Interview: Johnny Depp - Depp's Despair; How Lack of Cash, Jet Planes, Illness and Flash Floods Left Johnny Depp's Movie in Tatters. by Henry Nicholls

The Mirror (London, England), August 2, 2002 | Go to article overview

Interview: Johnny Depp - Depp's Despair; How Lack of Cash, Jet Planes, Illness and Flash Floods Left Johnny Depp's Movie in Tatters. by Henry Nicholls


Byline: HENRY NICHOLLS

In a nondescript bar in North London, Hollywood heartthrob Johnny Depp is deep in conversation. A party is in full swing all around him and a blonde across the table is trying desperately to catch his eye, but only one person holds his attention.

Former Monty Python star Terry Gilliam, for it is he, has a special place in Johnny's life. This year we should have seen him playing Sancho Panza in Gilliam's reworking of Don Quixote. Instead, the pair are at a party to celebrate the premiere of Lost In La Mancha, a documentary which charts how the project disintegrated in spectacular fashion.

Having enjoyed working with Gilliam before, on Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas in 1998, Johnny jumped at the chance to appear in the sweeping epic. But fate, in the form of an almost Biblical series of disasters, thought otherwise.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote had been dogged by money problems from the start. Then when the cast and crew turned up on location they discovered that the set in southern Spain was on the site of a NATO air base. The next mishap was when Jean Rochefort, the elderly actor who was to play Don Quixote, fell seriously ill. And to cap it all, a storm washed away all the equipment. After six days, they abandoned the project.

It wasn't funny at the time, but Johnny, who is currently in London filming the drama Neverland with Kate Winslet and Dustin Hoffman, can now look back on the fiasco with some amusement.

"When I arrived there I was amazed at how we were shooting on this NATO target practice range for fighter bombers," says the 39-year-old movie hunk. "I was shocked at the sound of planes screaming in. Deafening. Then the next thing you heard and saw was a missile exploding in a real blast of fire.

"Everyone had been told that this sort of thing would happen only during a short period every day, but that was an absolute lie - they kept screaming in, one after another."

Next Jean fell ill, though he tried to carry on working. "However stoic, however heroic, you could see he was truly in pain," recalls Johnny. "Everyone was really worried."

But the weather dealt the killer blow. "It was a glorious Spanish day, then these enormous black, thick, huge clouds lumbered towards us," he says. "The next thing we knew, anything that wasn't nailed down was floating away. There was nothing we could do. There was hail as big as rocks - enormous. I got back to my trailer and my pockets were filled with ice from the sky."

When shooting was eventually abandoned, Johnny felt it as a personal as well as a professional loss. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was to have been his first opportunity to co-star with his partner, the former singer Vanessa Paradis, 29.

"We were excited that we were all going to be together, making a film with my girl by my side and my daughter and son," he says. "But at the same time we were slightly freaked out about working together - having to lie to one another during the day. We thought we'd get over it in a couple of days, but we never got the chance. …

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Interview: Johnny Depp - Depp's Despair; How Lack of Cash, Jet Planes, Illness and Flash Floods Left Johnny Depp's Movie in Tatters. by Henry Nicholls
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