Why hasn’t Johnny Depp won an Oscar?

The discussion here is based purely on Johnny Depp’s acting ability and not touching on his personal life. After reading a fair bit about his recent personal troubles, I have my own views on the matter like everyone else.

However, it is worth opening the debate up as to whether when considering someone for an award, they should only be judged on how well they do in their actual profession and not what they do in their personal life.

Like any decent person, I am disgusted at the physical or mental abuse of any woman, man, child and animal and therefore we certainly can never forgive a person like Harvey Weinstein for his atrocities. His abominable crimes should be punished severely, and he be stripped of any awards or work. Therefore, in these sorts of cases there is no debate about how they should be judged.

Yet there are some actors who have either fallen foul of the law or upset people with outspoken comments. This may sometimes be out of character or done under pressure or stress caused by problems an individual may be going through at the time. I am sure Johnny Depp has his his demons and is certainly not an angel. In this category we may have all done something in the past which has fallen below the standards we set ourselves. I guess it depends on the severity of the crime and whether a sincere apology is appropriate and sufficient to end the matter. If this is the case, then should their work be permanently punished after the event?

We know Hollywood can be a very unforgiving institution. For example, a huge actor like Mel Gibson has found it hard to get A list work ever since his offences. Even going as far back as 1920’s artists have found Hollywood very unforgiving. Fatty Arbuckle was a huge and extremely popular silent film actor and comedian. Then in 1921 he was implicated in the rape and accidental death of another actress in a hotel. Arbuckle was acquitted but after the scandal some of his films were banned and he hardly worked in movies again. It is fair to say at this point that, if he really was guilty, then he fully deserved this and much more. But he was acquitted and, if innocent, then he paid a very high price for the accusation. Like any other business, Hollywood looks at what makes money and if it feels a film may not make as much with an actor who has done wrong, then they are likely be ostracised.

I believe that Johnny Depp will now certainly find it much harder to win the treasured award, but should he have already won one?

I found myself asking this question as, every time I see him in a film, I believe he adds extra quality, even to average films. I saw him recently in a film called The Professor (2018). It’s not a great film but I enjoyed it principally down to Depp’s performance and the witty charm he brings to the role.

There is no doubt that Depp is a very versatile actor who is not afraid to take risks in his trade. With his looks he may have found it easier to play mainstream, more appealing characters but he is a real actor who wants to challenge himself. If you take someone of similar age like Tom Cruise. He is a decent actor but has rarely taken risks in his acting career by sticking to what he does best. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is not in Johnny Depp’s make up to stick to the conventional.

After appearing in films such as a Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Platoon (1986), Depp rose to fame with Edward Scissorhands (1990) playing an artificial humanoid where he began his collaboration with Tim Burton. This magical modern fairy tale and Depp’s portrayal received great acclaim from critics, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe.

Depp then went on to give strong performances in Arizona Dream (1993), Benny and Joon (1993) and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). I really loved Depp in Benny and Joon which earned him another Golden Globe nomination. Gilbert Grape is a beautiful film and, even though Leonardo DiCaprio gives a fine performance, it is Depp’s understated acting that holds the film together like his character does, holding the family intact. Depp then followed this with a further Golden Globe nomination for “Best Actor — Comedy or Musical “ for Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994), a biographical comedy on the cult director.

Although Depp has often done quirky comical type roles, he has proved himself worthy as a serious actor in films such as Black Mass (2015), The Astronaut’s Wife (1999) and Donnie Brasco (1997) for which he more than held his own against the great Al Pacino.

Depp’s cult movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) is a sort of marmite film. You either love it or hate it. You can’t really argue with the critics for describing it as a mess of a film with no real substance. Nevertheless, I love it, and again that is primarily down to Depp’s comical depiction. If you listen to the real Hunter S. Thompson, the journalist Depp portrayed in the film, you will see how close he was to nailing his voice. I do agree that this may not have helped with the dialogue as certain parts of the narration are sometimes hard to hear. It has a touch of Monty Python to it, but what do you expect directed by Terry Gilliam! Whatever you think of the film, it is worth watching because of Johnny Depp. Perhaps accompanied by a few drinks! I also really enjoyed Depp in The Rum Diary (2011) based on another novel by Hunter S. Thompson.

When they were casting Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) for the remake of the 1971 film, I don’t think anyone would have been able to come up with a more suitable actor to play the part than Johnny Depp. He was the obvious choice and perfect for the role. The same goes for the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland (2010). I have to confess that I only watched these two films because he was the star. No other top list actor would have dared to take these parts and been able to play them better than Depp. He also appeared as Tonto in The Lone Ranger (2013). This film wasn’t received well by critics and did not do well at the Box Office. You can understand why, but I do believe the film is worth a watch, once again purely down to Depp. Perhaps that might be Depp’s problem in not been taken seriously by the Oscar fraternity due to the number of quirky parts he keeps playing.

Ironically, Depp’s first Oscar nomination came for his opening portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). He has gone on to play the popular character brilliantly a further four times. But did anyone really expect him to win the Oscar against Ben Kingsley, Jude Law, Bill Murray and eventual winner Sean Penn? Was this just a token Oscar nomination gesture?

The same goes for his other two Oscar nominations for Finding Neverland (2004) and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007); for which Jamie Foxx and Daniel Day Lewis respectively won the accolade that year. I doubt anyone thought that Depp had a chance. He did win the Golden Globe for the latter, although that was for “Best Actor — Motion Picture Musical or Comedy”. Once again Daniel Day-Lewis took the more serious award.

Should Johnny Depp have won an Oscar? I am not sure. Has his body of work been serious enough? If he consistently turns in great acting does that really matter? He is not alone in a list of great actors who should have won an Oscar. When you compare him with the likes of Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, and Ralph Fiennes then he comes lower down in the “should have won” pecking order. Can he really be compared with the likes of Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Tom Hanks whose work is taken much more seriously by critics?

Maybe the Oscar voters have been put off by his personal image and off camera antics. Unless we are a family member or personal friend, we only know what we hear from a sensationalised tabloid press and mass social media. We know we shouldn’t always rely on this!

If his image is tarnished and has affected his chance of winning the esteemed prize, then take a note that Sean Penn and Russell Crowe have won Oscars, and both have had colourful press coverage for their off-screen behaviour.

All I can say is I believe Johnny Depp to be a very fine actor and will always watch a film he is credited with. I would like him to win an Oscar, but he may just have to wait his turn. It took Al Pacino almost twenty years from his first nomination to win his one Oscar. Hopefully he will be offered that one great part in a high profile film where he can shine and eventually win over the Oscar community. Whether he will ever now get this opportunity remains to be seen!



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