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The Sad, Strange Journey of Johnny Depp's 'The Brave'

Movies: The film, marred by tragedy, was finally made with some of the star's own money. It has received scathing reviews at Cannes.

May 19, 1997|MARK SAYLOR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Depp said he knew almost immediately that he would have to commit his own money to the project, and he made that decision in "a split second." In effect, Depp had to guarantee that he would pay for any costs over the film's budget of about $5 million.

"I knew we'd go over $5 million," said Depp, even though he and Brando were paid scale for their work on the film. "This picture is bigger than people think. We had to build a huge garbage heap . . . 500 tons of junk is very expensive."

Jeremy Thompson, an experienced British producer who has worked extensively with director Bernardo Bertolucci, was brought in by Majestic to be executive producer.

At that time, Depp could have found a U.S. distributor willing to finance any overages on the film, but that would have meant giving up control. "I didn't want to give up U.S. distribution [because a U.S. distributor] would badger me beyond belief."

Depp recognizes that a film like "The Brave," which won't be backed by a large advertising budget, is dependent on positive reviews. But he says, "I couldn't care less [about the reviews]. . . . I didn't make this film to entertain people. I'm not an entertainer. . . . I hope people really love it or really hate it."

Depp says he has "a feeling that American reviews will be scathing." But he won't make changes in the film to please critics or to get U.S. distribution, which he now owns.

"I'm prepared to listen if there's a problem with length," Depp said, but rather than be forced to make changes, "I'll put it in a vault and let it sit."

Several executives representing American distributors said that although their companies weren't interested, they expected someone to buy distribution rights--though not for $2 million--if for no other reason than to develop a relationship with Depp for future projects.

The $2 million is a lot of money to Depp, though he is hardly impoverished. He is in great demand as an actor and could earn $6 million or more depending on the role he accepts.

During an interview at the Carlton Hotel this week, director Jane Campion ("The Piano") comes by to say hello to Depp and both talk about wanting to work together. "I think she's the most beautiful woman," Depp says after she leaves. "She has thousands of years of wisdom in those eyes."

Depp said he would consider directing again, but for the moment he looks forward to acting only. "It's a cakewalk," he said. "It's a very privileged existence to shoot for a few minutes and then go back to your trailer and make phone calls or whatever."

As for the young producers, they were simply thrilled to have had their first film selected for competition in Cannes.

Evans, whose uncle is longtime Hollywood producer Robert Evans and whose father is Charles Evans, a real estate magnate who has bankrolled several film projects, dismisses the reviews and points to the "standing ovation Saturday night in the Palais. . . . My dad was there with tie askew, crying. That really meant a lot to me."

The two already are working on their next project, "The House of Mirth," starring Dustin Hoffman.

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