Johnny Depp Talks The Tourist

Johnny Depp dusts off his old tuxedo for this Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck thriller!

Is there anyone cooler than Johnny Depp? His versatility as an actor continues to amaze with a new role that drips with glamour and comic timing. Depp stars as Frank in The Tourist, a hapless Wisconsin math teacher who finds himself stuck in a dangerous case of mistaken identity. Opposite the ravishing Angelina Jolie, the pair harkens back to classic Hollywood's days of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy with their Venice adventure.

Here is what Johnny Depp had to say about his experience working on the movie:

Did Angelina have as much fun working with you as you did working with her?

Johnny Depp: Boy, I certainly would like to think so. I hope so cause she's a real treat. She's a real treat to get in the ring with. She's a lot of fun, deeply committed to the work, very smart, great approach, funny, very absurd and a perverse sense of humor. We met, oddly, right before we did this, which was just weird because I think we have a lot of mutual friends, people that we've worked with and we'd never met. When we sat down together, it was kind of instant. We got each other. Within minutes we were yakking about our kids, the perils of parenthood, all that fun stuff.

Would you want to work with her again?

Johnny Depp: If she'll have me again, I'd be more than happy. She's a good girl. And I have a lot of respect for her. In the face of all that she, Brad Pitt, their kids and that life that they have to deal with, being globally under the microscope every second of the day. She's as grounded and as cool, and as normal, and low key a person as you'd want to meet. She doesn't take it all that seriously. She is a wonderful mommy, a great mommy, which you've gotta take your hat off to as well certainly. And she's out there trying to do things in the world, trying to help. She's impressive. She's a force.

Venice is such a beautiful city, did you have time to be a real tourist?

Johnny Depp: My tourist times were between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. That was the only time that I could really wander and have a look around, because there's virtually no one on the streets at that point. I was amazed that everywhere you look is kind of a visual poem - these wonderful facades, and clothes lines with people's laundry, and little signs on churches "bread for the poor." Beautiful, really a magnificent place. That's the sort of Venice I like to see as opposed to the going into the gondola and putting a flower in my teeth or something. I like the nighttime Venice, I like the quiet Venice, where it feels like the ghosts are around.

You were given a great deal of latitude in creating this character. What was the first role where you were given that kind of latitude, and is that something you specifically look for when you agree to a film?

Johnny Depp: Yeah, what I specifically look for is that I can add something that's maybe a little bit different, that is coming from the outside and is not so done to death. Is there something that I can add to this thing to make it interesting? That's what I sort of look for. I've always had that, it's probably a bad habit. I remember doing Platoon back in '86 with Oliver Stone, re-writing my dialogue, it's probably why he cut me out of the film mostly. [Laughter] I've always had that, it's been a part of me. In Edward Scissorhands nobody really knew what I was going to do. Even Tim Burton, bless him, was a little nervous initially with my take on him, but I think it all worked out. I guess it probably comes from being locked into that television thing for a few years and the parameters were so rigid there was no room for movement. There was no room to grow. It was just that character, play that character and that was it so I swore to myself after that I couldn't do that again. If I had to go back to construction, that's OK, I was pretty good at that. Pumping gas, I can do that too.

The director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, said you added this other element of humor to the film that wasn't there originally. What made you think that would be a good tone for the film?

Johnny Depp: I just thought that if you took this guy and put him into these situations, especially if he's going to stick around, he has to recognize the level of absurdity in what he's going through here. And for what, ultimately. And also I'm a real sucker, if I see a gag coming around the corner, I snatch it up immediately. I can't help myself. You spend 9/10's of the time when you're working trying to make your co-star laugh, and I guess some of it's in the film.

In the film, your character Frank, confuses Spanish with Italian, he's got that horrible electronic cigarette, he's kind of the least cool person in the room. How much of that stuff was in the script and how much of it was you playing with the director to create the part?

Johnny Depp: I don't know that a fully formed Frank was in the script. We sat down and went through ideas and the idea was to make him really the everyman of the movie, the math teacher who doesn't have particular highs or particular lows in his life and has a slight amount of obsessive compulsive disorder in his weird routines. The idea was to take this normal guy and put him into these situations that are less than normal. The electronic cigarette was the device that would sort of ring the alarm when he's in panic mode.

I don't think we've ever seen an action sequence in a film with a man in his pajamas before. I'm curious about the genesis of the pajamas. What is the background of the jammies?

Johnny Depp: Backgound of the jammies? I wanted footie pajamas with little bunny ears, but Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck wouldn't go for it. No, I think initially the guy was supposed to be either in a towel or in his underpants, I can't remember, but there was something about the image of a grown man in pajamas that looked like Wally Cleaver's. They look like something you'd pull out of the Leave It to Beaver 's' dad's drawer. So I thought the imagery juxtaposed with the background of Venice, I just thought there was something really funny about it, so Florian went for it.

Can you talk a little bit about the water scenes? Were you actually in a Venice canal because that water is not clean?

Johnny Depp: Oh no, it's not! Oh no. I mean the stunts, doing the stunts, being yanked down a Venice canal in a boat handcuffed to the railing, all that stuff, that was way secondary to the immense fear that I had of going into the drink. Because that's like, God knows what you come out with. The stunt guys who did have to go into the drink were on antibiotics for like weeks and weeks and weeks, intense antibiotics for weeks prior to. I actually remember just being cuffed up to that railing and getting ready to take off and saying to myself, "you're going in. You're going into this water." And I didn't, luckily, but it was pretty close a couple of times.

We've heard you got bloody feet running across the rooftops?

Johnny Depp: Yes, I did. That was wild because when you're doing it and your adrenaline is going you don't really notice things like that, but I was standing talking to Florian and he just went, "Oh my God," and there was blood dripping down these terra cotta tiles. I guess I'd left a little trail of blood behind me. I didn't feel it when I was doing it, when I was in the scene you don't feel it until later.

You've become this huge global movie star. How do you view your career after all this time?

Johnny Depp: Well, certainly not like a 'huge global movie star.' I never even think of myself on those terms. I can't help but smile because it just doesn't register as me. It still feels like I'm doing the same bits, just trying something different each time, exploring something new. That's what's important is to keep challenging myself and try to come up with some new faces every now and again. Many years ago Marlon Brando asked me, "How many films do you do per year, kid?" I said, "I dunno, maybe three or something." And he said, "Too much. We only have so many faces in our pockets." And I went, you know, that's really true, but I feel like I still got a few faces in my pocket, so...

Paris is home to you now. What do you love most about the city?

Johnny Depp: Everything. History, the literary history in Paris has been and always will be a fascination for me. The books that were written here, art history, paintings, painters who wandered these streets, great poets - Baudelaire. It's just always been magical for me and I've always oddly felt more at home here than anywhere else in the world. I have no explanation for it whatsoever. I suppose just to be surrounded by all this art, and all this incredible work that people have done over the years. You can feel. It's still there, you still feel all those great writers. You can see James Joyce sitting in the corner. It's very inspiring.