He went from teen heartthrob to independent directors' muse to global box office phenomenon, the star of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film series, which has grossed more than $4.5 billion worldwide. Here, as Johnny Depp turns 55, are 21 intriguing facts about Hollywood's most successful rebel.
He's a Rocker at Heart
Johnny Depp dropped out of high school to become a rock star, not an actor. His first band, The Kids, opened for Iggy Pop. Through the years he's played guitar on Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper and Oasis recordings, and today Johnny is a member of the Hollywood Vampires, a supergroup he started with Alice Cooper and Aerosmith's Joe Perry. Paul McCartney even sat in during the recording of an album the band released in 2015.
He Won't Dance With You
One of Depp's greatest fears is having to get out on the dance floor. "I just don't dance," he once said. "I don't get it. It's not my thing." Back in 1990, he starred in John Waters' musical rom-com "Cry-Baby." "It was a nightmare," he said of filming a big prison dance scene. "I was horribly, horribly frightened."
He Owes Nicolas Cage Big Time
While trying to get his music career off the ground and not having much luck, Johnny took the advice of his friend Nicolas Cage, who suggested he go into acting instead. Nic even helped him get an agent. Depp landed a part in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" in 1987 and never looked back. Years later he tried to repay his friend, who was going through a financial rough patch. Depp offered to pay millions that Cage owed in back taxes.
TV Made Him a Star
It wasn't "Nightmare" that made Depp a household name; it was his starring role in the Fox TV series "21 Jump Street." Suddenly he was a nationally known teen idol, earning $45,000 an episode. Today Depp is one of Hollywood's highest-paid actors. He made $55 million from 2011's "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" alone.
He Owned a Notorious Club
Back in the early '90s, Depp became a major owner in the Viper Room nightclub in West Hollywood, once the site of mobster Bugsy Siegel's hangout, the Melody Room. On Halloween night in 1993, River Phoenix was set to perform with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but he died of an overdose on the sidewalk outside the club. The Viper Room was closed for two weeks after the incident, and on every Halloween night until 2004, when Depp gave up his share in the club.
He Bought Dracula's House
In 1994, Depp played the title role in Tim Burton's biopic "Ed Wood," which focuses on the cult director's relationship with Bela Lugosi (Martin Landau), star of the original "Dracula." Strangely enough, Johnny actually bought Lugosi's house in West Hollywood. The reason: It overlooked his nightclub, the Viper Room.
He Helped a Girl in a Coma
In 2008, the parents of a 17-year-old British girl who'd been in a coma for five months approached Depp with an unusual request: Would he record a series of voice commands to be played over and over in the hope that hearing her favorite movie star might wake the girl up? Johnny made the recording using the voice of his Captain Jack Sparrow character from "Pirate of the Caribbean." It took a few months, but the girl did recover.
He Shows Up for Other Kids, Too
Depp has thrilled lots of children by visiting them unexpectedly dressed as his most famous character, Captain Jack Sparrow. On one occasion Captain Jack showed up at a school after Johnny received a letter from "a budding pirate" named Beatrice who very much wanted to meet him. In 2007, he spent several hours entertaining kids at the hospital where his daughter Lily-Rose was treated for a serious illness. The visit (along with a $2 million donation) was his way of thanking the hospital for caring for his child.
He's Partially Blind
Depp is virtually blind in his left eye, a condition he says cannot be corrected, and he can see only a few inches without glasses. "Everything is just very, very blurry," he told Rolling Stone magazine. "I've never had proper vision."
He Used to Cut Himself
Depp is said to have a number of permanent scars on his body that are the result of his cutting himself when he was a teenager. In 1993, he explained the scars this way: "My body is a journal in a way. It's like what sailors used to do, where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life when you make a mark on yourself, whether you do it yourself with a knife or with a professional tattoo artist."
There's a Fossil Named After Him
When British scientist David Legg discovered a 500 million-year-old fossil—the remnants of a sea creature with claws—that looked like Edward Scissorhands, he named it after the actor who played that character in the 1990 Tim Burton movie. The fossils name is Kooteninchela deppi.
There's a Cat Named After Him Too
Tippi Hedron, best known for her starring roles in the Alfred Hitchcock classics "The Birds" and "Marnie," named one of her many house cats after Depp. She reportedly has a habit of naming pets after the men in her life. There's Marlon (Brando), Sean (Connery) and Antonio (Banderas, her one-time son-in-law). But Johnny never actually met Tippi. Turns out she simply loves the actor.
He's Had Brushes With the Law
In 1989, Depp was arrested in Vancouver for assaulting a hotel security guard who'd tried to quiet a party that was taking place in his room. In 1994, he was arrested again, this time for trashing the hotel room that he shared with then-girlfriend Kate Moss in New York. Five years later, he brawled with a photographer in London and was arrested yet again.
He Paid $3 Million for a Funeral
Depp and Hunter S. Thompson became friends while working together on the 1998 film adaptation of the author's 1971 book "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." When Thompson died in 2005, Johnny paid for the elaborate memorial service that his friend had always envisioned, which included his ashes being shot from a canon. "I just want to send my pal out the way he wants to go out," said Depp. Jack Nicholson attended the service, as did Bill Murray, Sean Penn and even former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry.
He Owns a Secluded Island
Depp's 45-acre private island in the Bahamas has a main house and several guest houses. Various spots on the island are named after important people in his life. There are beaches named after each of his children, plus one named Gonzo (after Hunter S. Thompson) and another called Brando (for Marlon Brando). Yet another area is called Heath's Place (for his friend Heath Ledger).
He's Tied With De Niro
Depp has starred in eight movies directed by Tim Burton, from "Edward Scissorhands" in 1990 to "Dark Shadows" in 2012. Robert De Niro and Martin Scorsese have also made eight feature films together, from "Mean Streets" in 1973 to "Casino" in 1995. For Depp and Burton to keep up, they'll need to act fast, though. Scorsese and De Niro are signed on to do their ninth movie together, "The Irishman," which is scheduled to be released in 2019.
He Joined the Comanche Tribe
Depp maintains that one of his great-grandmothers was part Native American, either Cherokee or Creek Indian. In 2012, he was made an honorary member of the Comanche Nation in a private ceremony in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Johnny even got a Native American symbol tattooed on his arm. And while filming 2013's "The Lone Ranger," he personally saw to it that the crew had permission to use Native American land.
He's a CEO
In 2004, Depp launched his own production company, Infinitum Nihil (Latin for "nothing is forever"). His sister, Christi Dembrowski, is president. The company produced "The Rum Diary," based on the Hunter S. Thompson novel, as well as Martin Scorsese's historical adventure movie "Hugo." Infinitum Nihil was also behind the last movie that he and Tim Burton worked on together, "Dark Shadows."
He and Keith Really Are Friends
Much has been made of Depp's basing his Captain Jack Sparrow character on Keith Richards (who plays Sparrow's father in a "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel). But Johnny and Keith's friendship isn't just a story spun by a studio's PR machine. The two men, who got to know each other years ago through Keith's son Marlon, have become genuinely close. They hang out, have jammed together and have spent countless hours over the past few years working on an untitled documentary about the Rolling Stones guitarist..
He's Never Won an Oscar
Depp's star status is unquestioned. His movies have brought in more than $8 billion worldwide, making him one of the most bankable and sought-after stars in Hollywood. But, though nominated three times for an Academy Award for Best Actor, Johnny has never gone home with an Oscar. Still, he did win a Golden Globe for his work in Tim Burton's 2007 musical "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."
Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye
Fans began to fret when photos of Depp posing with a makeup artist, which were posted on social media shortly before his 55th birthday, showed the actor looking gaunt and frail. But despite widespread speculation on Twitter, Johnny isn't sick, according to insiders. Word is, he's "purposely" losing weight while on tour with the Hollywood Vampires. So don't worry, he's fine.
To Sum It All Up
"Life's pretty good, and why wouldn't it be? I'm a pirate, after all." —Johnny Depp
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