With lots of Oscar buzz around The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio’s career is at an all-time high. But things weren’t always easy for the actor. His co-star in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape Johnny Depp recently revealed that he wasn’t particularly nice to Leo DiCaprio during his breakout role.
According to People Magazine, Johnny Depp spoke at the 31st annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival and accepted the Maltin Modern Master Award for excellence in film. On stage, Johnny Depp opened up about the difficult time he had making the critically acclaimed 1993 movie with Leonardo DiCaprio.
“It was a hard time for me, that film, for some reason. I don’t know why,” Johnny Depp said. “It was mostly really miserable. You can’t really tell if the thing you’re feeling at the time is coincidental. Did I have to be that way for the film?”
While Depp claims he respected DiCaprio a lot, he took a lot of his difficulties out on his 19-year-old co-star.
“I respect Leo a lot,” said Depp. “He worked really hard on that film, researching and showing up ready to work, and I tortured him. I really did. I actually did.”
Johnny Depp clarified that he didn’t literally torture Leo, but he did tease him persistently on set.
“He was always talking about these videos games, you know? I told you it was kind of a dark period. ‘No, I will not give you a drag of my cigarette while you hide from your mother again, Leo.'”
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape wasn’t the only early gig that Johnny Depp had a difficult time with. Initially, he only accepted acting jobs “just to pay the rent.” And when he finally accepted an ongoing gig on the show 21 Jump Street, he revealed that he hated it, according to Variety. He said that he didn’t like being stuck playing the one character and did everything he could to leave the show.
“Back then you’ve got this idea of this road, and ‘I’m gonna make it mine,'” said Johnny Depp. “When you’re confined to a TV series and you have to play one character, it can make you insane. But it didn’t affect me. I got out in time. I didn’t want to be a salesman. I guess is what it was. So I tried to get fired a lot.”
With so many rough starts, it seems amazing that Johnny Depp managed to break away from those projects and find massive success in Hollywood. But Depp believes his saving grace was Tim Burton, who gave him the leading role in Edward Scissorhands and many parts since. Johnny Depp would later earn an Oscar nomination for his role in Burton’s musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Depp explained that he and Tim Burton shared a strong connection.
“It was instant. His hair looked like there was an explosion at a hardware store and he was chewing on his spoon. When I walk into a joint, I know that’s the guy I’m talking to — even if it’s not Tim Burton.”
Johnny Depp has come a long way from torturing Leonardo DiCaprio and trying to get himself fired, having recently horrified audiences with his portrayal of the mob killer James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass.
Despite the cold-hearted nature of the character, Johnny Depp claims he can “turn off” the darker characters whenever he needs to.
“I’m all for whatever it takes to get wherever you need to get with a character, as long as you don’t wipe it on me.”
What do you think of Johnny Depp’s career? Do you think it’s been a mixed bag like the actor claims? Or has it been nothing but successes?
(Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for Santa Barbara International Film Festival)