`Secret Window' is another perfect fit for Johnny Depp

Suspenseful Stephen King thriller opens tomorrow

Movies: on screen, DVD/ Video

March 11, 2004|By Vanessa Sibbald | Vanessa Sibbald,ZAP2IT.COM

After playing a pirate captain in the Caribbean and a blinded, pistol-wielding rogue CIA agent in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Johnny Depp takes a quieter turn in his next film, Secret Window, written and directed by Panic Room screenwriter David Koepp based on the Stephen King novella, "Secret Window, Secret Garden." In many ways it's a one-actor story, primarily concentrated on an isolated writer with a little too much time on his hands.

In the film, which opens tomorrow, Depp plays successful writer Mort Rainey, who secludes himself in an isolated cabin by a lake after he discovers that his wife (Maria Bello) has cheated on him. Yet, far from finding solace in his solitude, Mort is pestered by a malicious Mississippi dairy farmer (John Turturro) who claims that Mort pilfered his manuscript for one of his stories.

Koepp says he specifically went after Depp to play the part, which he had written with the actor in mind, traveling across the globe while Depp was shooting Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl to woo him.

"He's one of our greatest actors, so inventive every time," says the director, praising Depp's "spontaneous and often unconventional choices" in his career.

Yet it may surprise some that Depp doesn't consider his choices unconventional at all. "They're not unconventional for me. For me they're the only way to go," he says, adding that he's never gone after a specific role, but rather just taken on projects as they've come to him.

"I've never been ambitious in a sense where I went out and chased after a project. I would never go out and do this song and dance and `Here's why I'm great for your movie' or anything. I've never done that," he says. "Everything just kind of happened for me the way it needed to happen."

In the case of Secret Window, Depp, who says he's a fan of thrillers and Stephen King, found himself intrigued by Mort Rainey, who is captured in the film during a rather desperate time in his life; depressed by an impending divorce, Mort is also suffering a whopping case of writer's block.

"I liked the character, there was something kind of passive-aggressive about him that I liked very much -- a quiet, sort of subdued guy, probably a guy who was too smart for his own good, cynical, you know, not very trustful of others," Depp says. "And I liked the reclusive quality of this guy who'd just do the minimum of what he had to do. And a guy who probably didn't look in the mirror very much ever -- he never realized that he had the bed head all the time."

Depp isn't a stranger to portraying writers on film. Having already played author Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he is also playing Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie in Neverland, and poet John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, in The Libertine, which starts shooting this month.

"Yeah, I guess I'm going through a writers phrase," he says, laughing. "I've always admired writers; I've always admired anyone who could bring their thoughts and motions out onto a page and be able to actually allow the masses to read it, be OK with that."

Perhaps part of his admiration stems from the fact that he also writes -- but don't expect to see him switching careers any time soon.

"I've always written, but again it's always been pretty much for myself," he says. "I enjoy doing it, but I never really thought about letting other people read it, you know? That's always been a little strange. And the printed page is a powerful piece of machinery. People think that I live in France full-time, that I've abandoned America and all that -- which is not the case at all -- just purely because the media said so, because that's the sound bite that they picked up on."

Just as musician Keith Richards helped inspire Depp's take on Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates, and the ex-Pogues singer Shane MacGowan helped his role in Chocolat, the actor once again found a musician to help him grasp the role.

"[Secret Window] reminded me of the stories I heard and read about Brian Wilson in the '70s, when he just locked himself in the house and didn't leave," Depp says. "It made sense in a way, for a writer whose life's blood is solitude, really. Of course, the guy took it to another level altogether."

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