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Since beginning his career back in the mid-80s, Johnny Depp has proven to be one of the most talented, enigmatic actors working in Hollywood. He’s done everything from animated features, to big action-adventure blockbusters, to Oscar-centric drama, and is without question among the most popular actors in the world. And this weekend his fans will be able to see his latest: the new sci-fi thriller Transcendence.

Directed by first-time filmmaker Wally Pfister, the new movie stars Depp as Dr. Will Caster, a brilliant man and leading mind in the research of artificial intelligence and the creation of a sentient computer. When Will becomes the target of a luddite terrorist organization known as RIFT, however, he, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and his partner Max (Paul Bettany) are left with a choice: either Will’s mind can die along with his body, or they can try and upload it into their computer system. While the experiment initially seems like a success, Evelyn and Max are left with a troubling question: is it really Will inside the machine, or something else – and possibly malevolent – instead?

As part of promoting the release of Transcendence, Depp – along with the rest of the cast and filmmakers behind the film – participated in a press conference in Los Angeles, CA earlier this month, and the actor had the chance to answer journalists’ questions both about his newest movie and more. Read on to find out what he had to say!

Johnny Depp Transcendence
He Met Transcendence Director Wally Pfister Thanks To Paul McCartney
While Transcendence may be his directorial debut, filmmaker Wally Pfister is hardly new to the world of filmmaking. He began his career as a cinematographer all the way back in the early 1990s, but it was when he began working with Christopher Nolan that his career really took off. Collaborating with Nolan on every single one of his films since Memento, Pfister earned incredible acclaim for his photography, including an Academy Award for his work on Inception. Strangely enough, however, that wasn’t how the filmmaker wound up meeting Johnny Depp and getting him to star in Transcendence. Instead, their collaboration can be traced back to a time that they both spent with a former Beatle.

According to Depp, he first met his future director when he agreed to appear in a video clip that Paul McCartney was putting together and that Pfister was shooting. Between takes the three men would just hang out and play guitar, which helped form a special bond between the actor and the filmmaker. Said Depp, "He and I would sit there and play guitar and then Paul would come over and we’d play guitar. We’d kind of subtly make him teach us things, Beatles songs. We just instantly got along. When the idea of this film arrived, I was beyond thrilled."

Just so it’s on the record, part of the reason why Transcendence got made was because Johnny Depp and Wally Pfister had a great time together getting Paul McCartney to teach them Beatles songs on the guitar. Hollywood sure is a funny place, isn’t it?
Johnny Depp Transcendence
He Has Had Some Very Weird Times In China
In the last few years, international film audiences have become an extremely influential force in Hollywood, and there are few places where this is more true than in China. The Asian nation has about 1.3 billion potential movie-goers living in its populace, and studios see the potential to make a lot of money by getting their films wider exposure over there. Because of this, earlier this year Johnny Depp took a flight to China to promote the upcoming release of Transcendence, and his time over there was strange to say the least.

Discussing his time visiting the Middle Kingdom, Depp said that there was a great deal of culture shock involved, as the world over there is so different from our own. He described feeling "a real warmth in the people" and said that the people were very sweet and welcoming, but also that there was plenty of strange stuff going down that he’d "rather not talk about ever again in [his] life." Talking about his experience appearing on a bizarre Chinese television program, Depp said,
" There were the four quadruplet Chinese boys dressed in Shaolin priest outfits with the character…"Transcendence" comes out to four Chinese characters. They had shaved those characters onto those little boys' heads. So they come out on stage with me. So I’m pretty shy. I tend to run when that kind of thing happens. Little boys with their heads shaved with the name of the film. That scares me. But I trusted the little boys."

Seems like something you could certainly call a "unique experience."
Johnny Depp Transcendence
He Was Separated From Everyone Making Transcendence… And He Liked It
Those who have followed Johnny Depp’s career over the years know that he is certainly no stranger to bizarre or off-kilter roles. Be it putting on a bunch of make-up, changing his voice or simply approaching his part from a different angle, the star regularly undergoes some kind of full transformation to get into his parts – and Transcendence is certainly another example of this kind of performance. While the start of the movie has Depp playing a normal human, most of the film centers on his character’s consciousness being inside a computer, which required the actor to record his character in an odd sort of fashion – one that he ended up enjoying a surprising amount.

Jokingly asked if playing the computerized version of Dr. Will Caster at all reminded him at all of Max Headroom, the partially CGI show from the late 1980s, Depp answered by talking about his experience filming his scenes separated from the rest of the cast. "I guess the worst part is I liked it," the star admitted to the crowd at the press conference. "I liked being in my little dark room, and they were on the other side. We couldn’t find each other sometimes. It’s all done through videotape and sound."

Knowing how Johnny Depp works, it’s hard not to be curious what level he will take his performance to next. He slathered on the eyeliner and/or pancake makeup for his roles in movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in Wonderland, went 100% digital for Transcendence… so what will his next big disappearing act be? We’ll just have to wait and find out.
Johnny Depp Transcendence
He Likes Characters As Unlike Himself As Possible
After acknowledging the actor’s penchant for trying to disappear into his roles through physical transformation, the immediate question becomes: how does he go about choosing the scripts he reads and picking the characters he will play? During the pre conference, Depp confessed the answer to this, which is that within his performance he likes to find a character who is as unlike him as possible who he can feed with all different kinds of emotions.

"It’s always more difficult and slightly exposing to play something that’s close to the surface, something that’s close to yourself; I always try to hide because I can’t stand the way I look," Depp said self-deprecatingly. "I think it’s important to change every time, and come up with something that’s interesting as you can for your characters. This one, as in any case, it really depends on what the screenplay is asking of you and what your responsibility is to that character. You have the author’s intent to deal with and the filmmaker’s vision, and then you have your own wants, needs and desires for the character."

Of course, one of the important aspects of that collaborative process is making sure that the actor doesn’t go too far with the character. Dr. Will Caster may have had his brain uploaded into a computer, but that role didn’t require Depp to go too far with the costuming. "I knew right off the bat there was no need to go into pink-haired, clown nose, Ronald McDonald shoes at the same time," Depp sad laughing.
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