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The Forgotten Failures Of Johnny Depp

You would have to travel a good distance from civilization to find folks who haven't heard of Johnny Depp. The enigmatic actor has been carving a path through Hollywood since 1984 when he appeared in his first film, A Nightmare On Elm Street. His allure is undeniable but also quite unique. There was a large chunk of time where it looked like directors didn't quite know what to do with Depp. All everyone knew was that audiences loved him. It wasn't until Depp teamed up with Tim Burton for Edward Scissorhands that the actor slid into the quirky roles we now associate him with.

While Depp had been a high-demand actor for over a decade at the time, it was 2003's Pirates of the Caribbean that placed him among the brightest stars in Hollywood. The film spawned one of the most successful franchises of all time and immortalized the roguish Jack Sparrow — a display of comedic acting from a thespian at the top of his game. Depp has had so many hits over his career that the successes overshadow the failures, which is certainly an envious attribute of any acting resume. Despite the accumulative box office numbers, there have been numerous times when studios placed all their eggs in the amorphous Johnny Depp basket and came out a few yolks short. These are the forgotten failures of Johnny Depp.

Private Resort was a public failure for Johnny Depp

Coming off the success of A Nightmare On Elm Street, movie producers recognized the allure of a fresh-faced Johnny Depp. Private Resort placed the actor front and center, alongside an equally youthful counterpart in Rob Morrow. The film was the third addition in a series of teenage sexual adventures sharing the word "Private" in their title (along with Private Lessons and Private School). However, Private Resort marked the first major flop for Depp and signified the end of a directing career for George Bowers, who promptly retired to the editing room afterwards. The only reason to view this dud is to witness a young Johnny Depp in the shortest pair of shorts you've ever seen.

Private Resort features Depp and his cohort as two teenage friends on the hunt for sexual experiences while on vacation at a swanky Miami resort. Things get out of hand when they cross paths with a jewel thief who's also attempting to charm his way through the female population, albeit for much more nefarious reasons. The movie was only released in about 100 theaters, barely managing a dismal $300,000 at the box office, and there weren't many critics with kind words to say about Private Resort. It's obvious Depp was a young actor looking for a paycheck in this film, and the film marked the beginning of a tumultuous career for the future star — one filled with epic highs and deep lows that somehow did little to slow his momentum.

Nick of Time is a '90s thriller that everyone forgot

There are many people we can buy into Johnny Depp playing. He can be a vampire, a pirate, a wizard, even a gaunt robotic humanoid with scissors for hands. Asking us to invest in the well-being of Johnny Depp as an accountant was too much, though, even with unique circumstances that should've made for an intriguing plot device. In Nick of Time, Depp plays accountant Gene Watson who, while commuting across town with his daughter, is abducted by two criminals. They pistol-whip him into submission and inform him they will kill his daughter unless he murders the governor. It sounds like a fun plot on paper, but movie audiences failed to find the enjoyment.

Nick of Time was an absolute bomb, ending its run with a dismal $8 million. Seriously, this thing grossed less than The Scarlet Letter and the third Highlander movie. Some of these thriller flicks from the '90s have managed to find a cult status years later, after the passing of the decades has added a gleam of irony. Nick of Time doesn't fall into this category. Rotten Tomatoes has the film sitting at a depressing 32% approval among critics. It's a film that's painfully '90s and doesn't utilize any of Johnny Depp's strengths.

The Brave was an absolute disaster for Johnny Depp

The momentum that Johnny Depp had gathered from hits like Edward Scissorhands gave the actor some serious power in Hollywood. In 1994, producers attempted to tap into the clout and talked Depp into jumping aboard the tumultuous production of The Brave. The original director of the film, Aziz Ghazal, had been the perpetrator in a murder-suicide, an ordeal that tainted the entire production. Depp signed on to direct The Brave and rewrote the script with his brother. Depp even managed to sign Marlon Brando onto the film as his co-star, but the addition did little to attract positive reviews. Making this story even more depressing, The Brave was Johnny Depp's directorial debut, and he reportedly put up as much as $2 million of his own money into production.

The Brave's plot centers around an impoverished man who agrees to star in a snuff film for $50,000, hoping to provide a better life for his family in death. Critics held nothing back when describing their disdain for the movie. "Depp's ignominious directorial debut crawls across the screen for two hours like a snail. Narratively inept and dramatically empty," stated Screen International (according to the LA Times). The negative reviews caused the movie to tank so hard at film festivals that The Brave wasn't even released in the US. It was released internationally with an unreported box office return — it didn't appear to recuperate any losses for producers. Depp admits in interviews to not enjoying the script itself, but he enjoyed the core idea of self-sacrifice involved. The Brave would be the first and last time Johnny Depp ever sat in the director's chair for a feature film.

The Astronaut's Wife failed to launch

Johnny Depp has the ethereal quality of being able to simultaneously star in financial, award-winning successes and some of the biggest stinkers of all time — and in the same year! In 1999, in addition to playing in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, Depp teamed up with Charlize Theron for one of the biggest box office flops of all time: The Astronaut's Wife. The 1999 film boasted a budget of $75 million but was met with scathing reviews and a meager return of around $19 million. It was the first and last feature directing job for Rand Ravich, hinting that — at this point — Johnny Depp can either send a director's career into the stratosphere or bury it deep in the ground, never to be seen again.

The Astronaut's Wife tells the story of an astronaut named Spencer Armacost (Depp), who's involved in a space walk that goes terribly wrong. An explosion disrupts the space crew's communication, but they somehow manage to return to Earth. After the bizarre and sudden death of Armacost's fellow space explorer back on Earth, Armacost's wife (Theron) realizes the man who returned from space isn't her husband. But rather than sending us on a cosmic journey with unexpected twists and turns, The Astronaut's Wife simply goes off the rails. We suppose it can be mildly entertaining to watch all the plot devices derail and crash spectacularly, but you'll still wish you'd avoided being burned and had trusted those viewers who'd come before.

Anybody remember The Ninth Gate?

The legendary director of Rosemary's Baby, Roman Polanski, tapped Johnny Depp for his dive into the world of satanic book collectors. The dark content mixed with star power promised an intriguing experience. Alas, we were all let down in that regard. Depp has an aloof quality, but his characters still seem emotionally invested in the outcome of their stories. This helps us fall through complicated, crazy plots with him. However, in The Ninth Gate, it feels like Depp didn't fully commit to the premise, and who could blame him?

The Ninth Gate follows a rare book dealer named Dean Corso as he attempts to authenticate a book said to be co-authored by the Devil himself. The man who hired him winds up being our antagonist, and he steals the book back once all the pieces have been put into play, eventually completing the ritual written in the book. Even with a subpar plot, it's always entertaining to watch Depp being Depp on screen ... right? Well, in The Ninth Gate, he looks lost. The film came into theaters with a reported budget of around $38 million. The final box office pull was around $18 million. We're hoping that Depp is getting paid up front for some of these duds.

Producers were in tears after The Man Who Cried

Creators of The Man Who Cried must've thought they had a hit on their hands when they secured a cast that included Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci, Cate Blanchett, and John Turturro. But all the star power did little to make any significant dent in the film's budget (it barely managed to crack $1 million in the box office). Why? Well, Depp plays the love interest in the same vein as Chocolat, except there's no chemistry between the stars here — and no chocolate to ease our pain.

The Man Who Cried features Christina Ricci as a Russian-Jewish refugee on a journey to find her father in a foreign European landscape, with nothing but a single photo to help her search. She ends up falling for a performing Romani named Cesar (Depp) while dancing at parties. But Depp isn't given much room to shine here, and it doesn't help that Ricci's blank stare comes off less alluring and more empty. There's much more to the story, but it's all so muddled, and we don't see the point. Audiences in the year 2000 didn't see the point, either. Neither did Entertainment Weekly when they wrote in a review, "There's only one performer in the movie who looks completely at ease with what he's doing: the horse."

Nobody likes The Libertine

If anything should be said about the failure of The Libertine, it's that Johnny Depp is enjoyable even in the murkiest of circumstances. Anyone who watched this film wouldn't fault the actor for the film's shortcomings. In fact, Depp is the only reason to not shut the movie off part way through. 

The Libertine tells the story of John Wilmot, the Second Earl of Rochester, a poet in the 17th century who (as the title alludes) has no desire to meet societal expectations in regards to sexual decency and respect for the crown. Depp dives headfirst into the role, but The Libertine still ended up being a massive flop for producers. 

The film boasted a budget of $22 million but ended up with a box office of around $10 million. Plus, Rotten Tomatoes has The Libertine sitting at a rating of 33%. For what it's worth, the journey may have been too spot on for movie audiences. Wilmot (Depp) himself did not live a particularly spectacular life. He died of venereal disease at the age of 33 ... but not before the disease ate away his nose, forcing him to attend any gatherings with a silver nose replacement. Critics offered up their respects for Depp's boldness, but it wasn't enough to make a good movie. Depp opens up The Libertine by stating, "You will not like me," and while we do admire Depp's performance, we definitely don't like the film.

The Rum Diary wasn't the Depp-Thompson reunion we were hoping for

Over a decade had passed since Johnny Depp's first dive into the mind of Hunter S. Thompson with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before he stepped back in with The Rum Diary. Thompson's story was started in 1959 but wasn't published until 1998, and as for the plot, it features a familiar premise in a struggling writer succumbing to the bottle. Fans of Fear and Loathing were ecstatic to see Depp dive into Thompson's surreal world once again and see what hijinks could be produced. Most of us were severely let down, and it showed in the numbers.

The Rum Diary secured a $45 million budget ... which it failed to recuperate. By the end of its worldwide run, the movie came in at a measly $30 million box office pull. Granted, the film was an instance where critics enjoyed the journey more than the usual audience member, but even the good reviews were lackluster. At the time, it seemed like the only positive outcome of the whole experience was the coupling of Johnny Depp and co-star Amber Heard. Of course, that eventually proved very, very sour. The Rum Diary hinted at the possibility of an unofficial, otherworldly sequel to Fear And Loathing, but ultimately, it's just a drunk Johnny Depp wandering through Puerto Rico.

Audiences staked Dark Shadows in the heart

This remake of the gothic soap opera from the '60s saw Tim Burton and Johnny Depp teaming up once again. The content looked right up the duo's alley with its dark humor and macabre aesthetic. The story centers around a vampire named Barnabas (Depp) who's buried alive and unearthed 200 years later. His descendants are still living in the family's lush manor in Maine, and he rejoins the family as a distant relative. Barnabas tries to keep his vampiric nature a secret, but the witch who cursed him is still alive and, also, still angry about her unrequited love for him.

Even the positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes come with a backhanded quality. For example, take David Stratton's from The Australian, who states in his review, "Certainly delivers the goods on several levels without quite rising to the heights to which it aspires." The film had one of the biggest budgets for Burton and Depp collaboration to date with $150 million — a budget the film failed to recover domestically when it stopped just short of $80 million. The movie was able to recuperate its losses overseas, but that did little to affect the outcome in the US, where audiences quickly wiped it from their memories.

Johnny Depp certainly didn't transcend with Transcendence

The prospect of omnipotence is an easy idea to sell any actor on. Maybe that had a bearing on Depp deciding to helm an intriguing journey involving artificial intelligence and the nature of the human soul. Transcendence features dazzling special effects — thanks to a hearty $100 million budget — and a recognizable cast that includes Morgan Freeman and Paul Bettany. Depp was the face of the entire film, though, and it did little to stop the critical lashing the movie received. It may have something to do with the fact that even creators didn't appear to comprehend the plot any more than the audience did.

Transcendence flopped domestically with a $10 million opening weekend and slid to a halt at just $23 million. Producers were able to recover their losses with global sales ... but just barely. Transcendence does have beautiful cinematic scenes, but characters and story are what carry us forward to each new moment, and the creators let that fall by the wayside. Plus, Depp is best when he's playing the eccentric, and with Transcendence, we got a muted version of him trying to emulate that quality but falling short — mostly due to blindly surging forward with no destination in mind. All we end up with is a few pretty images of Johnny Depp dissipating into the ether, and no knowledge as to why. It's a film you desperately want to enjoy but end up forgetting the moment it ends.

Literally everyone forgot Johnny Depp played in The Professor

The worst reviewed film on Depp's resume (among critics, at least) is not too far in the past. Released in 2018, The Professor garnered a devastating 10% on Rotten Tomatoes and barely gathered $3.6 million in the box office. Depp stars as English professor Robert Brown, who discovers he has cancer and only has a few months left to live. After his family's drama drowns out any ability for him to share the news with them, he resorts to berating his students with truth bombs. A majority of his class opts to walk out, but he's left with a small group who are interested in this new, unorthodox version of the professor. One of those students is the niece of the dean, who happens to be having an affair with Brown's wife. 

"The movie frequently makes no sense from a purely human perspective ... and it becomes increasingly annoying as the story rolls on," states James Berardinelli at Reel Views. Depp has been in a lot of hot water in the past few years, and maybe a character study of a dying man was a bit more than he could emotionally handle. Best to not seek this dud out, lest it taint your love for the actor. Luckily, Johnny Depp has a deep resume filled with hits for us to dive into — and, of course, we always have Jack Sparrow.