For many directors, casting Johnny Depp in a feature film role is an achievement that signals success in their own careers, and one director was so pleased to land Depp that the studio paid the actor $10,000 for every word he spoke during the film.
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What began as a seemingly insignificant role in a horror film in the early 1980s turned into one of the most lucrative film careers in Hollywood history for actor and musician Johnny Depp. Between his first role as a teenager in Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984 and his most recent role as King Louis XV in the soon-to-be-released Netflix film La Favorite, Johnny Depp has made more than 70 feature films, embodying a wide range of character roles, including the Mad Hatter in Disney’s Tim Burton collab Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016), Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and, of course, the incomparable Captain Jack Sparrow from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise (2003-2017).
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Depp spent the bulk of his acting career enjoying offer after money-making offer for roles in upcoming blockbuster film projects, but all of that came to a screeching halt when Depp was accused by his ex-wife, Amber Heard, of domestic violence and domestic abuse. Some moviehouses like Disney and Universal dropped Depp (though Universal was far kinder to the beleaguered actor than Disney was), and for a short period of time, Depp had very few offers to star in new films.
After a lengthy defamation trial in 2022 brought on by Depp’s suit against Heard, the jury found Heard to be the abuser, and Depp moved on with his life and career, taking time to pursue his first love–music–while playing guitar alongside one of his best friends, musician Jeff Beck.
Though Disney has made no attempt to apologize to Johnny Depp for judging him without the facts, he continues to be a hot commodity in the film industry. In March 2023, the director of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean films, Jerry Bruckheimer, reiterated his desire to have Depp star in a further installment of the franchise.
The Hollywood trend over the last few years of denying roles to Johnny Depp is quite a switch from what had taken place throughout Depp’s career up to that point. In 1990, only a few years after Depp made his acting debut, he was cast in the starring role in a film written and directed by Tim Burton.
Edward Scissorhands debuted at the box office on December 7, 1990, and was an instant hit. The film tells the story of an artificial young man, Edward Scissorhands, created by a scientist who dies before his project is completed–but not before he gives him a freakish appearance with scissor blades instead of hands. Edward’s life is turned upside-down when a suburban family takes him in as one of their own.
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In the film, Depp embodies Edward Scissorhands, bringing the character to life. But his character is very quiet during the film, saying a total of only about 150 words throughout the length of the film. But for his efforts in the film, the studio paid Depp $1.5 million, or $10,000 for each word he spoke during the film.
Not a bad salary for speaking only 150 words.