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The Imaginarium Of Johnny Depp

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Johnny Depp at a film premiere in 2007.
Photo by Anna Altheide and used under the terms of a Creative Commons license.
The Man Behind Edward Scissorhands And Jack Sparrow Talks Madness, Creativity And More With ASU Origins Project Founder Dr. Lawrence Krauss, Oh And He Also Mentions Donald Trump


By Joey Hancock
Modern Times Magazine

March 15, 2016 — Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, Jack Sparrow and Ed Wood are all names associated with Johnny Depp as he has captured the minds of millions of people throughout his over-30-year career as an actor. Now he has teamed up with Dr. Lawrence Krauss of Arizona State University to discuss finding the creativity in madness and how these two ideas can merge into making something lasting and memorable.

As a theoretical physicist and Arizona State University’s Origins Project founder, Krauss is creating a workshop to bring together scientific minds to look at how the brain processes patterns.

“We are bringing together neuroscientists and machine intelligence scientists to look at how the brain processes patterns which we think is a central part of not only intelligence, but creativity and, when it goes wrong, madness like schizophrenia,” Krauss said. “We are actually exploring how to both model the brain and how to make sure, by the way, that machines don’t get schizophrenic when machines have intelligence.”

The Origins Project is designed to bring science and humanity together, and Krauss said the results of science are a key part of culture.

“What we try to do is connect science and culture, and a popular vent is to explore the relationship between creativity and madness, and there is no one else better in the world to talk about that with than Johnny Depp, because he has not only reflected and explored both of those in his film work but in his real life he is remarkably creative and a little bit mad,” he said.

The title for Saturday night’s discussion between Krauss and Depp was “Finding the Creativity in Madness,” and Krauss said on some level we are all mad, and it is important to find that creativity in the madness.

“In some sense Johnny has done it, not just in music and theater and film and it also turns out in art, he has also found the creativity in madness in his characters,” Krauss said. “The characters are not two-dimensional and that is what is remarkable. The intelligence of the man is what comes through with his ability to portray characters who are just raving mad but they have a three-dimensional and often a creativity to them.”

In a pre-event press conference Depp said he felt at a the age of 9 or 10 that he was a bit strange and that he had a strong sense to keep his brain occupied and to create things.

“I needed to make things; I needed to invent things. I needed to write things and at a certain point I realized that it was because, let’s say my home life wasn’t Leave it to Beaver, so I had to find ways to escape, and I think there was a point in my mid-teens that I realized there was something abnormal in me or of me and I wouldn’t say that is the most pleasant thing to realize when you are at that tender of an age,” Depp said.

Depp decided to embrace his madness and use it as a creative outlet in music early on and later on in acting.

“At a certain point you have one foot in the circle and one foot out of the circle of madness and reality and at a certain point embracing the very thing that I had no idea where it was going to lead me,” Depp said. “It could have lead me to the bug house, but I embraced it and used it as a young musician. I used it in music and I used it in my life.”

Depp said when he is in character he has no shame as an actor and being aware is a key component to managing the madness.

“If you’re aware of your madness or your insanity it can be painful, but if you’re not aware of it, what a gas,” he said.

Sitting on stage with his signature black cigarette, Depp delved into how he created some of the iconic characters people have come to love.

While creating Edward Scissorhands, Depp said he had a dog with very soft eyes and that was the inspiration behind the the emotional side of the character but an evening with ecstasy is how he figured out the movements and actions of Scissorhands.

“I dropped two hits of ecstasy, strapped the hands on and attempted to make coffee and to run the remote control for the TV,” Depp said. “At a certain point, when the drug kicked in, things became vivid and I could appreciate where they are coming from.”
Willy Wonka and Ed Wood had very different influences in the creation of the characters.

“Wonka was a combination of every children’s show host that scared me and a really stoned George W. Bush,” he said. “Wood had the vocal attack of Casey Kasem and the blind optimism of Ronald Reagan.”

Most recently, Depp portrayed Donald Trump in a spoof on the presidential candidates life for Funny or Die and Depp had some strong words for Trump while discussing the role.

“I approached Trump as what you see in him when you really watch him,” Depp said. “There’s a pretense; there’s something creative about him in the sense of bully-dom but what he is I believe is a brat.”

Depp went on to explain what he meant by calling Trump a brat.

“Also, because of the absurdity of where his sentences might travel, ‘you because, you know, I mean, really, everything is mine even if I don’t own it,’” Depp said in his best Trump voice. “We have Reagan who said ‘Mr. Gorbachev tear down that wall.’ Then Trump, ‘I’m going to build a wall, a fabulous wall, sensational and all of my billions are not going to pay for it. No really. Mexico is going to pay for it.’”

Throughout the night Krauss touched on certain relationships Depp has had throughout his life with friends and mentors such as gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and Academy Award winner Marlon Brando taking center stage.

Brando once told Depp, “There are only so many faces in our pockets,” when discussing how many movies Depp was doing a year and the trajectory of his career, but with the madness Depp feels he said he thinks he has a long way to go.

“I feel because of the madness there are still a lot of faces in my pocket,” he said.

The creativity involved with madness has been a part of Depp’s life since he was a child and by pushing boundaries as Depp said, he felt he had something to offer and has done so through, music, film, writing and art but throughout everything he has done artistically the main aspect he still embraces is a simple one.

“I’m fucking mad,” Depp said.

One familiar quote, out of all of the movies Depp has made, sums up the discussion of finding creativity in madness. Depp’s character the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland asks Alice, “Have I gone mad?” To which Alice replies, “I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All of the best people are.”
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