On the set with Johnny Depp
Trashwire MySpace friend Anne Rakowiecki got to realize a dream when she met Johnny Depp on the Chicago set of his new film Public Enemies. Read her firsthand account and check out her pictures below.
If you would have told me years, months, or even days ago that I would someday be hugging Johnny Depp in a 7/11 parking lot across the street from Wrigley Field at five o’clock in the morning…I would have laughed in your face and asked you what drugs you had consumed that day.
But, on April 4, 2008, it happened.
The story is kind of funny, actually. It all started with 21 Jump Street. That’s not the funny part, though. The funny part is that it all ended with 21 Jump Street.
It was another typical Thursday night; hanging out with my friends Sara and Jessica, watching our favorite late 80’s cop drama. We were joking around about all the silly Jump Street questions we’d ask Johnny if we met him. It was always, “When we meet Johnny Depp – because it will happen – we’re going to ask him what his favorite episode is.” We thought this was so funny. Funny because we never, ever, in our wildest dreams, ever thought we would actually get to meet him.
Backtrack to when I first discovered that Johnny would be in Chicago filming a movie. March 12, I believe it was. Jessica told me this through instant message. I ran down the hallway and barged into her room: “WHAT?!?!” She told me it was a 1930’s historical gangster film called Public Enemies where Johnny plays notorious bank robber John Dillinger. “He’s already been in Chicago for two days,” she said, “and he’ll be here into the summer.” I fell to my knees and looked to the heavens as a guttural moan/scream erupted from the depths of my soul. Johnny was within miles of me. He was here.
Now, I don’t need to tell you how much I love Johnny Depp (if you can’t already tell), but I’m going to anyway: He is, hands down, my single favorite actor. My friend Sara and I have seen nearly every movie he’s ever been in, even if he wasn’t the lead, even if he only had a 15-second-long part, or even if the only possible way to see the movie is to illegally download it. We’ve watched all of seasons one and two of 21 Jump Street, and I know beyond doubt that by June we will have watched every single episode in which Johnny appeared. I own nearly a hundred DVDs, and I organize them by genre. “Johnny Depp Movies” is, in itself, a genre within my movie collection. Finally, if I were given the chance to choose any musician, author, or actor to meet, I would choose Johnny. And that’s over J.K. Rowling, you guys. Which is a big deal.
Do you understand now? Good.
Back to Thursday: Jessica, Sara, and I watching Jump Street at Sara’s apartment downtown. After we gorged ourselves on ice cream, pizza, and silly Jump Street humor, we decided, at about 11:00 PM, to head up north to check out the movie set. We met up with two of our friends, one of whom told us that she talked to some shady autograph collector, and he told her where Johnny’s trailer was. We hung out at the set for awhile, but alas, Johnny was not there. However, we did stay until about 2:00 AM and watched the filming. Although we didn’t know if we could – or should – trust the information from the autograph collector, we decided to give it a shot. We only had to walk a few blocks until we saw the spot: there was the 7/11. The parking lot behind the 7/11, this is where his trailer was supposed to be. There were, indeed, trailers parked there, and a guy and a girl were sitting on a small curb right next to this lot. We talked to them for a second; the girl said that she had seen Johnny there the night before, and she bravely confided in us, “When I saw him…I peed in my pants a little bit.”
It’s okay. We completely understand.
We made the definitive choice to stay and wait at the trailer, with no end – or guarantee of Johnny – in sight. It looked like we were going to have to suck it up and try to forget how cold it was. Oh, and it was starting to drizzle, too. Perfect. We sat on the curb next to the guy and the girl. We sat. And sat. And sat. Security guards kept coming over to us and told us that we should leave because Johnny wasn’t going to be there. Oh, we were so very close to giving up. But Sara pointed out, “I’d rather stay and have nothing happen than leave and miss out on something.” Truer words were never spoken. Two other girls showed up and joined our waiting party. There were nine of us now. Finally, at about 3:30, this guy (who we later learned to be Johnny’s bodyguard) walked over to us and asked, “Who are you waiting for?” We hesitated, “…Johnny Depp.” Shit. This is it. This is the part where he tells us that Johnny won’t be coming out and that we really did just sit in the freezing cold and rain for absolutely nothing.
“Do you have anything you want him to sign?”
WHAT?!? NO fucking way. We all nodded violently as we frantically dug through our purses and bags. Luckily, I had been carrying around my Edward Scissorhands DVD for the past few days because I knew I would be Johnny-hunting and would be on the movie set, (I had stayed overnight at the movie set the night before and had seen Johnny filming, but didn’t get to talk to him), and I had put it in my purse out of mere foolish hopefulness. Thank God I’m foolishly hopeful.
He told us to write our names on the back of whatever we wanted him to sign so Johnny could personalize them. He said, “Okay, I’m gonna have him sign these, and when he’s finished changing he’ll come out and do some pictures, alright?” And he walked away with our stuff, leaving a very shocked group of people in his wake.
Sara and I couldn’t comprehend it. This really couldn’t be happening. In a matter of minutes, Johnny Depp could be standing directly in front of us. No, no, no. Sara was on the verge of throwing up. I didn’t want that to happen, so I suggested we sing some Sweeney Todd songs, which we did. We tried discussing unrelated topics, none of which I can recall now. But nothing could diminish our excitement. Except, perhaps, the passing of 45 minutes.
It was around 4:15. What the shit?! This guy can’t just leave us hanging here! The prospect of meeting Johnny was growing dim, but even if we weren’t going to get to meet him, we were getting autographs, which was more than any of us had bargained for, and that alone was exciting enough.
Then, six more girls joined our group. The bodyguard came back out and told us that there were now too many of us and Johnny wouldn’t be coming out anymore. (I’m sure this was the bodyguard’s rule, not Johnny’s.) I don’t get angry very easily, but this was one of the rare times in my life where I got extremely, extremely pissed off. What bullshit this was. I kept shooting the girls the dirtiest possible looks that I could form my face into. I cussed about them loudly. Hint, hint, girls. Hint, hint. Then, the bodyguard walked over to us again and gave us our autographed stuff. This calmed me a great deal. I looked at the DVD cover:
“Anne = All my best. Johnny Depp.”
Damn. That right there is enough to make anybody feel better.
We all remained there in a heavy stage of worry, waiting for something, anything to happen. I was overjoyed that I got the autograph, but I was also very, very upset that my one chance of ever meeting my favorite actor was ruined by six giggling girls.
I’m not sure what exactly happened next. But the next thing I knew, the bodyguard was motioning for us to come and stand by Johnny’s trailer: “Alright, over here. Make a line.”
OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD.
We formed a line, all fifteen of us, and stared at Johnny’s trailer. I was third in line. One minute passed…..two minutes….three…. I couldn’t take this anticipation. The very real thought that Johnny Depp would be near me, that I would be speaking to him, that he would be speaking to me, that I would get to touch him – I couldn’t handle it. I was either going to explode, pass out, or shit myself. And I didn’t want any of those things to happen. Not right now. Dear LORD, anytime but right now! I had to think about something else. I turned to Sara on my left, who was fourth in line right next me. I began talking to her about God knows what. And then…she suddenly grasped my arm. I shut up.
What I did next, I remember as being a big, cliché double-take:
I looked to my right. Hey, look, there’s Johnny Depp. That’s cool.
I looked away.
I looked back. HOLY FUCKBALLS!!!! THERE’S JOHNNY DEPP!!!!!!!
Shit. I think I just had a miscarriage.
I watched him while he was getting pictures with the guy and girl in front of me. My heart was beating so fast. Oh, God. What was I going to say?? What could I possibly say that would summarize how I feel about this man, without sounding like an annoying fangirl?? I kept going over a little prepared speech in my head. Oh no, oh no, OH NO. He was saying goodbye to the people in front of me. I’m next. SHIT, I’M NEXT! He looks at me. He’s walking over to me.
My turn. When he approached me…my God. My heart stopped beating. Time stalled into a weird, slow-motion dream sequence. Everything that I had rehearsed to say to him completely drained from my head. I’m surprised I didn’t faint or scream or collapse or something. He shook my hand, and I just spoke sincerely and said, “You are my favorite actor.” He smiled at me and said quietly, “Thank you.” I started to ask, “Could I have a-” but before I could complete the question, he cut me off with a hug. After I momentarily lost my ability to speak from being in Johnny Depp’s arms, I said, “It is such an honor to meet you.” He looked at me and smiled and said, “Oh, the honor’s all mine.”
We took a picture together. And I said, “I have to ask…during 21 Jump Street, when did you start doing things to get fired?” (For those of you who don’t know, Johnny hated being on 21 Jump Street and tried, desperately, to get fired so as to break his contract; he tried being a bad actor, he suggested ridiculous things for his character to do on the show, etc.) His response was immediate: “Oh – season one.” I laughed and said something like, “Really?? Season one?” I had always assumed it wasn’t until later in the show that he tried to get fired. He went on to say that he had wanted to leave the show ever since the actor Frederic Forrest (who played Captain Jenko and was only in the first six episodes) left. His bodyguard was annoyingly trying to move people along now, so my time was up. Sara and Jessica got their pictures and hugs, and Jessica asked him what his favorite episode of 21 Jump Street is. He thought for a second and then said, “The one where we dress up like old people.”
I said, “Our favorite episode is when you dress in drag.” He looked confused. I continued, “You’re driving the car to go drop off the ransom money…” Jessica added, “The clown one!” A look of dawning comprehension, he smiled and said, “Oh, yeah.” Jessica told him how when we first saw that episode we didn’t know it was him; how we thought it was an actual woman until he had started talking. Johnny laughed. (So, everything we had joked about saying to him, we said to him.)
His bodyguard was getting frustrated with us for talking to Johnny and taking up other peoples’ time, but Johnny seemed totally unrushed and happy to answer our questions. Nevertheless, Sara and I stepped back a few feet behind Johnny as other people were stepping up to take their turns. However, we noticed that none of the other people were talking to him very much…just getting a picture and a handshake and leaving. Certainly nobody was asking him about 21 Jump Street.
(I later questioned as to why – after all the amazing movies he’s been in and all the unique characters he’s played – in God’s name, WHY did we talk to him so much about 21 fucking Jump Street?? Jessica pointed out to me that, in interviews, he always talks about the movies he’s in, but he never talks about 21 Jump Street. This is true. The only way we could find out about it would be to ask him personally. And that’s exactly what we did.)
Sara and I were standing a few feet behind him, and we just stared at him as he got pictures with other people. As I looked at him…Johnny Depp…two feet from me…..emotion started to get the best of me. I turned my head away and began sobbing. I wasn’t wailing or anything, but I definitely looked like an idiot. Like that Sanjaya girl on American Idol. Thank God Johnny didn’t see me. Sara noticed and kind of smiled and asked, “Are you crying?” I said something like, “I can’t help it. He’s right there. Oh god. I can’t believe it.” Sara hugged me and was trying to comfort me. I don’t know what she said, though. How do you console someone who’s crying out of pure happiness? (Although, I must say, I’m sure my lack of sleep from the night before contributed to this breakdown.) I got ahold of myself finally and looked back over at Johnny. Everyone was finished getting pictures with him, it seemed, and he was just kind of standing there, so we walked up to him again.
I said, “I loved Sweeney Todd; I was so impressed with your voice.” Sara complimented him on Sweeney as well. In interviews, he has said that he doesn’t consider himself a singer at all, and that he had never sung before Sweeney. So, he seemed to get kind of bashful when we told him this and he did that cute nervous thing he does in interviews where he scratches near his ear. He smiled and kept thanking us. Then I asked him, “Are you going to be involved in Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland?” He responded, “Oh, I will if Tim asks me to.” Big smile. “I love Tim.”
His bodyguard came over to us – this was Jessica, Sara, and I; our two other friends were standing nearby, too. Everyone else was…I don’t know. Standing around watching us talk to him, I guess. Or they had left. I don’t remember. When Johnny Depp is directly in front of you, looking right into your eyes, and smiling at you, your peripheral vision kind of goes dead. The rest of the world means absolutely nothing.
Jessica asked if she and I could get one final picture with Johnny. His bodyguard said, “No. No more pictures. It’s cold, it’s raining. We have to go.” But Johnny said, “No, no, we can do one more. It’s okay.” And he took Jessica’s camera from her and gave it to his bodyguard to take a picture of us. He was so incredibly nice. After the picture, we said our goodbyes, and he thanked us and hugged us all again. When he hugged me, I said, “You are amazing. Thank you so much.” And he said, “No – thank you.” His car was parked right on the curb with his driver sitting in the front seat waiting, and we were heading in the same direction he was, so we kind of walked with him. As we walked, he kept patting us on the backs, squeezing our shoulders really tight, smiling at us, and sincerely thanking us: “Thank you girls for coming out here, I feel so bad that you were waiting in the cold and rain for so long; thank you. Get some sleep, girls.”
As he thanked us, we kept thanking him in return. I mean, shit! Johnny Depp has nothing to thank me for, but I have everything to thank him for!
He got into the backseat of his car and waved to us out the window as his driver pulled away. We stood and watched as the car got farther and farther down the street…smaller and smaller…..until it was gone. A moment of heavy silence. The calm before the storm. We had kept our cool when he was here; we were very mature and respectful toward him. But we couldn’t stay composed any longer: We let loose. A chorus of: “AAAAHHHH!!!!”, “OH MY GOD!!!!”, and “WE MET JOHNNY DEPP!!!” broke the night air. Jumping, screaming, skipping, hugging, and dancing ensued. We whipped out our cell phones to call everybody we knew. We belted out the 21 Jump Street theme song. We ran rampant on the streets of Chicago as if there was no threat of rape or crime. All this at five in the morning.
I was in such shock. I had always wondered what it would be like, what I would be like – what he would be like – if I ever got to meet him. Not once did I think it would really happen, though. He was so unbelievably nice, humble, soft-spoken, mellow, down-to-earth, and genuine. It’s refreshing to know that such a huge movie star can be so friendly, so appreciative of his fans, and not be jaded by “the biz.” I admire him so much, as an actor and as a person, and this experience meant the world to me.
When we arrived back at our dorm, we were being way too loud, but honestly, we didn’t care. My roommate woke up and asked what happened. When I told her, she popped out of bed, and we happily regaled her with the story. It was light outside. Shit…now what? Even though we had been up all night, we were way too excited to sleep. Well, what do we always do when we’re in doubt? We put on 21 Jump Street.
Funny how things come full circle like that.