a real prick. What type of people actually like this person? This is the best savior we could get?” I then realized that I often find myself thinking this nowadays. We rarely get great, likable heroes or genuine badasses on film anymore. Most are either mopey, passive, or do morally questionable acts. I’m not referring to anti-heroes — although, I do include one on the list — but, rather, the unintentionally lame mainstream characters that aren’t the most compelling or charming. A few of these not-so-heroic characters aren’t due to bad acting. As you’ll notice, Leonardo DiCaprio made the list for Inception, where he gave a solid performance. While I wouldn’t say that most of the actors featured here impressed anyone, DiCaprio and a few others certainly did. Here are ten mainstream characters that exhibit very little heroics:

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It’s obviously Mustache Thursdays around here, and in the second piece of facial hair-based news, Variety is reporting that Tom Wilkinson is close to joining Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger. The veteran actor would be playing a “railroad tycoon” which most likely means he’ll be playing a bad guy, unless this story has the Ranger teaming up with a suave businessman to save the town or something. Casting Wilkinson is always a smart move because he can play just about anything and make it sing. Hammer is a strong leading man type, and Depp will most likely be as crazy as he wants to be as Tonto, but this reboot stands out as trading off of name recognition that has nothing to do comic books or plastic toys from the 1980s. It’s a name that appeals to a considerably older crowd, and it might be an effective move to bring in a younger crowd ready for wild west adventure alongside an older generation that remembers the character (or watching reruns of the character on television). It might be a clever move, and the casting is shaping up really well.

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Two-weeks or so after the release of the near-terrible Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, there’s already a list of directors that Disney is keen on to helm the fifth entry in the quality diving franchise. The list of filmmakers Disney is favoring is a bit surprising. There’s their top pick of Tim Burton, the always busy Sam Raimi, critical darling Alfonso Cuarón, Twilight 2 guy Chris Weitz, and the online venom drawer, Shawn Levy. Apparently an offer went out to Rob Marshall to return months ago, although he may be too busy with his Thin Man remake (*eye roll*)… Burton was rumored for the fourth film as well, but after Alice in Wonderland and Planet of the Apes, I don’t think I’ll ever be interested in seeing a big Burton action sequence ever again. And considering he’s currently working on Dark Shadows then Frankenweenie, he may be not have the time. Side note, when will see an original Burton film again?

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Coming off the heels of box office news that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides made more money in its standard showings than in its 3D showings, and a weekend in which the big 3D family release Kung-Fu Panda 2 opened softer than analysts were predicting, comes comments from Tim Burton regarding his upcoming films, and whether they will use 3D. As you might remember, Burton’s last film, Alice in Wonderland, used the oft derided 3D post conversion method and became one of the poster children for film’s that didn’t present well crafted 3D effects at all, but still charged the extra money for the ticket. When asked about 3D plans for his upcoming big screen adaptation of the vampire soap opera Dark Shadows, Burton said, “I have no plans for that.”

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Disney’s latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise arrived in theaters nationwide yesterday, and in keeping with all things peg-leggy and swashbuckly, I present selections from the On Stranger Tides press conference. Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Rob Marshall, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ian McShane and Geoffrey Rush were front and center for the press event, with moderator Pete Hammond at the helm. Here’s what they had to say.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr gets shanghaied by a group of drunken, smelly people he met in a pub. If only, if only these were really pirates taking him aboard a haunted ship. Alas, they weren’t. Let’s just say that there might be a few trips to the pharmacy in store for him. After surviving his if-only-it-were-real-pirates experience, Kevin took a shot at seeing Jodie Foster’s Beaver. Unfortunately, no one told him this was a title to an actual film, so he spent another few days in jail, missing any opportunity to see that new Mel Gibson film at all.

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