The Real Inspiration Behind Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow

You’ve probably noticed that Johnny Depp drew inspiration for his infamous pirate character, Jack Sparrow, heavily from a certain member of the Rolling Stones. However, another Hollywood titan, famous before the “age of Depp,” also once shared a word of advice with the Pirates of the Caribbean star that would help shape many of the lasting, whimsical characters the Academy Award winner would go on to create.

Although Jack Sparrow is almost wholly derived from legendary guitarist Keith Richards, who also appeared next to Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, others have played a heavy-handed role in influencing the Edward Scissorhands actor’s approach to acting.

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Credit: Disney

Depp’s incredible range and ability to resonate with his fictional roles on an emotional level allows audiences to become deeply invested in his onscreen personas. It’s a singular reason for the multitude of attributes that have made Depp’s career successful.

Johnny Depp From the Beginning

In 1984, a young actor from Owensboro, Kentucky, got his start in the Wes Craven slasher film A Nightmare on Elm Street. Although this would be the start to a long and lucrative career in acting, Johnny Depp claims that he took the role out of sheer necessity, telling Jones’ Jukebox Radio Talkshow that he was just looking for an easy way to “pay his rent.”

Related: Amidst Disney and ‘Pirates’ Strife, Johnny Depp Hints at Jack Sparrow’s Future, Reveals His Personal Sanctuary

Depp explained that he had lucked out and connected with the same agent that represented Nick Cage, ultimately landing a spot in the 1984 film. This would jump-start a career for the 21-year-old that would eventually skyrocket Johnny Depp to the top of Hollywood.

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Credit: Disney/ Canva

Although his role in A Nightmare on Elm Street was significant enough to earn Depp looks for other projects, his career would  take off after appearing in films such as Platoon (1986), Cry-Baby (1990), What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), and Ed Wood (1994).

‘Don Juan DeMarco’

Although Johnny Depp, now 60, would go on to play Willie Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Jack Sparrow, his work in the 1994 romantic-comedy Don Juan DeMarco would have a profound and lasting impact on his entire career.

The film, which featured Faye Dunnaway and Hispanic singer Selena, would be another brick on the path to super-stardom for Depp. It allowed the ex-husband of Amber Heard to perform with one of the greatest to ever work in Hollywood. A priceless piece of advice given to Depp by said co-star, Marlon Brandon (The Godfather), would help shape the rest of the young actor’s career. 

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Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Although considered two greats from separate film generations, Depp and Brando worked closely together on the set of Don Juan DeMarco ten years before the Apocalypse Now star’s death in 2004. During their time on set, Brando would offer up words to Johnny Depp that would help the young actor orchestrate a slew of amazing, detailed, and finely-tuned roles that would become immortalized and beloved by millions.

Marlon Brando’s Impact on the Career of Johnny Depp

Decades before Johnny Depp would endure public criticism following his now famous defamation hearing with Amber Heard, he would form a relationship with one of the most respected actors working at the time. Marlon Brando, already considered the cream of the crop, had worked in films since the early 50’s, creating an award-winning resume for himself. 

Through a series of Westerns, romance films, and, of course, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Brando’s name demanded respect from Hollywood newcomers and peers alike. In a 2016 interview during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Depp recalled the impact of Brando on his own career, citing the Superman actor’s propensity for charm.

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Credit: Celebrityabc, Flickr

He was so charming, I mean, well, he was charming on screen, for sure,” Depp continued. “He was charming when we were setting up shots and things like that. Suddenly, you’d see like 17 make-up chicks over there just listening to Marlon telling these amazing stories – probably lies
 No,” correcting himself, “He was a fascinating individual. I learned a lot.” – Far Out Magazine.

Interestingly enough, Depp went on to explain that although he had already been cast for his role in Don Juan DeMarco, he was instrumental in hiring Brando for the film. Depp’s response suggesting Brando sent laughs blaring through the room when asked who should play the doctor. 

However, Depp himself was serious. Although others couldn’t see the superstar taking a role on the film, Depp wanted Brando, and no one else. Recalling a note left in his hotel room that contained the call-back information for The Wild Ones actor, Depp couldn’t believe what happened next.

Related: Disney to Spend MILLIONS For Johnny Depp’s Return to ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Franchise

I was in New York at the time, and I came back to my hotel
 and you’re reading the thing, and you see this thing that says, ‘Marlon Brando called at 9:37, here’s his number’, and you’re like, ‘None of this (isn’t) happening. I’m nine months into a deep coma, and this is some weird (stuff) that you really would like to happen, but it’s not gonna happen. So I called him,” Depp continued. “And he was great. He was the absolute opposite of everything that they told me he was gonna be, which was some testy guy who wants to know that he’s in control and a lot of stuff. That’s not at all what the man was. No matter what he did, going to work, whatever, the most important thing on his mind was justice. Equality, justice, just justice.

Working Together Leads to Friendship

Brando, much like Johnny Depp, was often known to play roles whose characters provide a suspenseful weirdness to their films. This has led the superstar to give viewers various unique roles over his career that highlight the weirdness and eccentricity within us all. Depp, most notable for his role as Jack Sparrow, would form a close friendship with his professional counterpart once he completed the 1994 film. 

Calling himself “mad,” Johnny Depp would go on to memorialize his mentor in 2016, speaking about Brando at ASU Gammage in front of a live audience. The Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street actor would recollect a unique conversation in which Brando, who was worried Depp’s rising popularity would hinder the actor’s ability to remain diverse, offered some advice.

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Credit: Disney, Johnny Depp, Adobe

He said, ‘How many films do you average per year that you do?‘” Depp said. “And I said, ‘I don’t know. Maybe two or three. He said, ‘No, that’s too much.’ So I said, ‘Well, why is that too much?’ And he said, ‘Because we only have so many faces in our pockets.‘”

Despite the suggestable advice to his protege, Brando likely knew Depp’s love for insanity and offered the words as encouragement in the form of a challenge. Of course, Depp would accept, citing, “Unfortunately, because of my madness, I feel there’s still a lot of faces in my pockets.

The Many Faces of Johnny Depp

Depp’s career is far from over, despite his firing from both Disney and Warner Bros. However, it has slowed down considerably since the nasty court case with his ex-wife, Amber Heard.

Although Amber Heard’s comments regarding alleged abuse by Depp have played a hand in his employment of late, that hasn’t kept the superstar entirely away from the screen. Most recently, Depp appeared as Louis VX in 2023’s romantic drama Jeanne Du Barry.

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Credit: YouTube/Sundries

As rumors swirl regarding a potential reunion with Winona Ryder and Tim Burton or possible romantic connections with Wednesday actress Jenna Ortega, Depp’s formidable presence is far from washed away.

Related: A New Enemy Has Emerged In the Amber Heard Vs. Johnny Depp Defamation Conflict

Even when he’s not starring in blockbuster films such as the Fantastic Beasts series, Johnny Depp’s staying power is a testament to the many faces that he has gifted viewers over the decades. Many of these are attributed to the advice provided by Brando and Depp’s own self-realization of his creative madness.

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Credit: Disney

In recollection, it’s difficult to imagine another actor who could provide the world with the iconic takes of Jack Sparrow, Ichabod Crane, infamous gangsters, demented madmen, or even quirky cartoon characters. Johnny Depp has done it all.

Recognizing the same madness that once made Marlon Brando great within himself has allowed Johnny Depp to take on a variety of roles unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Seemingly made for the actor, his portrayals of bravery, insanity, love, desire, comedy, and drama have set a huge bar for the Dark Shadows frontman, leaving a lasting impact on Hollywood.

When Will America’s Favorite Actor Return to Disney

The world wants to know when or if Depp will return to Disney, specifically in efforts to reboot the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise with a sixth film. Despite rumors that those closest to Depp believe his relationship with Disney is repairable, nothing is set in stone.

As loyal fans long to see the actor return, there have also been rumors suggesting that Johnny Depp may come back to Disney in the form of a live-action version of The Nightmare Before Christmas along with Tim Burton. This, too, is unconfirmed and most likely the product of an April Fool’s joke posted over half a year ago.

‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Co-star Has a Strong Opinion About Johnny Depp’s Return as Jack Sparrow

Credit: Disney

Since the social media storm during and after his now infamous court case with Amber Heard still resonates loudly, it is unlikely that Depp will be involved with any Pirates projects moving forward. However, some, like long-time friend Jerry Bruckheimer, would jump at the chance to bring that particular face of Depp back to the screen.

Following the court case with Amber Heard, Depp has been touring with his band, the Hollywood Vampires, spending time with his children, Lily Rose Depp and Jack Depp. The face of Dior Sauvage has also shown support of other industry favorites like Rihanna when he walked in her 2022 Savage x Fenty fashion show.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen which of those multiple mad faces we’ll see from Johnny Depp next, but we’re certain when he does take the lead on his next big project, the entire world will be watching! 

About Michael Arnold

Michael is a father, husband, and an Army Veteran. Michael spends his weekends at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando checking out new merchandise and food. Michael is a graduate of the University of Alabama and has an education background in Public Health. You can find Michael riding Pirates of the Caribbean over and over again or binge watching new Marvel and Star Wars content. Han shot first. Thor is the strongest Avenger. Roll Tide and Wash Your Hands!