Friday, 4 September 2015

Johnny Depp Goes Where Few Movie Stars Dare to Go - BLACK MASS at Venice Film Festival

Johnny Depp at Venice Film Festival
(Venice, Italy) Johnny Depp is getting impressive reviews for his powerful portrayal of Jimmy "Whitey" Bulgar in Black Mass - The Last Gangster which screened here in Venice this morning.

It takes a toll to watch a film with such a dark protagonist, let alone portray one and go where Johnny Depp allowed himself to go. The first question he was asked at the breathing-room-only press conference was: "How did it feel to be evil? Did you have to find the evil in yourself?" Johnny replied: "I found the evil in myself a long time ago. We're old friends."

From the Hollywood Reporter:

"Long-time Depp fans who might have lately given up hope of his doing something interesting anytime soon will especially appreciate his dive into the deep end here to personify genuine perfidy in the guise of legendary hoodlum James "Whitey" Bulger, the crime kingpin of South Boston from the 1970s until 1994, when he was forced to go on the lam for what ended up being 16 years. For a dozen of them he was second only to Osama Bin Laden on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list...."

Johnny Depp as Jimmy Bulger in Black Mass
 From Variety:

"The icy blue eyes of notorious Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger stare out from the screen in Scott Cooper’s “Black Mass” like the gaze of some confident jungle predator calmly lying in wait, holding his ground until the moment he moves in for the kill. And that same coolly calculated composure extends to every aspect of how the actor playing Bulger embodies the role, or rather disappears into it. But if Johnny Depp’s mesmerizing performance — a bracing return to form for the star after a series of critical and commercial misfires — is the chief selling point of “Black Mass,” there is much else to recommend this sober, sprawling, deeply engrossing evocation of Bulger’s South Boston fiefdom and his complex relationship with the FBI agent John Connolly, played with equally impressive skill by Joel Edgerton. Something of an anti-“The Departed” (which was partly inspired by the Bulger case), the movie has an intentionally muted, ’70s-style look and feel that may limit its appeal to the date-night multiplex crowd, but quality-starved adult moviegoers should flock to one of the fall’s first serious, awards-caliber attractions."

Johnny Depp - 72nd Venice Film Festival
Johnny Depp is one of the most famous people on the planet. I struck up a conversation with a photo journalist from China, and, yes, Johnny Depp is famous there, too.

Here are some questions and answers from the press conference. (I still take notes in long shorthand; I've tried to be as accurate as possible, and apologize for any errors):

Q: There have been fans waiting outside waiting to see you since 6:00 in the morning. Do you have anything you'd like to say to them?

JD: To me, the people who are waiting outside, who are dedicated and kind enough... those people outside... I never liked the term "fan"... I consider them our employers. They are the ones paying. It's a very warm feeling.... I thank my bosses outside.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Depp - courtesy Warner Brothers
Q: How does it feel to play a real person and not a fictional character?

JD: I've played a few characters who were actual human beings. It's a tremendous amount of responsibility whether they're deemed "good" or "bad." I looked at some FBI footage and listened to a couple of tapes where you could hear him speak, but mostly I was shooting from the hip with Bulger. He was a businessman and within the language of business he was in, he did what he had to do. He was a family man, devoted to his mother and brother. A very complicated man. ...I asked to meet James Bulger through his attorney, Jay Carney, and -- as expected -- I knew this wouldn’t happen... Bulger respectfully declined because I don’t believe he was a great fan of the book Black Mass. I also don’t believe he was a great fan of any of the books written about him. But Jay Carney was very helpful to me in finding James Bulger. First and foremost he said, "I ain’t gonna say nothin' that Jimmy wouldn’t want me to say. I will say this, and I’ll say this, but I won’t say anything over here." But Jay came to the set a couple of times and watched, and he gave me a lot of confidence because he said he could feel his old friend in what I was doing, which was a very high compliment.

Johnny Depp - Black Mass - Warner Brothers
Q: Depp was asked a couple of times how it felt to play someone who was a killer and also a family man.

JD: Nobody, no matter how evil we would consider them or that sort of thing, they never look at themselves as evil, they’re on a quest, and they feel what they’re doing is righteous. There’s something poetic about what he could do in his work, and at the same time, be of that very proud Irish immigrant stock who was loyal to his neighborhood, who was a great caregiver to his mother, who was very, very close with his brother who was a very upper-echelon politician ... and the people he grew up with like Connolly. Connolly was younger than Bulger; Connolly was a Southie boy, of the same stock. ...It was exciting and exhilarating to switch gears and go from 90 to 20, from 20 to 100.

Q: Regarding the Australian dog scandal: Did you bring your dogs to Venice to take them on a gondola ride?

JD: I killed my dogs and ate them under direct orders from some kind of... I don't know... sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia.

Q: Why do you have a desire to transform into characters in each role?

JD: I didn't really care about being an actor. I was a musician. I was stuck in a TV series that was -- you know, not to bite the hand that fed me, it put me on the map, so to speak, but it was very frustrating because you realize you end up saying more of someone else’s words in the span of a year than you get to say your own, especially when they’re badly-written words. My heroes have always been John Barrymore, Lon Chaney -- certainly Marlon Brando -- Timothy Carey, John Garfield, all the guys who would transform. So I suppose it was just an obsession. I always wanted to try to be a character actor more than the poster boy they tried to make me... more than a hundred years ago. An actor has some degree of responsibility to their audience to change, to give them something different, to give them something new, instead of playing yourself each time.There's great safety, but danger; it's very challenging to test yourself, to take the chance you might fall flat on your face and look like a complete ass. That's what I do for a living!

"I thought it was very important to look as much like Jimmy Bulger as was humanly possible. My eyeballs are as black as the ace of spades, so clearly the blue contacts... they were hand-painted because they needed to be piercing, to cut right through you."

Why is Johnny Depp so outrageously famous? Why do people line up for hours to catch a glimpse of him? Why did every journalist and photo journalist at the Venice Film Festival try to cram into the conference room, most of whom were relegated to watching one of the world's most fascinating movie stars out on the video screens?

Scott Cooper, the director of Black Mass, said that Johnny Depp was one of the most gentle, kind-hearted human beings he knew. "He is an actor who takes risks that most movie stars would never take."

Black Mass opens on September 18th.

Ciao from the Venice Film Festival,

1 comment:

  1. It takes a toll to watch a film with such a dark protagonist, let alone portray one and go where Johnny Depp allowed himself to go. The first question he was asked at the breathing-room-only press conference was: "How did it feel to be evil? Did you have to find the evil in yourself?" Johnny replied: "I found the evil in myself a long time ago. We're old friends."