Johnny Depp, The Wonder of His Million Faces. (Part 1)

Last semester I took this one class called, Stardom and Performance. One of the assignment was to write a research about any actor or actress of your choice. I picked Johnny Depp due to various reasons:

1: He is one of my favourite actor

2: He never won an Oscar before (just like Leo)

3: Despite loving his movie and his acting skills, I think he is getting boring.

Why boring you say.. It is because in my opinion many of characters that he played in are all the same. It has similar characters traits, which are getting very predictable. And even if, he plays a normal human character, the character will be either very goofy and eccentric or childlike and eccentric.

I will explain all of it in the section below.

I will divide this article into several section.

This article is here as a way to share my thoughts about his performances.


With the rise of films and performing arts in these few decades, many scholars have started to widen their horizon into analyzing star and their performances. Actors are one of the important aspects in relations to the success of the film. A good screenwriter will not guarantee a major hit for the movie without helps from its actor. Analyzing a star is not only looking at their performance in the film, it is a lot more complex than that. In order to study a star, viewers must not look only at their films but also at their off screen and extra-filmic materials. Many actor has separated their on-screen performance and off-screen life through their persona. To some extent, their persona impacts the role that they are playing or the other way around. This essay will focus on the star persona of Johnny Depp and how has his performance traits being used in other films.

Johnny Depp’s Star Persona

Star persona is the public identities of a star. It is what the star has been represented to the viewers and also their on-screen performance. Star persona forms the private life of an actor into public manners (Shingler, 2012, p. 125). Agency will want to make a star be seen as an ordinary people but yet they are extraordinary. Because of these, stars are seen to be more approachable and relatable. A star’s persona can be either constructed through their film, manager, film production or even public projection. The star persona can be used to mask the actor off screen life but can also be used as an element of their performance. Richard Dyer introduced three key concepts in studying stars, “star as images, star images having structured polysemy that enable multiple interpretation, and stars as embodiments of ideological contradiction”. Many stars have different ways to induce relationships between a screen image and real personality. Persona exists to make barriers between the real person and screen characters, or taking an element of both. So indirectly, an actor is being look as a text. Viewers analyze it through their public images, interview, films, publicity, promotion, and any other extra-filmic material. A star may represent a certain ideology or believes. As many young generation will follow a trend based on what their favorite actors or actresses do.

Johnny Depp is an actor that is famous for choosing challenging characters in movies. His breakthrough performance was through the television show ’21 Jump Street’, which proceed with many movies such as ‘Edward Scissorhands’. This movie has helped Johnny Depp with his career and pursued him to take roles that are challenging, which is part of his on screen persona. Depp has built a reputation for himself as a serious, dark, idiosyncratic performer, that continually selecting roles that surprised critics and audiences alike. With his strong bone structure and body posture, he takes on roles that are portray as being an outcast who are fragile and vulnerable, but can also be stubborn. Comparing to actor like Dwayne Johnson, Johnny Depp portrays a much more feminine masculinity; he was seen as a flamboyant male. But at the same time, he portrays the ultimate edgy gangster look with his body that fill with tattoo. With the long hair, deep eye gaze and, pleasant yet very soft and deep voice, can lure any fans into his trance. Being able to capture the viewer attention instantly. At the same time, he can also be sophisticated and gentleman like in many of his magazine covers. He was chosen twice to be the Sexiest Male Alive by the People magazine in 2003 and 2009. Other than being portrayed as masculine, he was also being portrayed as mysterious and strange. His sense of mystery and strangeness is what attracts many casting director. His physical appearance attracts many fans, but the way he carries himself makes fans feel that he is ungraspable which make people desire him more. There are huge separations between his personal life and his on-screen life, which makes people always wonder. Being romantic, eccentric, and masked is part of his off screen persona. He was once a drugs user and has transformed to be a bourgeois that cannot even go out peacefully because he is now too famous. Tim Burton said once in an interview that because of his appearance, it is more likely to think that he is a difficult and weird person but his images has major differences with this characteristic.

His physical appearance attracts many fans, but the way he carries himself makes fans feel that he is ungraspable which make people desire him more. There are also times where he carries himself to be funny and down to earth. For example during the interview, he tends to make jokes and even do crazy act, in one of which kissing Jimmy Kimmel during his interview. In few different occasions, he often shows his disturbance in being famous and also as a public figure. Depp mentioned that it was not in his original intention to be part in any blockbuster mainstream movie. He was hardly ever cast into an action type movie, where he kisses the girl or even shoots a gun. Depp has a past that is full with trouble, now he is transforming to be a great actor, settling down to something that mass media can package. Despite the trouble with drugs, break-up, controversies comment towards America, Johnny Depp still gave out an outstanding performance. He is still responsible with his duties as an actor, as he is considered part of a serious actor. He dared enough to take on roles that are challenging his ideology and public image.   Instead of being tormented in the business, it makes many people want to work with him even more. Johnny Depp is a brand on its own. As a persona can be constructed through the studio or themselves

Part 2 


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