What's Eating Johnny Depp?09:38
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Johnny Depp is pictured in an scene from the movie "The Lone Ranger." (Disney)
Johnny Depp is pictured in an scene from the movie "The Lone Ranger." (Disney)

Johnny Depp's "The Lone Ranger" is one of the biggest box office bombs of the summer, and it's earned the actor yet more negative reviews of his work.

His roles in "Dark Shadows" and the more recent "Pirates" films were not well received either.

Critics are starting to ask what's happening with the once highly respected actor.

You almost have to tell younger generations, 'there once was a time when Johnny Depp was actually quite a good actor.'

Renee Graham

Here & Now pop culture critic Renee Graham is a fan of much of Depp's early screen work, including "Edward Scissorhands," "Ed Wood" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape."

"He doesn't say a lot, but he plays so much with his eyes," Graham said of Depp's role as Gilbert Grape. "There's no make-up, there's no weird accent, he doesn't have particularly strange hair, it's just Johnny Depp kind of naked and acting. And it's a really beautiful performance, even though it's a very calm, soft-spoken role."

Graham believes what really derailed Depp's acting career — paradoxically — was his success playing Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.

Since then, in films such as "Alice in Wonderland" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," everything Depp does seems to be a variation on Captain Jack Sparrow.

"So what you end up with are wacky accents, strange make-up and really sarcastic hair," Graham said. "You almost have to tell younger generations, 'there once was a time when Johnny Depp was actually quite a good actor,' because you would never know it to look at what he does now."

Graham's suggestion for Johnny Depp's career? She says he should take a page from actors such as Kevin Spacey and Michael Douglas, who reinvented themselves with Netflix and cable television roles — "House of Cards" for Spacey and "Behind the Candelabra" for Douglas.

She says that kind of work could also reinvent Depp's acting credibility, if he's willing to try it.

Guest

  • Renee Graham, pop culture critic for Here & Now. She tweets @reneeygraham.

This segment aired on August 9, 2013.

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