July 17, 2005

So, in the end, did Depp's Wonka remind me of Michael Jackson?

A while back, based on the preview for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," I wrote that Johnny Depp seems to have based his Willie Wonka on Michael Jackson.

In fact, try Googling "michael jackson" "willie wonka" -- my post comes up #1! Jeez, maybe Johnny's read my post.... Hi, Johnny!

Anyway, today I actually saw the movie, and my final take on it is that Johnny Depp did not base his character on Michael Jackson. The hair and makeup may have been modeled to some degree on Jackson, but the voice was not at all like his. Jackson's voice is much higher and has a sweet, ethereal quality. The two voices I heard, intermittently, in Depp's characterization were Tommy Smothers and Carol Channing. There was a certain light slurring -- especially saying the word "little" -- that seemed both childish and a bit tipsy. Depp's Wonka is clearly cracked, but he's not abstracted and frail like Jackson. He's weird and confused, but still much more grounded than poor Michael. Depp had a ton of comical and psychological ideas that he deploys in this film. To have imitated Michael Jackson would have been a one-dimensional stunt. Why would this brilliant, brilliant actor do that? The answer is: he didn't!

By the way, the some of the best scenes don't have Depp in them at all. Charlie's house and family, with the four grandparents in one bed, made for some of the nicest scenes. Am I the only one who looked at the grandparents and thought of Hamm and Nagg in "Endgame"? And I adore Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Charlie's mother. There's the beautiful Helena, wearing grimy poverty-teeth for this role. And Freddie Highmore as Charlie is just perfect. Perhaps he is the greatest child actor of all time.

But the greatest actor of our time... that's Johnny Depp!


CraigC said...

Johnny Depp is a god. He took the mantle from Val Kilmer as America's best and most interesting actor a while back.

Joan said...

Oh, I am so pleased you posted this. I completely agree with your assessment of Depp and have been looking forward with great hopes for this film. Now I'll just have to bide my time until a bad weather day -- after all, we'll always have Wonka, but beach weather is too uncertain to squander away in a movie theatre.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

I don't know why, in article after article, reporters spouted the easy conclusion that this had anything to do with Michael Jackson, when in fact both director and star had repeatedly suggested that Jackson was not the inspiration for this Wonka. Heck, the film was shot before Jackson was recently in the news.

And yet, because Jackson was recently in the news, people assume some causal relationship as in, "Oooh, I just saw creepy Jackson coming out of trial and I just saw a creepy looking Depp playing Wonka in a preview; I bet he is really commenting on Jackson or using Jackson as his inspiration."

And to hear Ann previously suggest as much. Ann, your weird. It's just annoying.

But not nearly as annoying as wanting to see Depp, but being dragged instead to "Dark Water", a horror film where you get to see the main character stare at water droplets on her ceiling for nearly two hours.

Larry said...

Just saw Johnny Depp in "Finding Neverland". Just great! I saw an interview of Depp and Tim Burton about Depp's character in "Willy Wonka". They decided to base his character on 60-70's local TV kid's show hosts. Kind of "baby talk" on a kid’s level. Mr. Rogers-that kind of speech.

Ann Althouse said...

Larry: They can't have been completely honest abou that. Children's TV hosts speak clearly, and Depp was constantly slurring his words. Which was humorous for several reasons including the fact that he kept telling one li'l boy he couldn't understand him because he was mumbling.

knox said...

Yeah, I can't think of an actor that even comes close to touching Johnny Depp at this point.

Watched "Pirates of the Caribbean" just last night and I found myself feeling sorry for Orlando Bloom having to share so many scenes with Johnny Depp. He was just so amazingly good, the other actors just seemed boring in comparison.

Dwight said...

Funny you should mention Helena Bonham Carter in a post with this title. Wasn't there a picture several years ago making the rounds comparing her character in the "Planet of the Apes" remake to Michael Jackson?

If this keeps up, we can have a new parlor game titled "Six Degrees of Looking Like Michael Jackson (at any point in his metamorphosis)."

LazyMate said...

Depp is modeling his character after Miss Sally from the 70's/80's Romper Room. Check his Baltimore accent, add in the hair, teeth and you have a perfect match. I kept waiting for him to pull out the magic mirror. Brilliant, creepy work.
I was quite impressed.