I’m a massive fan of the actor Johnny Depp. I think this is partly due to the fact that he has a close connection with books. Johnny is an avid reader, a keen book collector and he often stars in movies which have strong ties to literature.
This post will explore some of the links between Johnny Depp and books in more detail.
Johnny Depp: Book Collector
It is thought that Johnny Depp started collecting books in a serious way after making a trip to Jack Kerouac’s hometown of Massachusetts in 1991. Whilst there, Johnny met John Sampas, Jack Kerouac’s brother-in-law. Sampas took Johnny to some of Kerouac’s local haunts and showed him some of Jack’s personal possessions (including his handwritten and illustrated Book of Dreams).
The bulk of Johnny Depp’s book collection is made up of modern-first editions. He owns numerous Kerouac firsts and he has purchased important works by the other beat poets. Johnny has also spoken about owning first-editions by Edgar Allen Poe, and the poets Dylan Thomas and Arthur Rimbaud.
In addition to first-editions, Johnny’s Kerouac collection includes letters written by Kerouac, Kerouac’s last typewriter, two of his jackets, a raincoat, one of his suitcases and books from his library bearing doodles and marginalia.
Johnny Depp and Hunter S. Thompson
Johnny Depp met the gonzo journalist and novelist, Hunter S. Thompson in preparation for playing Raoul Duke, Thompson’s alter ego, in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. They soon became close friends. Hunter used to call Johnny, Colonel Depp, and following Hunter’s suicide on 20th February 2005, Johnny Depp paid for Thompson’s ashes to be scattered, in accordance to the writer’s wishes, by firing them from a tower-mounted rocket.
The following Johnny Depp movies have connections with Hunter S. Thompson:
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (dir. Terry Gilliam, 1998). In this movie, based on the novel by Hunter S. Thompson, Depp plays Hunter’s alter ego, Raoul Duke.
- Rango (dir. Gore Verbinski, 2011). Depp provides the voice for the chameleon, Rango, in this animated movie which contains numerous references to the work of Hunter S. Thompson. At one point, Rango actually encounters Raoul Duke and Dr Gonzo.
- The Rum Diary (dir. Bruce Robinson, 2011). Depp plays Paul Kemp in the movie based on the Hunter S. Thompson novel of the same name.
Johnny Depp and Daniel Depp
Johnny’s older half-brother, Daniel (Danny), is a screenwriter and published author. His debut novel was called Loser’s Town and featured the private investigator, David Spandau. He has since written a follow up called Babylon Nights. Before he was published, Daniel Depp used to own a bookstore.
In addition to playing the role of a writer in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary (see above), Johnny Depp has played the part of a writer on several other occasions.
In Secret Window (dir. David Koepp, 2004), a movie adapted from the Stephen King novella, Secret Window, Secret Garden, Depp plays Mort Rainey, a novelist with a split personality. In Finding Neverland (dir. Marc Forster, 2004) Johnny takes on the role of J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, and in The Libertine (dir. Laurence Dunmore, 2004), he plays the part of the debauched poet, John Wilmot.
In The Ninth Gate (dir. Roman Polanski, 1999), based on the novel The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Revertes, Depp doesn’t play the part of a writer, but his character, Dean Corso, is a dealer of antique books, and in Dead Man (dir. Jim Jarmusch, 1995) Depp plays the part of William Blake, a character who shares his name with the famous poet and is often mistaken for him in the movie.
Johnny Depp Movies Adapted from Books
Lots of Johnny Depp movies have been adapted from books.
In addition to the movies already mentioned above, they include:
- What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (dir. Lasse Hallstrom, 1993) adapted from the novel What’s Eating Gilbert Grape by Peter Hedges.
- Sleepy Hollow (dir. Tim Burton, 1999) based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irivine.
- Chocolat (dir. Lasse Hallstrom, 2000) adapted from the novel Chocolat by Joanne Harris.
- From Hell (dir. Albert Hughes & Allen Hughes, 2001) adapted from the graphic novel From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell.
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (dir. Tim Burton, 2005) based on the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.
- Alice in Wonderland (dir. Tim Burton, 2010) adapted from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Books Optioned by Infinitum Nihil (Johnny Depp’s Production Company)
Through Infinitum Nihil, Johnny Depp has purchased the movie rights to the following books:
- The Invention of Hugo Caberet by Brian Selznick
- Attica by Gary Kilworth
- The Articles of War by Nick Arvin
- Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein
- Caliber by Sam Sarkar & Garrie Gastonny
- The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
- The Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches
- Happy Days by Laurent Graff
- I, Fatty by Jerry Stahl
- Inamorata by Joseph Gangemi
- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Other Literary Links
Johnny Depp has been spotted reading the following books:
- The Bounty by Caroline Alexander
- Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates by Tom Robbins
- Life by Keith Richards
In 1997 he contributed to the spoken word tribute album Kerouac: Kicks Joy Darkness.
In 2000 Johnny Depp started to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Terry Gilliam was the director and Johnny was due to play Sancho Panza. Unfortunately, due to a whole host of problems during production, the movie was abandoned. Luckily, a documentary, Lost in La Mancha, was made about the failed attempts to film the movie, and this provides some tantalising glimpses of what the film would have looked like had it ever been completed.
This post is far from exhaustive and I’m planning on updating it when I come across more information. If you have spotted any more links between Johnny Depp and books, I’d really love to hear about them in the comments.