Last night the Santa Barbara Film Festival threw a live Johnny Depp show at the Arlington. As dismissive and snarly as I felt at the very beginning over his tardiness (Depp’s limo pulled up at 8:20 pm — a good 50 minutes later than usual), I felt more and more charmed by the 53 year-old superstar during his interview with Leonard Maltin. He’s not a big star for nothing — he knows how to “get” people, and Hollywood Elsewhere, sitting front-row right and tweeting like a motherfucker, was no exception.
Depp spoke in front of the huge Arlington crowd like he was sitting at a kitchen table at 2:30 am, maybe a little hung-over and too tired to put on airs. He was Mr. Be-Bop-A-Luah all the way through, shaking his head and going “whoa, heh-heh…I’m not too good at this,” channelling the ghosts of Hunter S. Thompson and Marlon Brando, a gently playful prankster, more into toying with Maltin than submitting to his questions and sometimes even putting a slice or two of his actual self on the plate, mate.
Depp was there to accept the festival’s Modern Master Award — the first of a cavalcade of Oscar worthies who will make gala appearances and submit to interviews in this seaside town over the next nine days.
Clearly not at ease with the format and yet thoroughly confessional at every turn, Depp rambled and muttered and smirked his way through most of the 110-minute interview. Depp is a subversive. He cannot and will not play the humble-brag game. You can sense that he regards himself as some kind of King Shit cultural figure, but he’s too Deppian, too committed to (or consumed by) his rich-as-fuck attitude-rebel personality to swagger around with any kind of “ladies and gentleman, here I am!” conviction. He can’t help but smirk, shrug his shoulders, mumble, chuckle and riff like a jazzman in the back room.
You could argue that Depp was a good sport for showing up at all, as the initial expectation was that he’d land a Best Actor nomination for his husky-eyed performance as Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in Scott Cooper‘s Black Mass. The Academy didn’t oblige (if you ask me Depp should have been nominated instead of The Danish Girl‘s Eddie Redmayne) but he came anyway, late as fuck and therefore obliged to blow off the usual red-carpet interviews and autograph-signings with the fans, who had begun to gather in force around 6:30 pm or so.
Random Twitter notes: “Depp show finally started with his entrance at 9 pm. He looks like he’s dropped a couple of pounds…but only a couple. Depp’s earings are swaying, jiggling. Depp is wearing marijuana leaf socks, shiny black shoes, dark gray 3-piece suit, purple handkerchief. Grinning, talking in slurry mutters.”
“Audience has been in seats since 7ish, certainly 7:30. It’s now 8:35 pm, and the Johnny Depp show has yet to begin.” Later: “Depp show finally started with his entrance at 9 pm. He looks like he’s dropped a couple of pounds. But only a couple.”
“God, how I love Depp’s smiley-face performance in the brilliant Ed Wood! Every line, every enthusiasm, all of it.
Maltin: “So can you tell us…?” Depp: “No.”
“Inspired back-and-forth between Depp and asshole admirer /friendly heckler in second row. Depp: ‘I may not be growing the same thing you’re growing…’ Depp and second-row bigmouth keep the back-and-forth going. Maltin: “This is my job” — i.e., asking the questions. Depp to second-row idiot: ‘Don’t you say anything. I’m waitin’ for you, mothuhfuckah.'”
“This interview is stoned. I love it. Partly.”
Depp to Maltin: “I was very lucky [to be friends with Marlon Brando]…he “was a lot of things to me.”
Maltin to Depp about The Brave, the 1997 film that Depp directed, co-wrote and costarred in along with Brando: “I hope that some day you’ll consider letting us see The Brave.” Depp: “You can see it any time you want.” (Privately?) Soon after the notion of showing it at next year’s Santa Barbara Film Festival is floated, indicated, fiddled with.
Depp: “Are you gonna die?” Maltin: “I could.” Depp: “We both could.”
“Depp’s recollection of revulsion when an agent suggested that releasing The Brave in wake of Brando’s death is touching.”
“Depp is keeping it real and agreeably quirky. It’s a different kind of SBIFF Arlington interview. Depp isn’t mouthing the usual b.s.
“Depp show has been running for 100 minutes now. Time to start wrapping it up. End it by 11 pm, please. There’s an after-party to hit.
“Depp physically shielding himself from Scott Cooper’s lecturn praise. Doing ‘wrap it up’ gestures. Depp is a real subversive.”