You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Johnny Depp

The Libertine

SOUND BITES

Up next: Two more “Pirates of the Caribbean” pics, plus “The Rum Diary” and Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”

The dissolute John Wilmot, aka the second earl of Rochester, aka the 17th-century English libertine in the film of the same name, might seem an odd choice for Johnny Depp.

In fact, says Laurence Dunmore, the Englishman making his film directing debut with “Libertine,” the role is a perfect fit for the ever-adventurous Hollywood star. “Johnny is never afraid to flirt with controversy, and he’s never afraid to take an audience unawares. It’s hard to say he was born for this part, but it was his role. He felt it and we felt it.”

The bisexual Rochester was a confidant of Charles II and lived life in extremis: As louche as he was poetic, he died of syphilis at 33. But his notoriety lives on in Stephen Jeffreys’ 1994 London play and now this $22 million film. Depp saw the play in its American preem at the Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago, where John Malkovich played Rochester. (Malkovich plays King Charles in the film.)

“Johnny loved it,” reports Dunmore, “and John said to Johnny, ‘Do you think you can play it (onscreen)?’ and Johnny said, ‘Yes, but not like that. I won’t do the same as you, but I would love to try it.’ ”

Eventually, the film got made, though not without severe financial tensions. “It was touch and go, but again, in tribute to Johnny and John and my producers, everyone stood firm and said we’re going to make this movie,” Dunmore says.

Did Depp get impatient? Far from it, says the helmer: “He then lent his weight to the movie even more so.”

“Johnny’s unique in his generosity as an actor and a friend,” says Dunmore. “He’s a very collaborative actor; he’s not someone who waves goodbye at the end of the day and disappears.”

The thesp researched the period, and practiced his English sounds so he would be pitch-perfect when it came to filming. “He has the power both to own those words,” says Dunmore, “and then to do it with an English accent that I think is better than most English actors’ accents. This is a man committed to the passion, the joy, of his art.”

More Scene

  • Esquire 'Mavericks of Hollywood' party

    Terry Crews on His Sexual Assault Lawsuit: 'If I Don’t Get Justice, Nobody Can'

    SOUND BITES Up next: Two more “Pirates of the Caribbean” pics, plus “The Rum Diary” and Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” The dissolute John Wilmot, aka the second earl of Rochester, aka the 17th-century English libertine in the film of the same name, might seem an odd choice for Johnny Depp. In […]

  • 20th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards

    'I, Tonya,' 'The Shape of Water' Win at 2018 Costume Designers Guild Awards

    SOUND BITES Up next: Two more “Pirates of the Caribbean” pics, plus “The Rum Diary” and Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” The dissolute John Wilmot, aka the second earl of Rochester, aka the 17th-century English libertine in the film of the same name, might seem an odd choice for Johnny Depp. In […]

  • 'Atlanta' TV show premiere

    'Atlanta Robbin' Season' Will 'Show What Makes the City Tick,' Producer Says

    SOUND BITES Up next: Two more “Pirates of the Caribbean” pics, plus “The Rum Diary” and Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” The dissolute John Wilmot, aka the second earl of Rochester, aka the 17th-century English libertine in the film of the same name, might seem an odd choice for Johnny Depp. In […]

  • Mr Chow 50th Anniversary celebration

    Mr. Chow 50th Anniversary Party Draws Stevie Wonder, Heidi Klum & More Stars

    SOUND BITES Up next: Two more “Pirates of the Caribbean” pics, plus “The Rum Diary” and Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” The dissolute John Wilmot, aka the second earl of Rochester, aka the 17th-century English libertine in the film of the same name, might seem an odd choice for Johnny Depp. In […]

  • Paley Center for Media presents They

    African-American Showrunners Talk Strides in TV Representation

    SOUND BITES Up next: Two more “Pirates of the Caribbean” pics, plus “The Rum Diary” and Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” The dissolute John Wilmot, aka the second earl of Rochester, aka the 17th-century English libertine in the film of the same name, might seem an odd choice for Johnny Depp. In […]

  • 'Annihilation' film premiere

    'Annihilation' Star Jennifer Jason Leigh Responds to Whitewashing Accusations

    SOUND BITES Up next: Two more “Pirates of the Caribbean” pics, plus “The Rum Diary” and Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” The dissolute John Wilmot, aka the second earl of Rochester, aka the 17th-century English libertine in the film of the same name, might seem an odd choice for Johnny Depp. In […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content