BOOKS: SHELF LIFE

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The Independent Culture
2 Whatever else you might think about Johnny Depp, he's come a long way since his big-screen debut - as a dispensable kid eaten by a bed in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), followed by a ghastly pre-Baywatch teen sex-comedy often left off the official filmography.

But Johnny Depp: A Modern Rebel by Brian J Robb (Plexus pounds 9.99) spares us little: from the unpleasant teenager who left home to live in the back of a car and stay drunk, through low-grade cop-soap 21 Jump Street (when the character he played was transformed into a dinky plastic novelty sent across American in cereal boxes), to his current incarnation as self- proclaimed King of Kook-cum-tabloids' favourite, "Johnny Depp-lorable", who conforms rigorously to traditional bad-boy behaviour - trashing hotels, flirting with hard drugs, swearing on live TV, spending odd nights in police custody.

This meticulous catalogue of adulatory prying appears to have been accomplished without the luxury of any direct access to Depp himself (the acknowledgements thank Hello! magazine and Kate Moss's agent for their input). But Depp is unlikely to get too upset at the result: the book is crammed with pouting studio portraits, and even the title chimes nicely with his favourite image as a brooding, poetic, sensitive sort of chap.

Still, it's probably the unauthorised nature of the book that makes it such fun - it throws up facts that might otherwise have been excised by Depp's agents. Tim Burton originally intended to make Edward Scissorhands as a musical, and the tattoo "Winona Forever" (painfully removed for Kate Moss's benefit) read "Wino Forever" at one point.

But what next for the eternal screen adolescent, as he approaches 33? His hero, Marlon Brando, suggested he apply to RADA and get with Shakespeare: "I don't think he was saying it as a goof. I've seen five or 10 minutes of John Barrymore doing Hamlet and it fuckin' flipped me out. I'd like to give it a shot." Look to your laurels, Mr Branagh!

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