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Mr. Showbiz

August 26, 1999
Depp Talks 'Weird' Films, Fatherhood

Johnny Depp has probably never been busier. He has three movies that will hit theaters before year's end; The Astronaut's Wife, Sleepy Hollow, and The Ninth Gate — but he's more interested in his new role of fulltime father.

"Without question, this is the greatest thing I've done in my life," Depp tells the New York Daily News from his Paris pad, where he's ensconced with daughter Lily-Rose Melody Depp and her French mother, Vanessa Paradis.

"It's the only reason to take a breath. I can't understand what I was doing before," says the 36-year-old former bad boy who was once more famous for trashing hotel rooms and for his string of broken engagements than for his eccentric filmwork.

Depp, who counts Jennifer Grey, Sherilyn Fenn, Winona Ryder, and Kate Moss among his past paramours, now says, "The most important thing is my family. Nothing else matters. There will be no time of separation. I want them to be with me or me to be with them wherever they are. I don't want to miss a second."

Depp began seeing Paradis, a 27-year-old French singer and actress, last summer while he was working in Paris. "My girl and I gave Lily-Rose life," he says. "It's a huge and beautiful situation."

The actor, who's steered clear of mainstream movies to tackle a number of oddball roles (cross-dressing Ed Wood and not-quite-human Edward Scissorhands, among them), acknowledges his "weird" career path. "Essentially, I've built a career at being a failure. I'm always shocked when I get a job. It's not like my films are huge forces at the box office."

Whether his latest films will buck that trend remains to be seen. With a trio of spooky, supernatural films, Depp reinforces his reputation for offbeat roles.

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How might his role of Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow been different? Depp wanted to physically resemble the unattractive, gangly Ichabod of the Washington Irving story. However, he says, "Paramount wouldn't let me wear a long nose and big ears."

Depp fans can again rejoice that his movie star looks are relatively unmarred in Tim Burton's Gothic update on the horror tale. Ever since his days of an over-gelled teen heartthrob on 21 Jump Street, Depp's avoided such obvious exploitation of his beauty, becoming almost a modern version of "Man of a 1,000 Faces" Lon Chaney, who was unrecognizable from role to role.

"Playing Ichabod was a great challenge," Depp says. "In a way, it's an homage to those Dracula/Hammer House of Horror films of the '60s, with a style of acting that's just on the verge of acceptable. Maybe it's a little over the top.

"It's hard to explain," he adds, with a laugh. "I was trying to walk a tightrope."

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