What the Hell Happened to Johnny Depp?

The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection

A series of critical duds and box office flops have tainted Depp, but this new movie offers a viable chance at redemption. 

It’s a testament to Johnny Depp’s star power that he managed to retain his status as an elusive Hollywood demigod, the spiritual heir to Marlon Brando, despite having appeared in a string of craven sequels and kiddie films that buried his talents under strata of makeup and a panoply of goofy accents. Yes, the first Pirates of the Caribbean was inspired, but it marked the point at which the rebellious aloofness of his heartthrob years began to curdle into studio-approved quirkiness as he entered middle age. Twelve years later, there’s evidence that the public has started to tire: His last eight starring vehicles have been critical duds and his last three were box-office disappointments. But now comes Black Mass (out September 18), in which he plays Boston bogeyman Whitey Bulger. Sure, Depp has some eerie blue contact lenses to hide behind and the gangster’s Southie accent to purr through, but from the looks of it, the role provides him an opportunity for an even more dramatic transformation, into the actor we always thought he was.