Johnny Depp plays a man who uploads himself to a computer in "Transcendence." Credit: Getty Images
Fans of Johnny Depp may be startled to discover that in his latest film, the techno-thriller "Transcendence," the chameleon-like actor looks like … Johnny Depp. "I knew right off the bat there was no need to go into pink-haired, clown nose, Ronald McDonald shoes," says Depp, who has made a habit of taking on roles that involve more than a little white face paint, from Tonto in "The Lone Ranger" to the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland."
But the most makeup Depp hides behind in "Transcendence" is only there to show the physical deterioration of his character, computer genius Will Caster, after he gets radiation poisoning. "It’s always more difficult and slightly exposing to play something that’s close to the surface, something that’s close to yourself," Depp says. "I always try to hide because I can’t stand the way I look, first. I think it’s important to change every time, and come up with something that’s interesting as you can for your characters."
Eventually Dr. Caster's consciousness is uploaded to a massive computer, keeping him "alive" but turning him into a ghost in the machine — and a face on a video screen. "I did feel a little bit like Max Headroom," Depp admits. "I guess the worst part is I liked it. I liked being in my little dark room, and [my co-stars] were on the other side. We couldn't find each other sometimes." And apparently playing a foreboding version of advances artificial intelligence didn't put Depp off the idea of that theoretical technological advancement. "Having no intelligence, I’m looking forward to gaining something, whether artificial, superficial or super-duper," he quips.
All joking aside, Depp admits he's something of a Luddite when it comes to new technology — especially the handheld kind. "Things go wrong all the time, especially between me and technology. I’m not familiar with it and I’m too old-school a brain and dumb to be able to figure it out," he says. "Anything I have to attack with my thumbs for any period of time makes me feel stupid. So I try to avoid it as much as possible—to protect my thumbs, of course."
Plus, there's also the fact that by the time he's gotten used to a piece of technology, the world may have moved on. "Think about how technology is moving so rapidly. Things become obsolete very very quickly," he says. "So let's say Will Caster, in 15 years time, is going to be in some weird room in Vegas, and people are plugging quarters into him. Right? Who has a mini-disc or laser disc player? It’s over."