Johnny Depp says 'All my characters are gay.' Yes, but HOW gay?

prideImage Credit: Firooz Zahedi; Peter MountainIn an interview with Patti Smith in Vanity Fair, Johnny Depp talks once more about how his swishy, sloshy performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie sent the suits at Disney into a minor panic during filming, going so far as to ask if the character was meant to be gay. “And so,” says Depp, “I actually told this [Disney exec], ‘But didn’t you know that all my characters are gay?'”

Needless to say, Depp is/was kidding — somehow I doubt that the married-with-kids FBI agent Joe Pistone (a.k.a. Donnie Brasco in Donnie Brasco) is meant to be read as a closet case. And yet, Depp’s career is indeed a trove of outré outsiders. They may not be explicitly homosexual per se, but they certainly live on the fringe of society and/or stereotypically manly, heterosexual male behavior — especially when he teams up with longtime companion director Tim Burton. To wit:

Edward Scissorhands in Edward Scissorhands A pale-faced loner who dresses in all black, has a thing for buckles, sports dark emo hair, has a gift for creating fine art with scissors (for hands), and pines for Winona Ryder.

Ed Wood in Ed Wood An over-the-top filmmaker whose films have been lionized as high (if unintentional) camp, with a penchant for dressing in women’s angora sweaters.

Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow A fastidious forensics expert with collection of oddball eyewear, whose progressive ideals put him at odds with larger society, when he’s not sort of pining for Christina Ricci.

Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory A confectionary genius/loner with a coterie of pocket-sized men doing his bidding, with a perfectly coifed bob, exquisitely milky skin, elegant purple gloves, a tailored burgundy suede jacket, and a custom-designed walking stick.

Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street A hair stylist and male grooming expert whose inky black tresses sport a wildly eccentric shock of white hair, and who quite often for seemingly no reason breaks into Broadway showtunes — and Sondheim at that.

The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland A proud designer of one-of-a-kind berets, bonnets, and chapeaux, he also clearly has eyebrow extensions.

You’ve got to hand it to Depp: He’s built himself into a 21st century global superstar and deservedly beloved national treasure playing men who, for want of a better phrase, might as well be gay. But am I crazy for wanting to see what he could do with a character who is, you know, actually gay? (Somehow, his brief dual cameos as a transvestite and closeted Cuban officer in Before Night Falls, and his role as a vaguely bisexual 17th century English lecher in The Libertine don’t quite seem to cut it.) Or would that perhaps be too on the nose for an actor who relishes in puckishly frolicking along the margins?

Comments (113 total) Add your comment
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  • Mea

    Works for me. By and large gay men are better looking, cleaner, more creative and more interesting than heteros.

    • Yo


      • shannen

        whats the funniest part in the movie that you liked the most

      • shannen

        hey whats the favorite in the movie that you liked

    • Anna

      Positive stereotypes while not as harmful, are still dangerous. Imagine if someone said the exact same thing you said but replace gay with white and heteros with blacks. Doesn’t sound very PC, does it? You should learn to judge people as individuals and not sweep people into broad categories that do not accurately reflect the characteristics of the wide range of people in that group.

      • Tarc

        Thanks for the unneeded jabs, Anna. mea sounds like s/he was speaking from their own personal experience. Me, I’d point out that in my experience, the butchest men I know could take down a Marine and wouldn’t know what to do with a woman in bed if you gave them an instruction manual and video tutorial. :)

      • musica1

        Agreed! I’m not gay, but I used to work security at lots of gay events and only a fraction of the attendees fit the stereotypical gay man that the Mea is describing.

      • joe

        Well said

      • joe

        Anna that is

      • Opie

        That’s a ridiculous analogy, Anna. Is it stereotyping to say that Vietnamese people tend to be shorter than the average American? No, it’s just a natural fact.

      • Vince from NYC

        Mea did say “by large”, not all. Maybe most gay men she knows falls into her description. If she said “all”, than Anna would be right. Judgement for the plantif, next case please.

      • Anna

        @ Vince
        I doubt she knows up to 0.0001% percent of gay people, so you can’t even begin to say “by large” if you are talking from experience.

        and to Opie, there are facts, and then there are opinions. If you can’t see the difference, then I’m sorry for you. You can quantify the height of people and see that it is a fact that asians are shorter. But you can’t just assume black are taller than whites because you see a lot of basketball players on the TV. Are you going to make the argument that white men are generally more handsome than black? That’s an opinion and can’t be quantified or qualified on a wide scale.

    • Frob Luker

      You forgot “Finding Neverland”…. he came across as pretty gay in that role, too.

    • JFWilder

      I’ve known some pretty hairy, sloppy and overall disgusting gay people. They weren’t any different than the hetero ones with the same traits. Still slobs.

      • KarlHall

        HAVE you seen the NY gays? They’re all flamboyantly perfectly dressed and manicured to perfection.

        And I’m gay myself… just not NY gay. I can’t come up with a quick b*tchy comeback to save my life.

  • Jane

    I’d like to see Depp in more straight roles, and I’m not talking about the secual kind of straight.

    • Jane


    • shannen

      oh so what kind are you talking about then?

  • V ivian Beck

    Dillenger wasn’t gay…and it really doesn’t matter. DEPP is hot..

    • Marie

      Yeah I would definitely have to agree that Dillinger was far from gay.

      • DJ

        If Dillinger wasn’t gay why did J.Edgar Hoover have such a hard on for him.

      • @dj


      • ohpleeze

        @DJ -Ummm, maybe because J. Edgar Hoover was gay. Not Dillinger.

  • Carrie #2

    Haha, great article. But in terms of classic gay Depp characters you did forget to include his J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, in which it’s even suggested in the movie that he has an inappropriate relationship with those little boys. Then again, he is married to Radha Mitchell and loves Kate Winslet too, so maybe he’s bi. Just saying. :P

    • Carrie #2

      Oops, that smiley was supposed to be the one with the tongue out to indicate that I’m being sarcastic, now it just looks weird. My bad.

      • shannen

        tell me this what do you like the most about him in his movies

    • shannen

      yeah but the whole time she was in neverland the whole time she was there

  • jt

    I don’t care who he plays. He’s just a tremendous actor who is always entertaining and intriguing without being a joke. LOVE him!!

    • shannen

      i know right i love him to and plus he plays a good roll in half of the movies he’s played in ever since

    • shannen

      i know right i love him to

  • nell

    depp was fantastic in FINDING NEVERLAND.and he was playing a serious role in that movie.

    • Liza

      Agreed. That may actually be one of my very favorite roles of his.

    • shannen

      i know and thats what i like about him when he’s playing in these movies though

  • LEE

    Gay or Straight, Why Does it Matter ?, There’s a Place for All of Us,

    • MCS

      There is no place for your heinous misuse of capital letters.

      • KWise

        hilarious, you’ve made my day MCS

      • Dee

        LOL, in capitals!

      • Steph

        Not to mention the punctuation…

      • lovemusic189

        i know right

      • Garcia

        I seriously can’t stop laughing about this!

    • shannen

      he aint gay but anyway he might be

    • shannen

      thats true but you dont know if he’s gay for sure even though he plays a role in the movie

      • Garcia


  • Kitty

    He just said it for a joke, it made the person nervous – I guess it worked whatever he was trying to do..

  • Mavis

    I just thought his characters were eccentric, odd, weird, different..silly me I didn’t make them sexual at all. Acting “Gay or Macho, or Effeminate, or Feminine or Butch” or others I don’t know the words for are just acting a role anyway. There are no “rules” of behavior for gender, and in my experience behavior for asexuality is what works. Everybody acts. Some act brave, some not so brave. Some efficient, some not so. In the end it makes little difference. Folks put way too much thought into what other people do for fun.

  • Really EW?

    I’m kind of offended by the comment about Sweeney Todd here. As a straight, musical theater loving man, the implication that musical theater songs, “especially Sondheim” are somehow gay is a ridiculous stereotype. How the hell is “Epiphany” a “gay” song? Or even better, “Pretty Women”? EW, I’m surprised that you would stoop to such low stereotyping.

    • Courtney

      Agreed. Especially since Sweeney murders to avenge his wife’s death.

      • shannen

        thats true and he better do it for his wife death

    • tracy bluth

      I agree. All characters who are outsiders, dress oddly, or sing Sondheim must be gay? Way to stereotype, EW.

    • MCS

      I thought it was just a poorly written, unnecessary article that contained many things some might find offensive. Well done, EW.

      • Agree

        Yes, I agree. I usually love EW, but I don’t see the need for an article that makes rather careless linkages between Depp’s characters and the writer’s perception of what “seems” gay. It seems to imply that any male character who is not an unemotional, alpha-male, caveman type must by gay.

      • Ryan

        Take your head out of your @$$. The article’s meant to be a bit tongue in cheek. You’re allowed to poke fun sometimes without calling the PC police.

      • MCS

        That long hair dont cover your red neck Ryan.

      • Ryan

        Haha that’s cute and all, but I’m gay myself. And am nowhere near a red neck. I just don’t take myself uber-seriously.

      • MCS

        I dont either, but it is mighty shallow to are people who are pale-faced loners, dress in black, fastidious, like Winona Ryder or are barbers gay. What a stupid “tongue-in-cheek” comment to make.

      • MCS

        *assume people* instead of ‘are people’

    • liz

      Agreed. Sweeney Todd is really not played gay at all..just creepy. He goes on a killing spree, for pete’s sake!!!

      • Ian

        @liz – uhmm…I didn’t know that killing sprees were propreitory products of heterosexuals only.
        Considering how much stick gays take – for being gay – one would hardly be shocked if they do go on a killing spree ;P

  • Flyer

    I think his most straight romantic role may have been in “Chocolat.” And even then, of course he had to be an outsider – in this case, a gypsy.

  • sam

    Leave it to the foolish to overplay he PC crd. Depp has found that ever-elusive style that sets him apart from other actors. Call it what you want, but the guy has a way of making a character memorable. Hats off to you J.D.

  • MariLovesOpera

    He definitely was not gay in Chocolat he was smoking hot in this movie!!

    • Dominic

      So gays can’t be smoking hot? Let me guess you’ll say ‘that’s not what I meant’…

      • ari

        women doon’t find gays smoking hot!

  • carolina

    I love Johnny Depp! His acting is very unique and that’s what keeps me intrique to see what he is going to do or wear next in his movies.

  • carolina

    I just love JD’s acting and the kind of characters he choses because that’s what makes him so unique at the movies. I agree with you Sam :)

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