Yesterday, David and I returned to AFI Fest for the Johnny Depp/Scott Cooper conversation along with seeing Queen of the Desert with Werner Herzog in attendance. We were there insanely early and managed to get near the front. Unfortunately, they roped off the front middle for Industry peeps and the two people sitting at the end of our row were too slow to move when they opened them up to the public.
The camera on my phone isn't the best when things are more than a couple of feet away but these are the photos that I took and I hope that it helps to share the experience. I'm hoping that AFI releases the video and I will post that if they do.
It was a great conversation with Cooper and Depp about their new film, Black Mass. I have seen Depp on stage before (a few years ago at SDCC with Tim Burton. Where Burton kept referring to Depp as his, "imaginary friend." He didn't speak that day so it was a treat last night.) Some of the things that stood out:
Depp speaking about Whitey Bulger, "You can't approach him as a bad man or as a criminal. You have to approach him as a human being who absolutely was as loyal as he could be to his people, his mother, his community. His business just happened to be what it was, and his business entailed quite a lot of crimes."
Depp did something I haven't seen in many years: he repeatedly "lit up," right there, in plain sight, on stage. The first time he struck his match, the audience burst out laughing. Depp was quick to respond, "It's an e-cigarette." The host commented, "Are you laughing because he's smoking? He's Johnny Depp. He can do what he wants."
He also spoke about how Bulger's lawyer was impressed (and a bit freaked out) with how much Depp resembled Bulger. When walking around Southie as Bulger for the first time, Depp thought, "This is fantastic. I wonder if I'm going to get shot."
Benedict Cumberbatch visited the set twice when he wasn't filming and both times wondered what kind of a film he had become involved in making.
Growing up outside of Boston, I appreciated hearing Depp talk about the people of Southie (South Boston) and giving a nod to the community. The stories that all of us can tell who lived in that area, some of us more so than others.
He also mentioned that while he hasn't had to audition in a long time (he joked that he auditioned for Cooper in hotel rooms in Tahoe and Vegas) that the worst audition he ever did was for the Coen Brothers. He said when it ended that he stood there wondering, "How do I get the fuck out of here?" and that they were also wondering, "How do we get him the fuck out of here?" I can only imagine what film that might have been.
He recounted the story of Disney executives' thoughts the first time they saw Captain Jack Sparrow. “It trickled back to me somehow that, "Goddamnit! Johnny Depp’s ruining the film! What is that thing? Is it drunk, is it gay?” “When they asked if it was gay, I said: ‘Didn’t you know all my characters are gay?’”
David and I have been to a lot of film events over the years and while we have heard, "thanks for coming!" many times, we've never had anyone say this, "Thank you for coming out tonight and spending your evening with us. I know how fucking hard it can be to leave the house."
When the conversation ended, Depp immediately walked over the edge of the stage, knelt down and started signing autographs and taking photos with his fans. I've never seen my husband move so fast to get an autograph on his copy of the Ed Wood script (he did it.) I know that these photos aren't the best but I love them because they show how much he interacted with his fans. (AFI has a great close up here. Look for Day 4.) Security didn't seem thrilled about it all but Depp didn't care and took his time signing and posing for as many fans as possible.
An evening with Johnny Depp was one event that we would never have missed. It was well worth the 90 minute round trip walk to get there, the four hours we spent in line waiting to get in and the bullshit from the Dolby Theatre people whom we lovingly refer to as, "The Suits." (I could write about their treatment of disabled people here but I'd be dropping f-bombs left and right. Let's just say, what I witnessed still has me really angry. (Depp joked during the conversation at one point. "What's an F-bomb?"))
As we exited the theatre, we quickly got back in line to see Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert. I always enjoy seeing Herzog and hearing his stories. The poor man had broken a rib before the event and even though he was in a lot of pain, he managed to not only introduce the film but also did a Q and A after the film.
I thought the visuals were gorgeous and I really loved the shots of Gertrude Bell's letter and journal writing (I'd love to know who the calligrapher was.) It left me with several ideas for new journal constructions.