Johnny Depp talks about reprising his role of Captain Jack Sparrow for fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie On Stranger Tides, coping with bugs in Hawaii and getting to bite Dame Judi Dench on the ear. He was speaking at a London press conference.
Is it safe to assume this is the role you were born to play?
Johnny Depp: It also gives me the opportunity to wear women's undergarments, which you don't get to do every day, so when the chance comes along you should take it. It is [a role I was born to play]. It's funny how the films - and the character - have been accepted. When you think back to when we started out on Pirates 1, it was very simple. Just like any other character, you just grab bits and pieces and out comes this weird little stew you've created. So none of us did anything different, and then "Boom!" What happened, happened. It's just so much fun to get away with things you're not normally allowed to get away with... to be totally irreverent, to play as absurd as you like. It's a very special opportunity.
Given how much this character has been embraced by children, in particular, do you feel a special responsibility towards your younger fans?
Johnny Depp: The only responsibility I feel is to deliver something that's new, or at least to attempt that. The real responsibility is to entertain and to try and make people laugh.
How does it feel to be taking this film to Cannes? And how do you hope they'll react to it?
Johnny Depp: I hope they hate it! [laughs] That would be an idea: to start out to make a film that everyone will hate, to go out of your way to see a film to hate it... I've done it, haven't I? You're just too kind. You don't want to mention the film, do you? But I digress. An arena such as Cannes - to be able to go there and show your film is incredible, and we're very fortunate to be invited. I just hope we win!
Can you talk a little about the Dame Judi Dench cameo?
Johnny Depp: It's the second time I've been lucky enough to work with Dame Judi - very briefly on Chocolat and very briefly on this one. She's such a major force - fun, smart, elegant, an angel. I got to dance with her on Chocolat and bite her ear on Pirates. What's next [laughs]?
You've previously mentioned the joy of being able to film in some exotic locations, such as Hawaii on this one. But I gather you also had to contend with bugs of varying sizes. Do they scare you?
Johnny Depp: When you have an insect that not only has more legs than you, but goes from being called a centipede to a millipede to an I-don't-know-what... plus it has these things sticking out the front that taunt you as it's about to bite you with its ass! They were quite big. They have some horrible things in Hawaii.
Given that you've always said Jack Sparrow was based, in part, on Keith Richards, how surreal is it now to have him be a regular co-star in the series?
Johnny Depp: It was very strange initially. When the character's main ingredients first came out - the idea of mixing Keith Richards and Pepe le Pew - I was worried what Keith might think of that. I didn't fear Pepe le Pew! I was a little worried about Keith because a good portion of the time I was spending with him, I was sponging as much of him as I possibly could to use for the character. And when he found out what I'd been doing, yeah, it could have gone either way. But he was really nice about it - [drops into Keith voice] "I had no idea" - and to then bring him into the fold and bring him into the film and do scenes with him... it's one of those things that's seared on to your brain. It was one of those moments where you know you're really lucky to be here and I'm really lucky that I'm aware I'm lucky.
How come you didn't get to play guitar on this film? There are some instruments around...
Johnny Depp: The idea of playing a guitar anywhere near Keith Richards... it took me about 11 years before I could touch a guitar in his presence - and that's just to pick it up [laughs]. There are some things you just don't do. But if you're asking whether I will play in any future film should I be given the opportunity, then yes, I'd love to.
You've played Jack so often now, but does he come back to you easily? Or is there still a process for getting back into playing him?
Johnny Depp: All the characters I've played are pretty close to the surface, and each and every one of them is relatively accessible. But Captain Jack, having played him four times now, arrives quicker than others. In fact, he arrives a little too quickly! He arrives in life a lot, too... When I'm dropping my kids off at school, for instance, he'll just show up.
Interview: Rob Carnevale