While Johnny Depp has arrived at a point in his career where a movie like Mortdecai seem like a step down from his usual paygrade, there was once a time he was lucky to even get a role in an indie horror film. Originally a musician by trade, Depp started to take acting gigs to pay for his true love in life -- music. But after a while, he decided that his love could cut across two trades and he kept up with the acting thing. And to think, if it wasn't for two 14 year old girls, A Nightmare On Elm Street would have never landed one of its biggest stars.
Vulture ran an excellent oral history on the production of Wes Craven's 30-year-old horror classic, in which most of those involved in the original film recounted various aspects of how a small upstart franchise, based off of an encounter young Craven had as a kid, became an independent horror juggernaut. Part of that success was in the casting of a young Depp as Glen, the boyfriend to Heather Langenkamp's now legendary protagonist Nancy Thompson.
Still, something about Johnny Depp stuck with the public after that role, and according to Wes Craven's own testimony below, his daughter and one of her friends are the ones that he has to thank for making the decision.
The actor who played the coroner came to me and said, "I have a friend who’s in town. His name’s Johnny Depp, he’s in a band, and he’s interested in getting into movies." He gave me Johnny’s headshot. I read with Johnny, and I remember his fingers were yellow from constantly smoking unfiltered cigarettes, and he was greasy and pale and sickly. My 14-year-old daughter was in from New York with a friend. I took the headshots of the actors I was considering for the role of Heather’s boyfriend, Glen. I put them out on the kitchen table, and asked the girls, "Who would you pick?" They immediately pointed at Johnny. I said, "Are you serious?" He looked like he needed a bath. They both said, "He’s beautiful."
Right out of the gates, Wes Craven's daughter and her best friend latched onto the one major fact that would launch Johnny Depp's career in the 80's: he was one of the era's perfect examples of a Tiger Beat sensation. While his huge break on 21 Jump Street was only three years away, Johnny Depp's career was off to a running start, as A Nightmare On Elm Street went on to spawn some of the most successful independent films of the era, and made over $25 million in grosses on a film that was budgeted at almost $2 million.
It did help that Johnny Depp actually possessed the raw materials to become a world class thespian, so his looks wouldn't totally dominate his career track. Especially considering that 21 Jump Street made Depp become much choosier about his roles, considering the pressure of his success as a rising star/teen idol made him feel wary about what exactly he was doing in the acting business. With his own daughter Lily-Rose getting into acting herself (and much like her father she's starting out in a horror flick), there's a lot that Depp can teach her in order to avoid such pitfalls in her burgeoning career. It's safe to say that she'll have a good role model to look up to in the years ahead. So long as she also learns the lessons about her father's career that he might not tell her outright. (Such as, don't star in Alice In Wonderland.)
Johnny Depp can currently be seen in Tusk, which is in theaters now, and can next be seen in Into The Woods, which will be released this Christmas.