LOS ANGELES — If his recent career choices haven’t made it clear — Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Pirates of the Caribbean films, Alice in Wonderland — Johnny Depp is looking to entertain the kids. And his latest, the animated Rango, about a chameleon who escapes his cage and fights crime in the Wild West, is no exception.
“Kids in general, as an audience, are the way forward because they’re not sullied by intellectual expectation or this or that. It’s a very pure kind of response to the work,” he says. “I trust kids far more than I do adults. Kids give you the honest opinion. They tell the truth.”
The revelation about younger audiences came, naturally, from his own experiences as a parent, Depp explains. “Before Pirates One, I had a daughter. And for about four years, all I watched was cartoons — just cartoons,” he explains. “I realized at that point that the parameters were far away from what we do in sort of normal, everyday movies, and that you can get away with a lot more. Kids accept a lot more, and they buy it, you know, because they’re free.”
But while kids are a much more satisfying audience, Depp’s own children — daughter Lily-Rose, 11, and son Jack, 9 — can also be the toughest critics. And perhaps as a result of having such a famous and chameleon-like father, Depp’s kids aren’t easily fazed by his work. “The things that I’ve done that my kids have been sort of privy to — Willy Wonka and all — it doesn’t register,” he says. “They’re far more interested in Family Guy or Justin Bieber.”
While Depp easily concedes that being an actor means telling lies for a living, telling lies as a parent hasn’t come nearly as naturally for him. “I had horrific guilt for many years, playing along with the Santa Claus thing,” he says. “You’re never going to bring it up to them. They’re going to arrive and say, ‘Hey, you’ve been telling me a lie for my entire life. What are you prepared to do about that?’ We’re now kind of just on the outskirts of that, so I feel OK. But these are lies that society tells you you must keep going, these kind of myths. And I feel guilt about it. I still do.”