Johnny Depp Talks About His Past

About Growing Up | About The Mark Hotel Incident | About The Death of River Phoenix


It's very hard to have a personal life in this town. My relationship with Winona, it was my mistake to be as open as we were, but I thought if we were honest it would destroy that curiosity monster. Instead it fed it, gave people license to feel they were part of it. (Source: LA Times 1993)

I was married when I was 20. It was a strong bond with someone but I can't necessarily say I was in love. (1995)

That was the dark side of me and a pretty dismal time in my life. It's like someone you used to know and wonder why things looked so ugly from his perspective. (2004)

When I was 30 I wasn't that convinced I would make it to 40, but maybe I had to go through all the crap that had built up inside me to get to a point where I could start enjoying life. (2004)

It's too easy to blame other people and things in your past for your own self-loathing. (2004)

Many, many years ago I played in a very awful movie with Hector Elizondo. Hector is a theater pro, he's been in the business for ages. We talked about money a lot because at that time I didnt have any and didn't know how to pay my rent. I asked him how money changes people and he said: "Money doesn't change people, it exposes them. With money you can be the way you really are. If you are an ****, you stay an ****, just a rich one." I've seen some people, who misbehaved towards others big time, and I hate things like that. (Source: TV SPIELFILM, 2004)

[I'm] a dirty fighter. Oh, yeah, The dirtiest there ever was. Stop at nothing. It doesn't matter. Balls, sucker punch, bite the ear, pull the ear, gouge an eye out. I have done damage, and damage has been done to me. I've been hit with everything in the world: ashtrays, bottles, the worst being a pointy-toed Tony Lama boot to the face. I still have a Hellish temper. I mean, it's diminished a little, but rage is still never very far away. Once again, there's nothing I would stop at. It's a hideous place to go but sometimes a necessary place. Yeah, yeah, shit - biting their noses off, chewing it in front of them would be the least of their problems, but, fuck 'em. (Source: Rolling Stone, February 2005)

That was kind of a nasty, darker period for me. I can't say I was completely unhappy, but I couldn't get a grasp on it, so I spent years poisoning myself. I was very, very good at it. But finally I was faced with a critical decision: Do I want to continue to be a dumbass or do I want not to be a dumbass? It was best to stop. Now I look back and say, "Why? Why did I do that?" And since the viewing of the Back, from that great distance, I've been another animal altogether. I can't even compare it to anything else. There's been many times when I've teetered on the brink of absolute madness, and unfortunately, once I go, I go, so I count on Vanessa to talk me down. And it takes some serious fucking reeling in to bring me back to three-dimensional reality. But it's not anywhere near as disturbing as it used to be. With age, you do mellow in certain areas. And it's fucking happiness. (Source: Rolling Stone, February 2005)

There was a period when I couldn't understand what was going on. I couldn't get used to being looked at all the time or pointed at in the street. I felt I'd been turned into a novelty and only felt like myself when I was alone. (Source: Woman, January 30, 2006)

I felt weirdness for many years. I went through periods where I wasted time and felt awful about stuff. Just not comfortable in my own skin. (Source: The Guardian, July 3, 2006)

Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about now, yeah. [The 21 Jump Street billboard] was a giant. It was back in those days you know when all the weird stuff started happening to me, you know. I was driving down Peco. It was at 20th Century Fox and there was a massive billboard of me - of me, holding a gun with a slogan that said "Other kids pack lunch." I knew right away that something had to be done about it. I thought the gun was bad news and I thought my mug up there was worse. So I commandered a friend of mine and we went to a hardware store and bought some paint. And some brushes and rollers and all the accoutrements and went back at about two in the morning on roller skates - well I figured it was such an absurd thing to do you had to try and top yourself, you know. So we went there on roller skates and painted out the gun. And I was in the middle of turning myself into Groucho Marx when a, you know we were very high up, when a security guard came around the corner you know, "halt", that kind of thing - as they do. We halted for a second and he looked at the billboard and he looked at me and he looked and he said "Well, that's you." And I said, "Yeah, I know." He said, "Well, what are you doing?" and I said, "Well, I don't like it, you know. I think it's wrong." So he kinda looked frustrated and he looked at his watch and said "Okay. Hurry." Never heard about it again. The billboard was gone in fact. (Source: David Letterman Show, July 27, 2006)

About Growing Up:

When I was a kid, I was just like any other boy. Boys are very curious, they like to push the walls, you know? (1988)

I hung around with bad crowds. We used to break and enter places. We'd break into the school and destroy a room or something. I used to steal things from stores. (1988)

I wasn't the best kid in the world, but I wasn't an ax murderer, either. (1988)

I lost my virginity somewhere around age 13. I did every kind of drug there was by 14, swiped a few six-packs, broke into a few classrooms, just to see what was on the other side of that locked door. Eventually you see where it's headed, and you get out. (1988)

I grew up in a very different kind of family environment although I didn't know I was living a weird kind of existence until I would go to other kids' homes and see how they lived. I also felt very alienated and isolated in school and some kids and one particular teacher would love to pick on me. So that made me pretty defensive and angry in some ways and you want to do anything to escape that kind of aggression you're experiencing. (2004)

I was 15, I think, [when my parents divorced]. It had been coming for quite a long time. I'm surprised they lasted that long, bless their hearts. I think they tried to keep it together for the kids, and then they couldn't anymore. (2004)

[My childhood] was strange, though then again, it was normal to us. It wasn't until I started going to other kids' houses and hanging out, having dinner, seeing what a family is supposed to do that I saw that we weren't normal. (2004)

When I grew up my uncle was a Baptist minister, a heavy-duty "Hallelujah praise God" guy. I was exposed to that and didn't quite buy into it. Not so much the belief in something, more my uncle; it was like he went into character to become the preacher, and even as a kid I thought, "There's something funny here." (2004)

At my house dinner easily could have consisted of a bologna sandwich, and then you'd split. You might come back later and grab a few peanuts, and then you'd split again. That was it. I would go to my buddy Sal's house for dinner. I couldn't understand what was going on with everyone sitting down together. I'll never forget seeing romaine lettuce for the first time. I thought it was weird - I was afraid of it. There was salad and appetizers and soup. I had no idea about that. I grew up on hillbilly food. (2004)

There was this vicious woman [at school], a teacher. If you weren't in her little handpicked clique, you were ridiculed and picked on. She was brutal and unjust. One day she told me to do something, I can't remember what. Her tone was nasty. She got very loud in my face in front of the rest of the class and tried to embarrass me. I saw what she was doing, that she was trying to ridicule me. I turned around and walked away. As I did, I dropped my drawers and mooned her. She went out of her mind. Then of course I was brought before the dean and suspended for a couple of weeks. At that time it was coming anyway. I knew my days were numbered. (2004)

We lived in a small house, and nobody argued in a whisper. We were exposed to [my parents'] violent outbursts against each other. That stuff sticks. (2004)

There are certain elements of boyhood we can't escape. And farts will always be funny. (2004)

You have to be honest with your kids about the world but also do your best to protect them. When I was a kid, we watched the Vietnam War on the six o'clock news, and it was desensitizing. You felt you were watching a war film; meanwhile you were really watching these guys getting blown to bits. Parents need to protect their kids from watching that stuff. (2004)

I remember being in seventh grade and I was one of the kids that was considered a burnout. I had the most intense crush on this very popular girl. I pined for this girl, like beyond Romeo and Juliet. Shocking. I just chewed my tongue up for her. Eighth grade comes along, we hang out a little at those parties where you end up making out. So we did that and I just couldn't have been happier. Then she goes for the football guy, and leaves me just dangling in the breeze. Years later, after I dropped out of high school. I'm playing a club. I'm on stage and I look out and I'm like, "Fuck, it's her!" So I finish the set and I go directly to the bar where she's sitting and I walk up to her and it's that face, man - incredible. And I went, "It's so nice to see you!" And I look at her and she's 250 pounds! She is mammoth! She's as wide as this table, but her face is still the same. And I went, "Oh my, nice to see you - how many kids do you have?" And she had four kids. And I thought, "What fitting payback for fucking breaking my heart when I was a little kid." (1995)

To me [dropping out of school] was much more [about] curiosity. It wasn't like I was some malicious kid who wanted to kick an old lady in the shin and run, you know? I just wanted to find out what was out there. (Source: Rolling Stone, February 2005)

I was pretty much ready to leave myself, and did so not long after that. [My parents] had had a prickly relationship for a number of years, so on the one hand it was a relief. On the other it was a radical change for my mum and she got very ill. So there was never any time for that kid to feel bad about the parents splitting up because the kid in me had to go straight to the mom to look after her to make sure she was OK. There was never time for the mourning of the loss of family. (Source: The Guardian, July 3, 2006)

About The Mark Hotel Incident:

I thought it was funny - I had to go to jail for assaulting a picture frame or a lamp! (1995)

The rags said, "Well, he was drunk and he was having a huge fight with his girlfriend." Complete bullshit! But, you know, let's say the guy over here in the bar, he's having a hard day, man, and eventually - one more stubbing of the toe - the guy's gotta hit something. So you punch a wall or do this and that. Fuck it, I'm normal and I want to be normal. But somehow I'm just not allowed to be. Why can't I be human? (1995)

It was a bad day. It was just feeling on display, feeling like a novelty, really. And it was being around people who only talked about the work and the money and you just think, Fuck you. Fuck you. And then you walk into this hotel you've never been at, that someone's booked you in, and you go, "Blaaaagghh - I can't stand it anymore, man. I hate it!" I would have been much better off in a barn with a bottle of wine and some hay. There was a part of me that was just like, fuck it. I don't want to be stared at, I don't want to be poked at, I don't want to be prodded. You just want to live simply and not be fucked with. So it just mounted and mounted and I socked a vase or something. It felt good, felt right. It just seemed like the right thing to do, smash a couple of things. And it was. (2003)

The owner approached my publicist about two years after the incident and thanked her, said, "It was so great for us that Johnny got arrested at our hotel and sent to jail. You can't imagine the business we got out of it." (2003)

Very simply, I had a bad day. I'd been chased by papparazzi and was feeling a little bit like Novelty Boy. Obviously something wasn't working in my life. So it built up, and I lost it. It was the culmination of many things, a bad spark, and I went off. I did what I felt was necessary. Thank God it wasn't a human being but a hotel room that I took it out on. It was a weird incident. There was a hotel security guard who was really kind of pissy and arrogant. I wanted to pop him. But I knew that if I did it. I did my business, and they came up to the room. By that point I had cooled down. I said, "I'll of course pay for any damages. I apologize." That wasn't enough. The guy got snooty and shitty. The next thing you know, the police were at the door. As dumb as the incident was, I don't have any regrets about it. I don't think it merited the amount of press it got, and I certainly don't think that I needed to go to the Tombs in New York City in handcuffs. I was in three different jails that night. But it was all part of my education, you know? (2004)

About The Death of River Phoenix:

He made a mistake, you know? And if he hadn't done this particular thing that night, it wouldn't have been... but he was... it happened. (1995)

The thing is, he came with his guitar to the club. You could cut me open and vomit in my chest because that kid... what a beautiful thing that he shows up with his girl on one arm and his guitar on the other. He came to play and he didn't think he was going to die - nobody thinks they're gonna die. He wanted to have a good time. It's dangerous. But that's the thing that breaks my heart, first that he died, but also that he showed up with his guitar, you know? That's not an unhappy kid. (1995)

It was just a nightmare you never recover from. You're watching this thing go down, and you have no arms, no legs, no tongue; you're just an amoeba. There's nothing you can do. (2003)

What a waste. What a waste of a talented, beautiful guy. Obviously, whatever 'it' is, he had it. He was luminous - a brilliant guy with great taste. But on the other side of that, he was a kid, and that can be a dangerous thing to be, especially in that world, being in that position. I was very lucky I pulled out of it, but River - he didn't get out. There was so much ahead for him. Like the beauty and the luxury of making a family. (2003)

It was devastating. I can't imagine the depth of pain that his family and close friends felt. It was rough for me, but for them it must have been unbearable. (2004)

We knew and were certainly respectful of each other. There was always the sort of promise, "Hey, we'll get together and do something sometime." I liked him. I liked his work ethic, and I liked his choices. He was a sharp guy. He had so many amazing possibilities before him. Fuck, what a waste. For what? (2004)