Moviegoers have most recently seen Renaissance thesp Johnny Depp as an Irish river rat romancing Juliette Binoche in Chocolat and as a crossdresser in Before Night Falls. Tomorrow, the debuting narc epic Blow will find him playing George Jung, the man who single-handedly orchestrated cocaine imports from Colombia's drug cartels into America in the late '70s.
Based on Bruce Porter's book of the same name, Blow chronicles the true story of Jung's escapades, taking him from blue-collar suburbia to prison. "I knew I needed a chameleon to play this man," director Ted Demme says about casting Jung. "I didn't want someone 'starring in,' I wanted someone to 'be in'... someone to be George."
Demme credits Depp's ability to play vastly different characters with making the actor a shoo-in for the role. "Johnny just changes his colors in every film," he says. "If you put Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands and Donnie Brasco in the same room and told me it was the same actor, I'd be like 'Yeah, right.'"
After reading Porter's book, Depp became fascinated with Jung and wanted to meet his potential real-life counterpart, who will be serving time in a New York prison until 2014. "I wanted to know if I like him and I wanted to know if he likes me and if it's possible," Depp recalls of their first meeting.
The conclusions Depp formed of Jung based on the book turned out to be dead-on. "I saw what I was hoping to see, which is there is no good guy and no bad guy," Depp explains. "He's as human as any of us and recognizes mistakes he's made. I saw him as a victim of his parents, of his upbringing, and the condition that was put on him by his parents."
With Blow and a string of other successful hits behind him, Depp welcomes the break he's currently enjoying and sees it as an opportunity to refocus. Says the actor: "Now, I'm looking to just sort of go and find stories myself and try and get those made."