Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. For the actors, having real sets must make a huge
difference, I would have thought?
A: Oh yeah. I mean to have all that stuff around you
to react to and especially for the kids I imagine, you know?
Q. You always seem to play eccentric characters in film
like Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and now Charlie and the
Chocolate Factory. How much of you is there in these films?
Burton: We’ve got lots of problems. (Laughter).
So we like to work them out in films.
Depp: It is kind of therapeutic to go in and
make an ass of yourself and be paid for it. There’s something
to be said for that. As an actor, with any character you play,
you have to bring as much of your own truth to the character as
possible and then you make an ass of yourself.
Q: How do you go about finding the character of Willy
Wonka? Obviously, you don’t want to go down the route that
was done in the 1971 film, so where do you get the character from?
A: We’re all very lucky to have the book. That
source material is an amazing help in building the character of
Wonka, using Roald Dahl’s work. In early conversations with
Tim we talked about various things, like memories when we were
growing up of children’s show hosts and that kind of strange
cadence with which they spoke to children.
You know that kind of [puts on voice] 'Hello kiddies. Today...'
So we talked about that kind of thing. And like game show hosts,
the mask that they put on, the sort of perpetual grimace, that
kind of thing. And then we just went from there.
Q: I’ve heard that you don’t like taking
your characters home with you but weren’t you just a little
tempted to take some of that jive talk home with you and if you
did, what did you say?
A: I am a big fan of jive talk. No, I think with all
the characters, it might be a good thing, it might be a bad thing,
you know they’re still in there. All these guys are still
not too far from the surface.
It’s just like opening and closing a drawer. Wonka was a
fun one to play ‘cos once I found him, I kind of never knew
what he was gonna say, stuff would just kind of happen and the
jive talk somehow seemed very fitting.
Q: What does your daughter think about your work? Do
you show some of your movies to your daughter?
A: Some of them, yeah, some of them. (Laughter). Others
I’m not sure my kids are ready for it, and not sure I’m
ready for it either.
They saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which made me real
nervous. I was really scared that they were gonna come home and
just go, 'Nah, Dad, better luck next time'. But they came home
quoting it, which was real fun.
Q: I wonder if you could characterise what it is about
Freddie Highmore that makes him such a fine young actor and was
there anything that he did perhaps on this film that even surprised
A: For me, having had the luxury of working with him
before on Finding Neverland,
I would characterise Freddie as completely pure and honest and
just the sweetest most normal guy in the world.
Really, really wise beyond his years. Working with Freddie I think
all of us noticed he ups the stakes because when he gets in there
he delivers 100%.
Burton: And he hasn’t done any jail time yet! [Laughter]
For a child actor, he’s doing very well so far.
Q: In the movie, the dream of the children all around
the world was to win a golden ticket to visit the factory. Do
you think children in the world share a common dream nowadays?
What was your dream when you were a child and lastly what do you
dream for your son and for your daughter?
A: As any parent, my wish for my kids is a perfect life,
perfect happiness, perfect health, perfect everything. That’s
kind of a given. Kids around the world… boy, I don’t
know what they dream of.
In this day in age they’re probably dreaming of peace and
some kind of clarity and rationale.
When I was a little kid I wanted to be everything from Evil Knievel
to the first white Harlem Globetrotter. And I’m still trying.
Then I wanted to play guitar and now I’m here. (Laughter)
Q: Are fans in the street in France more reserved about
approaching you than say fans in America?
A. I fnd people pretty much everywhere just very, for
the most part, respectful and just kind of curious. Maybe they’ve
seen you in a couple of things and they generally just want to
say ‘Hi’. For the most part, people are very, very
nice everywhere. It’s just a different language.
Q: I read somewhere that when you were a kid you changed
homes about 20 times before you were 15. This movie is very much
about instability and some rejection. How much did this inform
your performance? Secondly, how much did it, back then, inform
your choice of going into the business?
A. Because we led such a nomadic existence when I was
a kid, by the time I was 15, 16, 17, we lived in probably 30,
35 houses. I mean crazy, you know?
So that has had a great effect on who I am today. Me and my kids
and my girl, we don’t stay in one place too long, gotta
keep on sort of moving. I didn’t really think about it so
much for this film, for the character of Wonka.
Q: What do you think of press reports that you affect
a Michael Jackson-like character for Willy Wonka and do you think
in light of the Jackson trial that this could actually hurt the
A: I’ve finally made it [laughter]. Honestly, when
we were doing the film it never dawned on me that there would
be any kind of comparison, it never entered my mind.
Burton [looking amazed]: Didn’t you enjoy
his Sky trial recreations?! I thought he did an excellent job!
Depp: I don’t really know what to say any
more about Michael Jackson other than he’s really a fine
Burton: It’s false as we based it on Latoya!
Q: There are lots of sweets in this film. Do you eat
sweets and what are your favourites? Do you limit the amount of
sweets that your kids can have? Are you strict like Willy Wonka’s
A: My God, nobody could be as strict as Christopher Lee.
You have to police the intake of sweets with kiddies otherwise
they’ll be doing wind sprints at 3am. I myself have never
been a big sweets fan. Tim?
Burton: No. They asked you, not me!
Depp: I just wanted to check.
Burton: I like hot dogs.
Depp: I like devilled eggs.
Q: Could you elaborate a
bit more how you prepared for this role, you’ve already
mentioned the children’s TV host but what else did you specifically
do to get in to your role?
A: When I’m reading a script I start getting images,
or ideas start coming in to my head, so I write everything down.
Like the hair-do, somehow I saw that early on but it took a long
time before I could see or hear Wonka. That’s pretty much
it. You just build it layer upon layer and finding him. Even when
we started shooting I think it took me probably about ten days
to really feel like I clicked with the guy. The teeth, the teeth
were big. That was very helpful.
Q: Do you think being a father yourself has helped you
add texture or depth to this role as it’s a children’s
A: I think being a father helps to add depth and texture
and all kinds of wonderful things. Early on, when I was working
on Wonka, the character, trying to figure out what he was going
to be, what he was going to look like, sound like and after having
tons of conversations with Tim, I would test the voice out on
my daughter, Lily-Rose.
It seemed to work on her so I kind of ran with it. They affect
every aspect of your personal life, your working life, everything.
Q: Getting the Golden Ticket is every boy’s dream
in this film. I wonder what event you would buy a thousand chocolate
bars to get a dream ticket for?
A: To bear witness to Britney Spear’s child’s
Q: You’ve told us before about your very interesting
way of building your characters out of people you see or celebrities.
Out of what did you build this character?
A: There wasn’t any specific person or inspiration,
more the memories of those talk show hosts. In the States we had
this guy called Captain Kangaroo. Even then it was strange, but
if you go back now and watch it, it’s really out there.
He had his pal, Mr Green Jeans and Bunny Rabbit. It was memories
of watching these guys as a child - game show hosts like Wink
Martindale - those game show guys who were always smiling. No-one
Q: What are you currently working on and what’s
planned for the future?
A: At the moment we’re on hiatus on shooting Pirates
two and three. It’s going well so far, I haven’t been
fired which is good. I did a film last year called The Libertine
which is coming out December I think? That’s pretty much
it at the moment.
Q: Isn’t it time to change roles? What about you
as the director and Tim Burton as the actor?
Burton: You don’t want to see me act. Believe
Depp: That would be great.
Burton: That’s a scary thought.
Depp: You know. Thinking if the tables were turned
and I could do some of the things that Tim has done to me over
the years. [Laughter]
Burton: The revenge story.
Depp: Squirting blood all over my face off camera
on Sleepy Hollow, giggling like an infant.
Burton: That was fun.
Depp: That was fun. [Laughter]. Sometimes we
get together and do that on the weekends.
Burton: You also like being dragged by a horse.
Depp: Yeah, there were two horses and I was being
dragged on this thing. [Motions with his hands]
Burton: They had really bad flatulence.
Depp: They’d had a curry for lunch. [Laughter]
I was the recipient. I tried directing once. It was a big learning
experience, but I definitely wouldn’t do it again if I had
to be in it. I wouldn’t cast me.
Q: You choose to play a lot of characters who are the
eternal child. Are you not afraid of getting stuck playing the
same role? Do you not want to try to change or move on to different
types of characters?
A: With each character, as an actor, I think you owe
it more to the audience, not to yourself or the filmmaker, to
try something different each time. I think it’s important
to try to keep playing different types of guys and to keep exploring,
because you are constantly learning. If you keep playing the same
characters it’s like you know Thursday, Friday, Saturday,
meatloaf. It’s the same old thing over again. So I just
try to do different things each time. Frankly, it’s a miracle
that I still get jobs.
Q: Can you see yourself playing the conventional romantic
comedy lead because all of your characters seem to have something
weird or surreal about them?
A: I thought Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was conventional.
[Laughter]. I thought Ed Wood was a conventional romantic comedy.
[Laughter] Tim and I came here to announce that we’re going
to do Friends the movie.
Q: Suppose you were as poor as Charlie and his family,
would you still be happy?
A: It could certainly happen again. When I was growing
up we weren’t particularly overflowing with money –
in my childhood and stuff. I never expected to last this long
in this racket to be honest with you. I always expected to go
back to playing guitar or pumping gas or whatever.
And it still could happen. As long as you have the ability to
breathe, the gift of breath and life, your kids and your girl,
sure, just keep moving forward.
Q. You played an Irish gipsy in Chocolat – was
it difficult for you to get the accent? I read that you have Irish
A. I did play an Irish guy in Chocolat. I do have a little
bit of Irish blood in me, or so I’m told. Years ago Marlon
Brando had asked me to come to Ireland with him to do this film
that he was doing called Divine Rapture.
He told me I was going to be playing a journalist from New York
so I said, 'Maybe I should read the script' and he said 'No, don’t
worry about it. Just show up on this date'.
So I showed up on the Friday to shoot Monday morning and on the
Saturday I met the director for the first time and he said: “How’s
the accent coming?”
I said “What accent?” and he said “Well, your
Dublin accent because you’re a journalist from Dublin.”
So I had little over twenty four hours to learn a Dublin accent.
That was one of Marlon’s great practical jokes. He laughed
for a long time on that. [Laughter]
Before I had done Chocolat I had learnt the accent for Divine
Rapture and we shot for about two weeks and it evaporated.
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