Deep in Depp

Deep in Depp

To be eccentric and truly get away with it, you usually have to be very rich, very beautiful or very talented.

Many would agree Johnny Depp is at least two of the above, which might account for how the Edward Scissorhands and Pirates Of The Caribbean actor has pulled off that rarest of tricks: making kooky look cool.

This idiosyncratic persona has been a winning formula both on screen and off, with Depp finding indie as well as mainstream success by playing a string of offbeat characters, then becoming a virtual recluse mid-career, all the while maintaining a sort of reluctant sex symbol status.

All this makes for great copy, of course, so the media is fully complicit. On the few occasions where he voluntarily meets the press, reporters have come to expect and accept a certain level of kookiness, leading to all manner of surreal yet matter-of-fact interviews with the star.

This is how Life! and other media ended up listening to the 50-year-old hold forth on everything from religion to Peking duck at a recent Los Angeles press conference for his latest film, the science-fiction thriller Transcendence, which opens in Singapore tomorrow.

At close quarters with him, another defining characteristic of his long career jumps out at you: that preternatural youthfulness that was first unveiled in the 1980s TV series 21 Jump Street, in which Depp played an undercover narcotics officer posing as a high school student.

Even after a lifetime of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, the actor and sometime musician still passes for a man decades younger today, his slightly fey masculinity still able to conjure both innocence and impishness at the drop of a hat.

This gives him that Peter Pan-like quality that he has put to such good use in the roles he has played, from the gentle-hearted genetic freak in the fantastical Edward Scissorhands (1990) to the puckish rogue Jack Sparrow in the kid-friendly Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise (2003 to 2011).

The fact that he has, latterly, become a self-declared hermit, studiously avoiding the Hollywood scene and limelight and spending much of his time in Europe instead, simply adds to his unicorn-like aura.

There is palpable excitement when he comes out of hiding to stump for Transcendence, in which he plays a dying scientist who has his consciousness uploaded into a computer.

Even before the actor appears at a press conference earlier this month in Beverly Hills, the adoration for the man is evident.

"He is a really nice guy," enthuses one reporter. "You can ask him anything."

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