In Vanity Fair’s current cover story, The Crowded Mind Of Johnny Depp, poet-turned-rocker-turned-memoirist Patti Smith asks mega star Johnny Depp where he found his inspiration for the perpetually unstable, yet quick witted, Captain Jack Sparrow.
Smith: I overheard someone in your camp—maybe it was on the set of The Rum Diary,or maybe it was The Tourist—talking about how eager you were to get back to Captain Jack, and about how much Jack was like you. How do you feel when you enter into the skin of Captain Jack?
Depp: Free—free to be irreverent. I think it’s like unlocking a part of yourself and freeing this part of yourself to just be—what do they call it?—the id, or whatever, just to be … just to be, under whatever circumstances. The closest thing that I can compare it to was having known Hunter Thompson really well—we were very, very close—and witnessing him, because I studied him so deeply and lived with him for a period of time to try to become Raoul Duke, to try to become Hunter. There was a certain freedom that he had, or control, or command of the situation—there was never anything that he couldn’t get through. Verbally he was just so clever and so quick and so free, and he didn’t give a rat’s ass about what the repercussions were.
Smith: He was the revolutionary’s Johnny Carson. I mean, he always had a punch line.
Depp: Somebody once asked him, “What is the sound of one hand clapping, Hunter?,” and he smacked him. Captain Jack was kind of like that for me, an opening up of this part of yourself that is somewhat—you know, there is a little Bugs Bunny in all of us.
Smith: Young kids love—really love—the Captain. And who is more mystically mischievous, and brilliant in his own way, than Bugs Bunny?
Depp: At the time, I had been watching nothing but cartoons with my daughter—with Lily Rose. I hadn’t seen a grown-up film in forever. It was all cartoons, all those great old Warner Bros. things. And I thought, Jesus, the parameters here are so much wider and more forgiving in terms of character. These cartoon characters could get away with anything. And I thought, They’re beloved by 3-year-olds and 93-year-olds. How do you do that? How do you get there? That was kind of the start.
Further proof of Captain Jack’s debt to Bugs Bunny can be found in this second interview, where Depp once again cites the carrot chomping wiseass (“Ain’t I a stinker?”) as a source of inspiration.
Oregon Cartoon Institute hereby extends honorary membership to both Patti Smith and Johnny Depp.
For more information about Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny for 49 years, see the Archives of this website.
Another recommended method of deepening your knowledge is to attend the Mel Blanc Lecture Series throughout June, culminating with Mel Blanc Day with Craig Adams, Courtenay Hameister, Robyn Tenenbaum and Sean McGrath on Wednesday, June 29, 7:30 PM in PSU’s Lincoln Hall. This event is free.
For people who can’t wait until the lecture series, and want to get right down to it, we recommend you attend the Mel Blanc Project Screening Series at The Secret Society, throughout May.