Johnny Depp: I “Tortured” Leonardo DiCaprio on Set

Project Casting

Johnny Depp reveals how he survived Hollywood and what it’s like working with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Johnny Depp has revolutionized Hollywood. His acting in Pirates of the Caribbean launched a franchise and made Disney millions upon millions of dollars.

The actor received the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s Maltin Modern Master Award Thursday night and he discussed his life as an actor, how he deals with Hollywood, and the ways he gets into character for movies. “I’m scared to death,” Depp said at the start of the discussion.

Johnny Depp began on explaining his distaste for acting on a TV show. Depp said. “When you’re confined to a TV series and you have to play one character, it can make you insane. But it didn’t affect me. I got out in time. I didn’t want to be a salesman, I guess is what it was. So I tried to get fired a lot.”

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Depp also revealed he used to bully Leonardo DiCaprio on set of What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. “I respect Leo a lot. He worked really hard on that film, researching and showing up ready to work — and I tortured him. I really did. He was always talking about these video games. ‘No I will not give you a drag from my cigarette while you hide from your mother again, Leo,’ [I would say].”

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But, the highlight of the night was how he discovered the character of Captain Jack Sparrow. Johnny Depp explains that it only took him 30 seconds to agree to the role, largely because he had just had a daughter and had spent several years watching cartoons. So, he wanted push the envelope and he wanted to see if he could capture that in a live action performance. “It had a strong effect on me, how they could get away with stuff and we buy it, where it’s absolutely OK when Wile E. Coyote walks in with a Band-Aid on his head after having a giant rock fall on him,” Depp said. “I don’t know why I said, ‘I’m in,’ but I did. And that really says it all for me.”

But, Depp also explained that he completely changed the character in the movie.

The character’s quirky physicality came to him in the sauna. He decided to depict a seaman who seemed to not quite have his sea legs when on land, suffering something akin to a “heatstroke that didn’t really go away all that quick,” he said. “To be able to keep things like that in my head when I’m going to make a movie for Disney, that’s like infiltrating the enemy camp!”

The role of Captain Jack Sparrow landed him one of his three Oscar nominations to date, but one performance that did not turn up recognition from the Academy.

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