Johnny Depp, once a Hollywood bad boy, has worked his way up from bit parts and quirky roles to genuine superstardom as a leading man. Depp has over 50 films under his belt, so fans might be wondering about his first role in a movie.
Johnny Depp’s first movie was Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984. Not only did the film introduce audiences to horror movie monster icon Freddy Krueger, but it brought the fresh-faced good looks and raw talent of a then 21-year old Depp to the silver screen. Watch Johnny in A Nightmare on Elm Street below.
Read more below about how starring in the first installment of one of the biggest horror film franchises of all time led Johnny Depp to leading man status, with numerous accolades and Oscar nominations in his repertoire.
Johnny Depp was born on June 9, 1963 in Owensboro, Kentucky. Depp’s family moved numerous times over the course of his child, finally settling in the southern part of Florida.
It was there that Johnny Depp attended high school, forming a rock band called The Kids. Depp had no desire to be an actor; in fact his aspiration was to be a rock star.
Depp dropped out of high school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his music career with his band. Little did he know, the move to Los Angeles would alter the course of his life.
One, Two, Freddy’s Coming for You
Though the band had some minor success on the nightclub scene, it was tagging along with a friend to an audition that landed Depp in front of the camera. His friend did not get the role he had auditioned for, but Depp, who had no intention of auditioning, walked away with the role of Glen Lantz.
Producers originally wanted young heartthrob Charlie Sheen for the role, but production could not afford the star’s salary. Depp had no such salary demands and at the behest of Craven’s daughter urging her father to give Depp the role, Johnny was soon immersed in the production of the movie; Depp’s character’s death is one of the most famous scenes in the movie.
Johnny Depp walked off the set with a burgeoning career that he had never intended. Several other movie roles quickly followed, but it was Depp being cast in Fox action series 21 Jump Street that made him a young heartthrob on the Hollywood scene.
Though 21 Jump Street opened a lot of doors for him, Johnny felt that his role as an undercover agent posing as a high school student forced him to be too commercialized. After leaving the show, Depp decided to focus on movies that spoke to him as an artist, and doing so started one of the most famous actor and director collaborations in film history.
Depp and Burton
Johnny Depp’s first collaboration with kooky director Tim Burton was 1990’s Edward Scissorhands. The film starred Depp as the title character, an incomplete creation by an inventor who lives in a gothic mansion perched on a hill above a pastel-colored suburban housing development.
In the film, audiences find out that the inventor passed away before completing Edward, and he is left with scissor digits instead of hands. Depp’s character is found by a nosy Avon representative, who though shocked and initially afraid of Edward, opts to take him home to live with her family.
Depp and Burton’s first collaboration was a dark fairy tale and not at all what audiences were expecting from Depp. However, the film was a critical and financial success, making four times its budget at the box office and receiving numerous award nominations, including Johnny Depp’s first Gold Globe nomination.
Depp and Burton would go on to collaborate on seven more films together over the next three decades.
Over the next decade, Depp took on a variety of roles, ranging from one genre to the next. Johnny seemed satisfied with his film choices and he had managed to shrug off the teen heartthrob persona he so despised, but in an unprecedented move, Depp made a film choice that changed the course of his career forever.
Disney and Captain Jack Sparrow
Johnny Depp’s turn as pirate with a heart of gold, Jack Sparrow, in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was Depp’s most mainstream and financially successful film of his career thus far. The movie was such a hit that it spawned a major Disney franchise and scored Depp his very first Academy Award nomination.
Though Depp did not win the Oscar (something he seemed relieved about), the role of Captain Jack Sparrow skyrocketed Johnny Depp into an international superstar and household name.
Though the actor seems to have a love/hate relationship with the fame the role has brought him, there is no doubt that Johnny Depp loves the character of Jack Sparrow. The actor has famously donned his pirate to visit sick children at the hospital on numerous occasions.
You can watch Johnny Depp during one of his hospital visits as Jack Sparrow in the YouTube video below.
Life After Pirates
Johnny Depp has continued to be a successful actor with a wide variety of roles outside the Disney family, including joining the Harry Potter prequel franchise. Not many actors can say they have been a part of two of the biggest film franchises in Hollywood history.
Despite his professional success, the past few years the star has run into several high profile personal issues. That being said, fans are eagerly awaiting Depp’s next role, which is said to be another film in the Harry Potter universe.
A Living Legacy
Johnny Depp has had an interesting and illustrious career, taking on roles that other actors would never consider because they are too far outside their comfort zone or not commercially viable. Depp has never had those fears and he knows he owes everything to A Nightmare on Elm Street.
When Wes Craven passed away in 2015, Johnny Depp paid tribute to him, telling reporters, “Wes Craven was brave enough to give me the gig based on his daughter’s opinion.”
He continued on with his thoughts, saying “I always think of her for putting me in this mess, and certainly Wes Craven for being very brave to give me this gig. But he was a good man—so rest in peace, old Wes.”
Though A Nightmare on Elm Street certainly isn’t his most famous role, Johnny Depp realizes the impact it and the creator, Wes Craven, had on his career.