What Is the Exact Moment Johnny Depp Started Trying Too Hard?

Cultural Critic
09.01.16 32 Comments

In July, a guy on Twitter with the user name @chapmangamo claimed to have pinpointed “the exact moment that Robert De Niro stopped caring.” The answer, based on Rotten Tomatoes scores for De Niro’s films, was 2002, the year of Analyze That, City by the Sea, and Showtime, a cop movie with Eddie Murphy that I’m not 100 percent sure actually exists. Setting aside obvious caveats about the reductive nature of aggregate critic scores and the quality films that De Niro has made in the past 14 years — “The Intern was decent” is a hill that I will die on — this “De Niro fail” story got me thinking about other actors that have seriously fallen off in the past decade or so.

It got me thinking about Johnny Depp.

Johnny Depp is having a terrible 2016. Personally, he just concluded a messy divorce from estranged wife Amber Heard, who has publicly accused Depp of spousal abuse. Professionally, Alice Through the Looking Glass bombed in the U.S., though it looks like the film will be rescued by foreign markets. On Friday, Depp’s second feature of the summer, the Kevin Smith-directed Yoga Hosers — a “wretched thing,” according to our own Mike Ryan — opens in theaters. Then there’s London Fields, an already infamous film that Depp made with Heard and Billy Bob Thornton in 2015 and that apparently expedited the end of his marriage, which will supposedly be out by the end of the year.

Let’s not forget about Depp’s music career, which lately involves touring with the thoroughly depressing classic-rock cover band Hollywood Vampires. The Vampires are rounded out by Alice Cooper and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, and the concept is that they perform songs by musicians who 1) once drank with Cooper back in his ’70s Sunset Strip heyday; 2) and now happen to be dead. (The playlist includes hits by the Doors, David Bowie, T. Rex, Jimi Hendrix, and Harry Nilsson.) I traveled to a rock music festival in the rain-soaked northwoods of Wisconsin last month to see the Vampires perform live, not long after the band’s tour was nearly derailed by Perry’s on-stage collapse and subsequent hospitalization. Everything was gray and wet and the audience sat huddled on wooden benches and vaped while Depp led the band through songs like “Rebel Rebel” and “Jeepster.” It was like watching Making a Murderer as hosted by Rikki Rachtman.

I could go on and list the multitude of other misses-to-downright-disasters in Depp’s recent filmography: Mortdecai, The Lone Ranger, The Rum Diary, The Tourist, Dark Shadows, Transcendence. Out of respect for the mercy rule, I’ll stop there. I’m not a Depp hater — I thought 2015’s Black Mass was okay and I’ve defended 2014’s Tusk, Depp’s previous Kevin Smith collaboration, more times than I care to admit. But it’s clear that these are not Depp’s salad days.

However, none of this is due to Depp “not caring.” Does a man who does not care travel to Wisconsin to play T. Rex songs in the rain for a few thousand people? Does a man who does not care go through all of the pointless trouble to make himself look like this?

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