September 05, 2003

Shock Fury at Depp Comments in Euromag

IT AMAZES US that in this day and age, there are still famous actors who spout off on political subjects, yet don't bother studying up on the subjects of which they're speaking. We find it amazing for two reasons. First, when one is famous and one is also on the record, it behooves one to study the issue to which his remarks apply. Second, the consequences of making unfortunate comments can often be dire when it comes to one's career.

That said, we are not convinced that Johnny Depp, an actor who shot to fame after his stint as "Glen Lantz" in "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and starring in some screwed-up Tim Burton film, did not mean what he said to the German newsmagazine Stern. We are also not convinced that he did not say it in the first place, as his people now claim. However, he said enough so that we here at The Rant are convinced he is an idiot.

Mr Depp told Stern, according to a Reuters account, that America is like a stupid puppy:

The 40-year-old actor told the German news magazine Stern he was happier staying in the south of France with his wife, the French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis, and their two children.

“America is dumb, it’s like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you,” he said.

“My daughter is four, my boy is one. I’d like them to see America as a toy, a broken toy. Investigate it a little, check it out, get this feeling and then get out,” said the star.

Depp slammed George W Bush’s administration for its criticism of French opposition to the US-led war in Iraq.

“I was ecstatic they renamed ‘French Fries’ as ‘Freedom Fries’. Grown men and women in positions of power in the US government showing themselves as idiots,” he told Stern.

Except, Depp said later, he didn't say that at all, according to a later Reuters report:

The magazine quoted the actor as saying "America is ... like a dumb puppy that has big teeth that can bite and hurt you, aggressive." He was further quoted as saying he wanted his children to "see America as ... a broken toy" that they should explore, get the feel of, then "get out."

Explaining his comments a day later, Depp he had been using a metaphor that was taken "radically out of context," adding, "There was no anti-American sentiment."

"What I was saying was that, compared to Europe, America is a very young country and we are still growing as a nation," he said. "My deepest apologies to those who were offended, affected, or hurt by this insanely twisted deformation of my words and intent."

Now, we don't know about the rest of you, but we didn't understand how ellipses not in one news account could suddenly appear in a second account from the same media source. So we went and sought out the actual transcript from Stern itself. Unfortunately for Mr Depp, it does appear that he did in fact call America a stupid puppy. Using the words "stupid puppy." Ein dummer Welpe. Don't just take our word for it. However, please do note we've cleaned up the transcript, which was probably re-written into German from English, for The Rant's loyal readers:

Q: Das Verhältnis von Amerika und Frankreich ist nicht das beste.

DEPP: Amerika ist wie ein dummer Welpe. Mit großen Zähnen. Er kann dich beißen und verletzen. Ein aggressives Land. Die amerikanische Regierung und die Medien haben die Franzosen beschimpft, Präsident Chirac sei ein Tier. Ich war froh, als ich las, dass Pommes frites von "French Fries" in "Freedom Fries" umbenannt wurden. Erwachsene Männer und Frauen in Machtpositionen, Leute in der Regierung outeten sich auf einmal selbst als Idioten. Ich dachte: Endlich zeigt ihr der Welt, was für Volltrottel ihr seid. Man muss nur unseren Präsidenten anschauen, unglaublich. Ihm ging es im Irak nur ums Geschäft. Um Kontrolle. Geld. Und er ist einer der schlechtesten Lügner, die ich je gesehen habe.

We used on-line translation software to figure out what this roughly meant. The first three lines are literally translated, "America is like a stupid puppy. With large teeth. It can bite and hurt you."

Interesting what was left out of that first Reuters dispatch, although to be fair, that was just written as a news brief. But it would appear that Mr Depp not only compared America to a stupid puppy, he called us an aggressive nation. He also said that President Bush "was one of the worst liars whom he ever saw," and that our attack against Iraq was solely about money. Indeed, Stern goes so far as to call Depp's words violent criticism (lit. heftig kritisiert) of the American Government.

Hence, until Mr Depp wins a clarification, a correction or a court judgment, we shall believe the Germans.

We would add that we do not know which annoys us more, Mr Depp's original remarks or his pathetic attempt to weasel out of them. We are appalled at the idea that America should take lessons from France or Germany in terms of politics or economics -- although we would say that here at The Rant, we have a great deal of respect for our Italian compatriots. Out of all the nations on the Continent, it is Italy which best "gets" how America works, and we personally appreciate Italy's and Prime Minister Berlusconi's support for our nation's foreign-policy initiatives.

But we must say we were pleased to see one little bullet included at the end of the second Reuters story:

His spokeswoman added that the Kentucky-born Depp, 40, lives in the south of France with his family because his wife, actress-singer Vanessa Paradis, is French.

That the lady felt the need to explain that tells us that yes, the shit did indeed hit the fan.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at September 5, 2003 07:51 AM | TrackBack

Man, Depp is great, let it slide!

Posted by: Jesse Kepple at September 5, 2003 08:15 PM

I was pretty sure these were his exact sentiments. He's been outspoken in the past, and when I learned he was living in France, it wasn't too hard to predict where he'd come down politically.

He was good in 21 Jump Street and in "Donnie Brasco."

Posted by: Kevin White at September 6, 2003 04:24 AM

Aw, come on Ben, it was worth it all to watch Johnny Depp realize "holy poop, this might the receipts from my latest film", and then instantly back-peddle into an apology reminiscent of that scene in "A Fish Called Wanda" when Otto dangled Archie out a second story window for calling him "stupid".

Posted by: Emily at September 9, 2003 05:53 PM

I am a big Johnny Depp fan, but I think his comments were disgusting. To be fair, before we criticise him for his comments, we should read the entire interview in English. However, I have read several interviews by Depp over the years, and the comments attributed to him in Stern are consistant with remarks he has made time and again in the past. These remarks in Stern were just nastier. He has a habit of shooting off his mouth.

About the retraction put out by his press people, they say he lives in France with his "wife" and kids. They forget to say he is not married and their kids are illigitimate.

Furthermore, I read another interview Depp gave years ago. Someone asked him, "Your name is unusual. What does it mean." He responded something to the effect that he believes it means "idiot" in German.

Posted by: Gay at September 26, 2003 03:24 PM