Jewish World Review May 18, 2012/ 26 Iyar, 5772
The night Johnny Depp made me a star
By Barry Koltnow
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) Johnny Depp made me a star for five minutes.
The lead of the new film "Dark Shadows," his eighth collaboration with director Tim Burton, elevated me to god-like status because he's not your average movie star.
The year was 2003, and the setting was Main Street in Disneyland. My worshippers numbered two, a mother and her grown daughter from Arizona, but you take worshippers where you can find them. You don't quibble over numbers of worshippers.
The occasion was the world premiere of the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, and Disney went all out, with an outdoor screening, a party and a 500-foot-long red carpet.
Journalists lined the carpet, and I was one of those journalists, although I was outgunned by national media representatives on all sides. I was squeezed into a narrow space between two network TV news programs. If you've never worked a red carpet, and I assume many of you have not, it's a brutal, degrading experience that has a survival-of-the-fittest atmosphere not unlike "The Lord of the Flies."
There is a caste system, and print journalists don't fare well in these situations. We don't have a gigantic microphone to stick out to attract attention and, more important, we don't have TV cameras and blinding lights to draw celebrities.
In fact, Disney had minions walking the red carpet to apologize in advance that the biggest stars probably wouldn't have time to stop to chat. I had better luck than most that night, and Orlando Bloom and a few other stars from the film stopped by to answer a few innocuous questions.
However, there would be no Johnny, and the Disney people made a point of warning everyone, including the big guns on either side of me, that Depp wouldn't stop to talk. You know you're a big star when you don't have to talk to the major media outlets.
When all the lesser stars had passed, excitement built among the fans screaming and waving from behind a barrier that was situated a few feet beyond the media.
The only star left to walk by was Depp, and he approached briskly surrounded by a phalanx of personal handlers, security and Disney folk.
He glanced in my direction, and stopped walking. A smile crossed his face, and he pointed at me, telling his entourage that he was making an unscheduled detour. They were stunned. This was not part of the plan.
But I had interviewed the actor on at least three earlier occasions, and he was nice enough to remember me. I thought our sessions had gone well, but you can't count on celebrities to remember you. It can be pretty humiliating during introductions, so I usually just extend my hand and wait for them to say either: "Nice to see you again" or "Nice to meet you."
In their defense, they meet a lot of interviewers during a career, and we become a blur to them sometimes. On the other hand, if you have met with someone a number of times, it wouldn't kill you to acknowledge it.
To Depp's credit, he remembered, and he walked over, ignoring the honchos next to me. He gave me a warm handshake and a hug, and we spoke in whispers so no one could overhear our conversation.
I asked him what the hell he was doing in a Disney pirate movie? It seemed so out of character for someone who gravitated toward small, quirky films, and openly defied the lure of big-studio blockbusters like this. He wasn't the type to chase after a hefty paycheck.
You might have suspected this, but I can assure you that Johnny is a straight-shooter, and he didn't duck my question.
"I did it for my daughter," he said with a shrug. "She loves pirates."
We spoke for about five minutes, much to the chagrin of the people trying to hurry him along, but he would not be rushed.
In the meantime, a drama has begun to unfold behind me that I was unaware of until later. My wife was standing behind me and she had struck up an instant friendship with the mother and daughter confined to the spectator area.
They were serious Johnny Depp fans, and they asked my wife if she would mind using their camera to take a picture of the actor as he rushed by. Because of their location, they couldn't get a clear shot of anyone walking the red carpet.
When Johnny stopped to speak with me, my wife took an album full of photos for the women, and then returned the camera after Depp left. They looked at me like I was someone special, and I allowed them to gush their gratitude. They said they couldn't believe that Johnny Depp actually knew who I was.
Frankly, neither could I.
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