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DeppRomeo played by Johnny Depp. Now that I would have liked to see. He has, to be sure, scrupulously avoided playing the gorgeous romantic leads that his looks would have made possible, but in his lost vulnerable Gilbert Grape and Sam (of Benny and Joon) days he would have put more depth, or at least idiosyncrasy,  into Romeo than most of the callow young fellows (DiCaprio being the admirable exception) I’ve seen.  According to Steven Daly in Johnny Depp – A Retrospective Marlon Brando told Depp to do Romeo before it was too late. Sadly he didn’t heed Brando’s advice and it is too late.

For Romeo. But not for Shakespeare. For whatever reason Johnny Depp has avoided Shakespeare for all these years – and seriously, why has he ?!?!? –  isn’t it high time that he changed that? He’s excelled as so many weird characters that taking on Shakespeare would hardly tax his talents.

I’ve long harbored a hope that he would do Macbeth. Add a little more anguish and uncertainty to his John Dillinger in his Public Enemies and we’d have an awesome Macbeth. Unfortunately, I recently saw in the newspaper that a new Macbeth is being filmed with Michael Fassbender so Macdepp is probably not going to happen.

But just think of Jack Straw as Puck or Feste or even Lear’s fool. Think of Lear! Johnny is still too young but with make-up, a gray wig or another ten years (Lear isn’t necessarily all that old) and his acting skills would give us an excellent crazed, cruel and sad old man.

Crazed and cruel. His Sweeny Todd would only have to add a touch of military arrogance to become Titus.  Even the pies are all ready.

Depp’s decadent cynical Libertine combined with his unhappy but noble Mad Hatter in 15th century costume and there we would have Henry IV – regal but regretful of having usurped the throne of Richard II, haunted by his crime and dying of some dread disease.

Imagine the kindly gentle J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland as the generous and bountiful Timon of Athens and then…I can’t actually think of a comparable Depp role for the Timon transformed into the hateful misanthropic hermit he became after being betrayed by his friends but that’s what makes it so challenging. There’s still room for development in the Depp depths.

Caliban. Richard III. Claudius…

This weekend Hal and I are going to start a Depp marathon. One film a week. It will take about a year. By that time I hope to have been reached by the announcement:



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Author:Ruby Jand

Ruby Jand has an MA in English literature and history from the University of Stockholm. She teaches history and English at grade school and high school level at the Sundbyberg School of Adult Education in a suburb of Stockholm. Her interest in Shakespeare has emerged recently, developing within the last year into an ongoing project on the blog Shakespeare Calling.
  • Shawna Tucker

    I thought Murray was rather flat in the part – but that’s just my opinion. I read in Depp’s bio that he dropped out of school when he was 15. He started in acting at the suggestion of Nicholas Cage (also a high school dropout) which indicates to me that he’s probably had precious little exposure to Shakespeare and no training at all. I rather doubt that actors who have little exposure and no training would want to take a shot at it.

  • Ruby Jand

    You’ve made some good points here, though I quite liked Bill Murray as Polonius. Sadly, you are probably right about JD not caring to do Shakespeare, otherwise he probably would have done something long ago. But we can hope…

  • Shawna Tucker

    Anyone who isn’t afraid of the language, anyway, or who has at least a handle on the character they are playing. Michael Keaton was wonderful in Branagh’s Much Ado. Sam Shepard and Bill Murray quite awful in Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet. It is possible, I would imagine for any really good actor to play Shakespeare with the proper tutelage, but if an actor doesn’t have the background or “knack” for it, what major motion picture star is going to take the time to acquire the skills? Definitely the Everest of acting, not all actors care about it, sad to say. Depp in Shakespeare would get people in the theaters, no question, however. That could only be good for Shakespeare.

  • Ruby Jand

    You could well be right. On the other hand, not everybody who does Shakespeare does it well and Jack isn’t zanier than some of Shakespeare’s characters. And I wonder. Can’t every good actor play Shakespeare? I still think Johnny could do it well if he put his mind to it. I just wish he’d prove one of us right!

  • Shawna Tucker

    Dunno. Can’t fathom that playing Capt Jack Sparrow is really the best preparation for delving into verse. Which is what he’s mostly been doing for awhile. Not every good actor can play Shakespeare. Not every classically trained actor is a good actor.

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