It must be comforting to Johnny Depp that, even if he does a garbage truck-load of heroin and snorts a bathtub full of cocaine, he’ll still have a career as long as Tim Burton is directing. Depp and Burton have managed such a symbiotic relationship that it’s difficult to think about Burton separate from Depp. Fortunately, given the diversity of weird roles that he’s played in his career, it is still possible to think about Depp separate from Burton. Even the roles he has done apart from Burton crackle with their idiosyncrasy and oddness.
10. Finding Neverland
An Academy Award winner for best original score, Depp’s portrayal of Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie produces the delicate balance between man and man-child.
9. What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
If Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp were to appear in a movie together today, the film’s opening day would be mistaken for the Second Coming. Back in the early 90s, they were just costars in a movie which got DiCaprio nominated for an Oscar and reiterated that Depp could act beyond 21 Jump Street.
8. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
For everyone who grew up with Gene Wilder singing about pure imagination as Willy Wonka, seeing Depp depict Wonka as Michael Jackson-lite is a bit jarring. Still, his take on the iconic character in Tim Burton’s take on the classic film is innocent enough to retain our sympathy.
7. Sleepy Hollow
Johnny Depp is probably one of the most atypical cop portrayers in screen history. But, in his portrayal of Ichabod Crane, Depp proves that he’s able to play any archetypal character with the prefix “atypical” in front of it.
If there’s a director other than Tim Burton qualified to capture the innate quirkiness of Depp, it’s Terry Gilliam. In his adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s classic novel, he provided the atmosphere for Depp to excel as Thompson’s doppelganger Raoul Duke and gave Depp the opportunity to befriend the author as well. This movie also made it to another list of ours.
5. Donnie Brasco
Once again playing a real-life person, Depp’s role as Mafia mole/FBI agent Joseph Pistone highlights his conflict between his duty and his desire to protect his Mafia father-figure, played by Al Pacino.
If nothing else, Depp’s career is a study in the unexpected. Here, the unexpected facet of Depp’s repertoire is his singing voice. While he won’t ever be mistaken for Michael Crawford, Depp’s pipes are more than enough to bring tragedy to the wronged and vengeful barber Sweeney Todd in Burton’s foray into the Sondheim musical.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one; Johnny Depp stars in a Disney movie based on an amusement park ride as a pirate ship captain and gets nominated for an Oscar. Great joke, right?
2. Ed Wood
It’s difficult to determine if Depp’s job as the titular character, a transvestite and reputed to be the worst director of all time, is his most atypical role or the perfect role for him. Either way, it was good enough for a Golden Globe nomination, in another Burton directed film.
1. Edward Scissorhands
The first collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp and the final film of screen legend Vincent Price, this film manages to make the freakish Edward into a sentimental hero.
As long as there are depths of cinematic weirdness left to plunge, Depp will survive and be ready to plumb them. At least we hope he will be; if not, cinema will have lost one of its greatest oddballs.