Johnny Depp Directing Again: Cause for Concern?

Word has it that Johnny Depp will be helming a documentary about virtually indestructible Rolling Stones guitar player Keith Richards. In and of itself, this isn’t terribly surprising, as Depp and Richards’ mutual affinity is well known. After the first Pirates of the Caribbean installment, Depp admitted that the lion’s share of the inspiration for Captain Jack Sparrow came from the legendary axe-man, and by the third installment Richards was appearing in the franchise as Depp’s piratical pappy. What is surprising about the announcement is that Depp has the audacity to consider directing again. He’s only tried his hand at it once before, with 1997’s The Brave, and the results were, very, very mixed.

I had the dubious privilege of seeing The Brave in a Paris theatre at the time of its release. I was curious because it had just been roundly booed at its Cannes premiere. Somehow I took this to be a potentially good sign, recalling that French audiences had also booed Renoir’s Rules of the Game upon its release, but this proved some pretty specious reasoning. The Brave is magnificently poor. Depp stars as Raphael, a hard luck Native American who supports himself basically by rag-picking at a nearby dump. Determined to provide his wife and children with a future he’ll never achieve, he agrees to star in a snuff film — produced by none other than Marlon Brando (in one of his last screen roles) as a philosophical low-life. Basically, Depp mopes for two hours, then submits to being offed at the end.

In a career that’s had very few missteps, this one was extraordinary. The film is dreary, overwrought, and flatly unbelievable. It’s never been theatrically released in the states, nor is it available on DVD here. You can order it from the UK or, if you’re really a glutton for punishment, watch it on Youtube, though I’d advise a policy of total avoidance. It’s clear that Depp himself isn’t much of a fan either since he recently told European media, “Now that I’m wiser, and that enough time has passed, I can experience directing again.” Here’s hoping he experiences it very differently.

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