A confession of Mad Hatter
Despite his status of a star and often eccentric look on the big screen, in life Johnny Depp is quite rational and takes the Hollywood A-class fame casually. "I, surely, never expected the success to last forever... Clocks are ticking, time runs out, and here is already another guy running the show. This is life", – the actor admits. Having starred in 2010 in Tim Burton's movie "Alice in Wonderland", Johnny Depp came back to the role of the Mad Hatter in the movie "Alice Through the Looking-Glass", this time – directed by James Bobin.
So, Johnny what it was like – to reunite with cast from the first movie?
It was wonderful! This happens quite often: the sequel of the movie is shot, and again you play the character you liked! And in case you also relate to him spiritually, then you get nothing but pleasure. And it is absolutely perfect when you have an opportunity to work again with all these mad characters...Especially Mia (Wasikowska) – she is from those who make your heart race! In a word, I had a great time.
You and Mia have some king of chemistry?
Yes, and it is such a rarity. I will tell you as a person who at the time, studied silent movies like a maniac: though all actors playing in such movies could not put the feelings into words, but they were able to show them to the audience through mimic and gesture, and, believe me, this is not easy at all. Mia belongs to such talents, she is actually a special girl.
A brief storyline of the movie: Alice, once again waking up in Wonderland, has to pass through the mysterious New world to get a magic scepter which is able to stop evil Time Lord before he turns clocks and turns the Wonderland into the dead, barren Old world. With the help of the new friends Alice also has to uncover a plot of the evil powers to return Iracebeth back to throne.
Have you ever got caught up, stuck in your character?
Excellent question! You know, there are actors who just do what has to be done. And there are actors who feel their characters so deeply that even outside the shooting start to behave like them. However with some of my characters there is a need to be very careful... For example, if I constantly talked like Willie Wonka, then I for sure would be beaten up like a Greenland seal! The same with the Hatter...
By the way, there are some details, small, but very important for my work. Let's assume, that the actor playing Henry VIII approaches a table with snacks, and sees Doritos, instead of a huge turkey leg. This is wrong, because I need to believe in what's happening!
As soon as you properly study and learn your character and form a strong base for the role, at some point you realize with satisfaction that you know him much better, than anybody, sometimes even better than the author... So what was the question?. No, I never "get stuck" in the character. During shooting of "Ed Wood" I once had dinner with Jim Jarmusch – we are friends for a while now and worked on "Dead man" together...
So, we have dinner with him after work, sitting in front of each other, and, apparently, I sat there with a smile like that, and examined the menu. When the waitress came up, I made my order with the same wide smile: "I want this great chicken pie!". And when the waitress walked away, Jimmy told me: "Hey Poncho (he calls me Poncho), do me a favor, pal, get rid of this terrible smile, it terrifies me. You need to stop talking like that, this really freaks me out!".
It would be amazing to chat with Ed Wood: he is so optimistic!
Very optimistic! He has something from Reagan. Some kind of blind optimism.
Tell us your favorite story from filming.
At the Alice's set? I would say, there were bunch of such stories in "Through the looking-glass"! There were a lot of trips in the film: we had to show the different sides of the Hatter. And James really helped us all with this. He had on him a map with marked movements of the Hatter: where he is now, where he was, where he’s going. This moment defined all the rest – what and where is going to happen...
James told about a scene with you and Sacha Baron Cohen improvising together...
It was fun! I would say this is in fact my favourite moment on shooting of any movie: when everything is messed up and it seems like everything goes down, – this is when the actor has an opportunity to play much more interesting and truer, than it's written on paper... When you suddenly pull a stunt which nobody expects, like with Sacha, – usually something interesting works out from this. And, like James said, you bring it in the movie because it is original and unique... You bring it because everything happened exactly when it is necessary and important.
Which book do you read right now?
Let me think... I don't go anywhere without the book "Finnegans Wake" by James Joyce. And I'm ready to throw a challenge to any wise guy who will tell me that he read the book and it left no trace. This book begins from the middle of sentence and ends at the beginning of the same sentence. James Joyce uses very exciting manner of writing which just fascinated me... And if you ask me what is on my nightstand right now, then it is the book by Bruce Robinson "They all love Jack".
The book about Jack the Ripper?!
Yes, about him. The book on which Bruce worked for 12 years. Bruce revealed him, completely opened the character. Seems to me, that if this happened in the United States, it wouldn't interest people so much. But England is different...You definitely must read this book. Buy and read it. I tell you, I've read all the books about Jack the Ripper...
There was another “Ripper” – by artist Patricia Cornwell…
Yes, and I think that it was a fascinating idea.
Do you have a favorite song?
Yes, I can name you my favorite song of all times: La mer by Charles Trenet. Bobby Darin made its American English cover version under the name "Beyond The Sea", and this song became special for me the moment I heard it. I don't know why, but it excited me even as a child.
You must have been a very romantic child, if you liked this song already then.
I guess, I just dreamed of going to the sea!
Do you dream about the characters you play?
I do and pretty often. I frequently dream about most of them. And the strangest thing is that I see these characters just the way I play them myself.
The sculpture by authorship of José de Creeft was made based on John Tenniel's illustrations
Probably, your subconscious tells you how they should be?..
Couple times I found myself in curious situations – just like one of my characters: you end up in a situation where you act instinctively, and then you take away this specific gift of subconscious with you, to reality.
Does it happen when you play these characters? Or when they come to you in dream?
No, usually when I play the character.
This probably feels like having French dreams when you are in France and speak a little French?
Exactly. By the way, it happened that for ten years I spoke French – in my dreams.
Do you have your own Wonderland? A real place or something imaginary?
I can say for one hundred percent that my brain is no Wonderland. It is more like a never ending circus. I’m not sure if this is normal, but I definitely know: for me Wonderland is working with someone like James or Tim, or with people you love… And what about Wonderland, where I can vanish or spend some time alone, I have such place - The Bahamas. It’s the only place, which guarantees me complete privacy and freedom…
Would you like to live in the Wonderland?
No. I think this place is too limited and it won’t have everything necessary for comfortable living. No, the circus in my head is more than enough for me!
Was it muggy under this wig and hat, when you played the Mad Hatter?
You will not believe it, but I think that only with the sweat from the head I lost not less than 20 pounds. While I wore those wig and a hat, I had a feeling that my head was the size of a pin head. Yes, that was very uncomfortable, especially in the first movie: in the second one we changed the hair. And in the first movie my wig was made of yak's hair. Though I never dreamed of it, it was a good experience. Yes, the wig weighed a lot, plus the hat and all the rest... It was very hot. And all because Colleen Atwood whom I worked with three hundred times liked to wrap me up tight, even without caring, if I'm hot or not!
And now a trick question: if you were a sandwich, which one would you be?
That’s easy! I was born and raised in Kentukky the first eight or nine years of my life, then I moved to southern Florida. In a way, I have a country-type family…I would be a sandwich with bologna! Nobody knows what it’s made of. I think of something that is not useable anymore…
And at last: why are you so positive that everyone should go and see this movie?
If you don’t, I’ll climb on a tree by your house and spook you! Please make sure you go and watch the film! – N
*Interview was published in the 25th issue.