You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

About That Cheap Johnny Depp ‘Comeback’ Narrative

The 'Black Mass' star has been consistently stellar even if the films haven't.

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Here’s the thing: Johnny Depp never went anywhere. That’s how filmmaker Scott Cooper put it when we chatted following a screening of “Black Mass” here Sunday afternoon, and it speaks to something that is already on the verge of annoying me this season.

Sure, “Johnny Depp’s comeback” is a fun narrative, but it’s also a rather facile one. While the actor has certainly been taking on roles in paycheck movie after paycheck movie, and while many of them have been artistic misfires, his commitment to his characters has been remarkably consistent.

I look at stuff like “Alice in Wonderland,” “Dark Shadows” and “The Libertine,” for a few examples, and yeah, I recoil. But Depp was equally possessed in every outing. Also, sure, the bloated franchise extension of the iconography he created in the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” film has worn thin, but he still crafted something for the ages there. Few of his generation can say as much.

Going back to 1990’s “Edward Scissorhands,” Depp’s process has been one of immersion, often with the help of prosthetics. Hunter S. Thompson, Captain Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka, Sweeney Todd, the Mad Hatter, Barnabas Collins, Tonto: this is a recent legacy of fully merging with characters to turn out unique portrayals. And to be perfectly honest, James “Whitey” Bulger fits right into that lineage. It’s an electrifying portrayal that gives the actor an opportunity to lose himself in the part. Only this time, the film itself is up for it, too.

So keep a close eye on this one as it inevitably turns into a “story” this season. Depp will no doubt generate tons of best actor Oscar steam along the way, and people will be eager to talk about it in comfy “comeback” terms (particularly given that Cooper is already responsible for ushering one seasoned vet, Jeff Bridges, to his first Oscar in “Crazy Heart”). But the simple fact is Depp’s commitment and work ethic have never really wavered. He just finally found a project that didn’t wilt in the face of it.

More Film

  • Bob Iger arrives at the Oscars,

    Bob Iger: 'Challenging Work of Uniting Our Businesses' Lies Ahead for Disney

    Bob Iger marked the historic occasion of Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox with a lengthy memo to staffers that was candid about the challenges of the massive integration of people and cultures that lies ahead for the media giant. “I wish I could tell you that the hardest part is behind us, that closing [...]


    'Traitors' Producer 42 Hires Literary Manager Eugenie Furniss

    Eugenie Furniss is joining London- and Los Angeles-based management and production company 42 as literary manager, it was announced Wednesday. The company’s slate include movie “Ironbark,” a Cold War thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and TV series “Traitors,” a spy thriller coming to Netflix in the U.S. at the end of the month. Furniss joins 42 [...]

  • Brad Pitt Leonardo DiCaprio Once Upon

    Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Trailer Drops

    The first look at “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is finally here, and Quentin Tarantino is taking audiences back to the height of hippie Hollywood. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, the footage features a montage of Tinseltown in the late 1960s. The duo play Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, a washed-up actor and [...]

  • One-Cut-Of-The-Dead-Review

    Japanese Sleeper Hit ‘One Cut of the Dead’ Heads for English Remake (EXCLUSIVE)

    “One Cut of the Dead,” a micro-budget horror film that last year defied the odds to become one of the biggest hits of the year in Japan, is headed for an English-language remake. Patrick Cunningham, a Japan-based American producer whose credits include “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Starlet,” is behind the venture. The original film, [...]

  • Come as You Are review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You Are'

    The rare remake that’s actually a slight improvement on its predecessor, Richard Wong’s “Come as You Are” translates Geoffrey Enthoven’s 2011 Belgian “Hasta la Vista” to middle America. Other changes are less substantial, but this seriocomedy has a less formulaic feel than the original while remaining a crowd-pleasing buddy pic-caper with a soft-pedaled minority empowerment [...]

  • Strange Negotiations review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Strange Negotiations'

    In a era when some mainstream entertainers have transitioned to targeting faith-based audiences, David Bazan is moving in the other direction. The gifted songwriter’s ersatz band Pedro the Lion was perhaps the most successful Christian indie rock act of its time, and the first to significantly cross over to secular fans. Then he ditched that persona (and [...]

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content