In preparation for our discussion of Loser’s Town I am copying Danny’s interviews here on ONBC. I am locking the thread since we will be referring to them during our discussion and would like to postpone any comments on ONBC until that time. Comments can be made on The Porch thread. This will also make it easier for you all to find them once we start the questions and they will remain on the Zone in the ONBC archives after the discussion for posterity.
Hollywood is another Depp's kind of 'Town'
By Craig Wilson
March 4, 2009
Yep, he's related to that Depp.
But Daniel Depp, Johnny's older half-brother, knows his way around Hollywood, too. As a screenwriter, he has seen Tinseltown's backlots and back alleys. The good, the bad and the ugly.
That insider's view comes through in his first book, a crime thriller called Loser's Town (Simon & Schuster, 290 pp., $25). It's the first in a series starring David Spandau, a stuntman turned no-nonsense PI who has to deal with every kind of Hollywood type. It ain't easy. Or pretty.
Depp, 55, says he didn't ask his famous brother, 45, for much insider information.
"I told him I was going to write a detective novel about Los Angeles," says Depp, a Kentucky native raised in Florida with Johnny, with whom he remains close. (They have the same mother; Johnny's father adopted Daniel.) "He said I should go for it."
The Depp brothers (with Paul McCudden) wrote the screenplay for the 1997 film The Brave, which starred Johnny and Marlon Brando. (The brothers also co-run a Hollywood production company, Scaramanga.)
Daniel Depp's Hollywood novel, however, is hardly a complimentary view of the industry. The title, which comes from an old Robert Mitchum quote, sums that up. Depp says he can't remember "if I had the story first or the title first, but I think it's a very accurate description."
Of L.A., he says: "We're at the very edge of the landmass. There's nowhere to go unless you jump in the drink, which is the next logical step."
Hollywood is the perfect setting for a novel, he says, because so many people go there to follow their dreams.
Despite the portrayal of Hollywood as a cynical town, the movie industry is taking a look at the book. (Rights have not been sold.) Is there a role for his "bad boy" brother in there somewhere? "I don't want to think about any of that right now," says Depp, who just finished the second Spandau novel. "I'm not so horribly anxious to do it. I like writing books."
Depp, who has written a couple of unpublished detective novels and says he has been "floating around" between California and France, had planned only three titles in the Spandau series. "But if people like it, I'll just keep writing," he says.
That's good news for his publisher. "This has breakout potential. Daniel is one deeply cool writer who has a dark, funny streak to him. Part Robert Parker and a little bit James Ellroy," says Simon & Schuster publisher David Rosenthal. "It's very noir. It's nasty and fast-paced. And none of it goes where you expect it to go. The book transcends a lot of the normal conventions of the detective genre."
As for the Depp name recognition, Rosenthal says he'd have bought the book "even had he not had a well-known brother."
'My Brother's Great Talent'
"To say that I am proud is a monumental understatement. I've been proud for a long, long time, having been well aware of my brother's great talent for the majority of my life. That he and his work are finally being recognized by readers and serious book-heads alike is, of course, spectacular, but not all that surprising. And though this particular genre isn't your typical laugh/riot fare, there are a mere handful of writers who can describe a situation to the degree that it can send me into giggling fits: Hunter Thompson, Terry Southern, Tom Robbins, Bruce Robinson and my very own brother, Daniel. Yes I'm biased, but what brother wouldn't be??? I'd be recommending this book, blood or no blood!!!"
— Johnny Depp, in an e-mail to USA TODAY
London Books: Loser's town by Daniel Depp
by Lottie Moggach
The London Paper
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
THIS man is closely related to one of the sexiest men on the planet. But scrutinise the beady eyes, greying beard, balding pate and I’ll wager you’ll never guess. Bill Hicks’s uncle? Nope – that’s Johnny Depp’s brother.
Well, to be accurate, Daniel Depp is Johnny’s half-brother. They share a mother, Betty Sue: Daniel was her first child, later adopted by Johnny’s father, John Depp, and the pair grew up together in Kentucky.
Despite not exactly being whacked with the pretty stick like little bro, there are more obvious candidates for pity than Daniel Depp.
After a successful film ¬career (as a screenwriter Depp’s works include 1997’s The Brave), the 55-year-old has just published his first novel, Loser’s Town, an LA-set noir thriller which has had great reviews. He divides his time between sunny ¬California and sunny south of France. And much of that time is spent hanging out with Johnny (the two are “really close”).
Still, the fact is everyone wants to make their own mark, and Daniel will forever be overshadowed by his brother’s stellar achievements. “Johnny is the best actor of his generation,” he says. “I could win a Nobel Prize, but never equal that. It takes a while to come to terms with it.”
Then there’s the fact that people see him as a stepping stone to his sibling. “I’d walk into a producer’s ¬office and pitch an idea, and they’d go glassy-eyed and say, ‘We’d love to work with you – and we have a great idea for your brother.’ You have to question everyone’s intentions. Your ego gets tough, fast. When I left Hollywood, I left without a friend."
Of course, his name does open doors. Loser’s Town is good enough to be a success, but his megastar relation can have only helped the buzz. The book is dedicated to Johnny, and one of his characters is a Hollywood star (“one of the handsomest men on the planet – and one of the loneliest”). Depp says he’s not based on his brother, but such a description is bound to make ears prick up.
Though polite and engaging, there is a line across which Depp Sr will not be drawn. Did he and Johnny go out hell-raising together? “Yeah. Sometimes.” What does he think of Kate Moss? “I can’t answer that. These are friends of mine.” It is, he says, “really hard” when people dig for details, but the family is ¬“remarkably protective”.
“The money is great and people treat you like a pasha, but the pressure is horrible,” he says of A-list stars. And for all the cosseting, fame makes you vulnerable.
“One of the bravest things I’ve ever seen was when Heath Ledger was walking past a line of reporters and someone squirted liquid in his face. It seems banal but, if you are him, you don’t know whether that ¬liquid is acid, urine, or what. And he just kept on walking."
Fame, though, he adds, has “wonderful, wonderful perks”. Would he like to be a superstar himself? “No. I need my privacy. I’m uncomfortable with even this level of fame. Anyhow I don’t have anything anyone wants that badly. I’m the geekiest guy on Earth.”
Simon & Schuster
AS THE title of his debut Hollywood-set thriller suggests, there’s no love lost between Daniel Depp and the City of Dreams. His hero, stuntman turned private eye David Spandau, is repulsed by the place – “It’s a business, like manufacturing toilet seats,” he retorts to a eulogy about the magic of movie-making – and Depp takes every opportunity to point out its hollowness. The plot, about the blackmailing of a hot young A-lister, Bobby Dye, by a film-obsessed gangster, is not particularly special, but Depp’s cynicism, along with his mordant wit and insider’s knowledge of the industry, gives the story real bite.
Depp lifts lid on La La Land
By Hannah Stephenson
20 March 2009
Daniel Depp, screenwriting half-brother of film star Johnny Depp, talks about the darker side of Hollywood as his debut thriller, Loser's Town, is published.
There are always pros and cons to being the unknown relative of an A-list film star - and Daniel Depp is no exception.
The older half-brother of Hollywood heart-throb Johnny Depp has just launched his debut novel, Loser's Town, following a bidding war among publishers and accepts there will be cries of nepotism.
Appearances, too, are bound to be compared. Daniel, 55, who is short, bearded, bespectacled and balding (but in a well-groomed sort of way), doesn't vaguely resemble his sexy film star half-sibling. He looks more Richard Dreyfuss than Johnny Depp.
However, Daniel, a screenwriter, shouldn't worry because his novel, a darkly comic thriller set in Tinseltown, is a rattling good read and has already received a clutch of great reviews.
It introduces David Spandau, a stuntman-turned-private eye, who becomes involved in a case in which a famous actor is blackmailed by a gangster who tries to coerce him to appear in a film the mobster wants to make.
The novel paints a dark, atmospheric picture of Los Angeles and all its sleaze, an insider's insight into the workings of La La Land, with observations as entertaining as the plot itself.
It's clear that the lesser-known Depp has an artistic talent all his own and he says there are at least two more Spandau novels to come.
There have been bites from the movie industry and suggestions that Johnny might play the leading role, but so far Daniel isn't budging.
"I'm being cranky about it. Somebody offers you a gazillion dollars for your book, then some shocking movie comes out and your artistic sensibilities are offended. No, I want to do the screenplay and I want to be associated with the production."
He dedicates the book to Johnny, who in turn has provided gushing praise: "To say that I am proud is a monumental understatement. I've been proud for a long, long time, having been well aware of my brother's great talent for the majority of my life. That he and his work are finally being recognised by readers and serious book-heads alike is, of course, spectacular, but not all that surprising."
Today, dressed in khaki shirt and chinos, it's evident that Daniel's not used to all the media attention and confesses to being shy, blushing whenever I pose a question he doesn't want to answer.
Is there sibling rivalry?
"We're veering off in the wrong direction here," he says, his cheeks reddening under that Californian tan.
"John (Depp) was wonderfully supportive about me writing the book. I'd written a lot before that he's read that nobody else has ever seen. I never felt compelled to publish. When I decided to go ahead, he was ecstatic."
The rights to the book were bought by Simon and Schuster in Britain in a 'pre-emptive' deal - when an offer is so high that the book is taken off the market - as well as being snapped up in Canada, Hungary and France, with more foreign rights currently being sold.
"I'm pleased that people like the book and I hope they are buying it for all the right reasons," he says.
Daniel concedes that had he not been a Depp, his debut novel would probably not have been as instantly successful.
"In the beginning I was pretty keen on not publishing under my own name. Using a pseudonym wouldn't have sold so many copies but it would have probably done OK. But the name gave the book a certain veracity.
"But then you open yourself up to the idea that everybody's going to say you're riding on the name."
In some ways, being related to Johnny has been a disadvantage to his career, he admits.
"For the longest time, I'd go into producers' offices to pitch a script. I'd fly 300 miles to do it and they'd go, 'Oh, that's really nice, by the way we've got a lovely project for your brother...'"
But being related to Johnny Depp has also opened doors.
"I wouldn't have gone to Hollywood if it hadn't been for John and I wouldn't have done anything remotely to do with producing if it hadn't been for John.
"I was in Maine writing a novel when he called me to come out and work with him. I remember locking myself in the bathroom and drinking half a bottle of vodka, flying out on a plane and it being exactly what I was afraid it was going to be."
They formed a production company, Scaramanga, in the early 1990s and co-wrote the screenplay to Johnny Depp's directorial debut, The Brave, co-starring Marlon Brando, in 1997.
"I love working with him. I've had numerous offers to work with other writers but I've always turned them down. He's the only one I'd work with because he's got the best instincts of anybody."
Born in Kentucky to a coal mining family, he had what he calls a 'Truman Capote' childhood.
"My mother and father divorced fairly early on and my mother went out to work while my sister and I lived with our great grandmother and grandmother.
"It was very much about running around barefoot in overalls, climbing trees and riding mules."
His mother later met Johnny's father, who adopted Daniel.
"I don't like to talk about my family very much, if you don't mind," he says guardedly.
The brothers remain "remarkably close", he reflects.
"We see each other all the time and he's great to work with, but the fact is that he's just a little busy."
Daniel lives in northern California with his wife and 19-year-old son, whom he doesn't want to discuss. Those cheeks go red again.
He also spends much time in France and England, writing and working on new scriptwriting projects.
Daniel, who has variously worked as a journalist, bookseller, photographer and teacher before becoming a screenwriter when his higher-profile brother urged him to move to Los Angeles, says that there is a dark side to Tinseltown.
"It is a very dangerous, frightening place in a lot of ways.
"I don't think anyone ever goes out to Hollywood without a dream or preconception of what they are going to get out of it.
"The problem is that you could be little Jodie Smith from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, who won the local beauty pageant and is told she should go to Hollywood to make it in the movies, and she comes out believing how beautiful and how talented she is - and they eat her alive. She ends up waiting on tables and eventually goes back with her tail between her legs.
"The fact is, Hollywood is a place you go to with your dreams and your dreams make you vulnerable. Dreams are something that people will use to manipulate you, to get what they want, not what you want.
"To achieve a dream you can compromise yourself into the black hole of Calcutta, which is what happens to a lot of people."
That's a pretty hard analogy, considering how both Depp brothers have come out of Tinseltown smelling of roses.
"On the other hand there is some beautiful stuff that comes out of it and lots of lovely people you get to work with.
"For all the schemers and money-grabbers there are, you meet some of the most talented people in the world - and you eat remarkably well. There's a reason all those restaurants are in Hollywood."
Copyright © 2009 The Press Association. All rights reserved.
The other very talented Mr Depp
The Observer Review
Johnny might be a superstar, but his half-brother Daniel is now being feted in his own right with his debut novel, says Elizabeth Day
Daniel Depp is sitting on a dirty sofa sipping a cup of coffee in the back room of a private members' club in London. "My brother and I have totally different lifestyles," Depp says, taking in his surroundings. "Of course," he adds, deadpan, "mine is much more glamorous."
The brother in question is the actor Johnny Depp, he of the cheekbones and soulful eyes, the three Academy Award nominations and star of such acclaimed films as Edward Scissorhands and What's Eating Gilbert Grape . He has two children with Vanessa Paradis, the French singer, and divides his time between France, America and the Bahamas. As siblings go, it's a lot to live up to.
Which may explain why 55-year-old Daniel Depp, Johnny's older half-brother - the two of them share a mother, Betty - has forged a different path. Never tempted by acting, Daniel read classics at university before becoming a teacher. He taught English literature and history to middle-school pupils in San Jose, California, for 10 years and then set up a production company called Scaramanga Bros with Johnny, eventually co-writing the script for a film called The Brave , which starred his brother and was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1997.
Ultimately, though, he became disillusioned by Hollywood and started to write for himself. His first novel, Loser's Town , a detective crime thriller in the vein of James Ellroy, has just been published. An insider's view of the grimy side of Hollywood, the novel prompted a bidding war and foreign rights have already been sold in Canada, Hungary and France. Kirkus Reviews has called it "a sharp-tongued debut", paying tribute to Depp's "wicked behind-the-scenes awareness of Hollywood's inherent absurdity".
And what about Johnny - did he like it? "He said he liked it," says Depp with a shy smile. "You never quite know. When I first said this was what I wanted to do, I spoke to John and said, 'People are going to say it's about you.' And he said, 'Don't worry about it, just go and do it.' He was my biggest supporter."
For the record, although one of the book's characters is an actor called Bobby Dye, the resemblance to Johnny Depp seems restricted to "a tangled mass of longish brown hair" and eyes that are "brown and a little sad - a fact much commented upon in the teen magazines". At least, one hopes that is the extent of the similarity. Bobby Dye spends much of his time getting into scrapes with underage girls and snorting drugs with his Russian supermodel girlfriend.
Inevitably, there was much speculation that Depp had only got a book deal because of his more famous younger brother. Did he foresee the critical sniping? "Oh yeah, of course they were going to say that. That's fine. It's going to happen. My perspective is, you know, read the book, then if you don't like it, you're entitled to your opinion." He says he debated with his agent whether to publish under a pseudonym, but "the name gives this book a certain veracity. I don't want to be seen as cashing in on the name. . . but you gird your loins and you get through it."
And there is no doubt that Daniel Depp has first-hand experience of fame, of its surreal proportions and its fragile hysteria. He admits that two of the scenes in the book - one where Bobby Dye's car is immobilised by a stampeding horde of screaming teenage girls; another where Dye gets mobbed by fans at a film premiere - were taken from real-life situations with Johnny.
Is it difficult seeing the madness of celebrity engulf someone you love? "Of course it's hard. You can't go out to lunch any more and giggle because you're worrying about getting breadcrumbs on your tie. The whole idea of being a public figure is a pretty awful thing. I'm very protective of John. We're protective of each other."
This, he says, is partly as a consequence of an unstable childhood. Daniel's parents divorced when he was four, leaving his waitress mother Betty to raise him and his younger sister, Debbie, single-handed. He says he was "never close" to his biological father, who died 25 years ago. Betty remarried, to John Christopher Depp, a civil engineer, who adopted her two children and went on to have two more - Christie and Johnny, who is 10 years younger than Daniel.
Originally from Owensboro, Kentucky, the Depps moved around a lot as John senior struggled to find work. "We moved every 15 minutes," says Depp. "We were this family of chronic malcontents. I worked out once that I lived in 75 different homes. It was pretty awful. You learn to be resourceful, but it's isolating. It certainly contributed to my writing and reading habits. You wind up being by yourself and you miss the intimacy of close friends."
The experience drew the two brothers together and they remain extremely close. Daniel dedicated Loser's Town to his brother and much of it was written in Johnny's house in France. Although tied by an emotional bond, there is little physical resemblance between the siblings. Daniel is a rotund, bearded man with tiny hands, dressed in shades of moss-green.
He seems to have a total lack of vanity: his spectacles are square and unfashionable; the bracelet looped around one wrist turns out to be a bit of old climbing rope. He says people ask him all the time about what it's like to be the brother of a heartthrob and I suspect he is too perceptive not to acknowledge the subtext, namely that most people expect Johnny Depp's brother to be a bit more of a looker.
"I'm not a particularly good-looking guy so there's always going to be people who are better-looking than me," he says. "The fact is that one of them is my brother, but he's one of a gazillion people who is. It would be totally pointless to be envious of him." There is something endearing about such straightforwardness. Later, I ask him which of his characters he is most like. He falls into a silent contemplation for several seconds. "The whores." For a moment, the thought crosses my mind that he is making a point about selling himself for commercial gain. But then I remember that there are no prostitutes in Loser's Town . "But there are no whores in the book," I say, mystified.
"No, no," he replies. "The horse." The plot does, indeed, include a horse, which is described as a sad-faced animal with none of the qualities of "a top-dollar quarter horse". For some reason, it does not surprise me that Daniel Depp should see himself thus.
Loser's Town is published by Simon & Schuster, pounds 12.99. To order a copy for pounds 11.99 with free UK p&p, go to observer.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6847
Interview: Daniel Depp - The other talented Mr Depp
By Lee Randall
Published Date: 25 March 2009
CHILDREN of the famous attest that the name is both blessing and curse.
It opens doors - once - but having stepped over the threshold, you have to work twice as hard to confound people's natural urge to attribute your success to favouritism.
The same holds true when that name-brand recognition comes through the side door, via a sibling. After all, why else would I visit London to meet Daniel Depp, if not for the recognisable surname he shares with his younger brother, the internationally renowned, Oscar nominated actor, Johnny?
I'll give you a great reason why: because Daniel, 55, has written a wickedly funny, hugely entertaining novel entitled Loser's Town. A fast-paced caper set amid the bright lights of the big City of Angels, it's sure to appeal to fans of Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard and James Ellroy. Brimming with seamy details that speak to insider knowledge, it'll leave you laughing and puzzling over which industry is more unsavoury, organised crime or movie-making.
At first glance, the brothers look nothing alike. Daniel is short, balding, and soft around the edges. But on closer examination they share the same soulful dark eyes, and a similar intensity. Daniel takes it as read that I'll be interested in his family, but seems far more concerned that I acknowledge his intelligence.
Softly spoken and courteous, he peppers our conversation with erudite references as if to drive home his intellectual credentials. I suspect this is a by-product of being persistently underestimated and taken for a country bumpkin by Hollywood's slick operators.
He's no bumpkin,but the country bit is accurate.
The eldest of four kids in a family constantly on the move, Depp grew up all over the place. "I was born in eastern Kentucky in the mountains - a real Truman Capote Appalachian childhood. Then my mom remarried and we lived in Owensboro for a while, and Lexington. I went to at least five different high schools."
Technically he is Johnny's half brother - same mother, different fathers - but that's not how the family sees it. "It's a little irritating, everybody referring to me as John's half brother.
It's never a term we used. It never occurred to us. We grew up very closely. I used to take care of John when he was a little boy."
Daniel was bitten by the movie bug long before his brother stood before a camera. As a teenager in the 1970s, by now living in Coral Gables, Florida, he spent many an hour on a folding chair in a little cinema that screened 16mmprints of French New Wave cinema.
Nevertheless, he dreamed of becoming an architect. "I loved the combination of art and science and all the architects I knew were wonderful, crazy people." But the training was too expensive, so he majored in classics, and then European History at the University of Kentucky.
He was, he confesses, an endless student, dropping in and out while toiling away at a thesis about HG Wells and Edwardian technology.
"Then I realised I was never going to be a professor and I left. At that point my wife was going to have a baby (he married at 25 and his son isnow19]. She got a lovely job in Maine, so I said the hell with it and we went up there."
He ultimately went on to teach English to middle-school students in his current home town of San Jose, California, but Depp has always written in his spare time. He began publishing poetry, in a small way, when he was only 12. Luckily, he's had the best possible training for a writer, by dint of holding down such a variety of jobs. Wikipedia cites journalist, bookseller, photographer and teacher.
"I have a Wikipedia listing? I'm impressed," he marvels. "The list goes far beyond that. I've worked digging ditches and as an engineering draftsman. I worked in libraries and bookstores. The job I really liked was managing the art library at night, because I was also studying ceramics and learning how to throw pots with a wonderful guy named John Tuska.He was a hard task-master.
You had to make all your own tools in the machine shop and mix your own clays. I got fascinated by Staffordshire low-fire pottery." There you go, trivia lovers – a titbit you won't find online!
In 1994, Johnny rang with the exciting news that they finally had a shot at making a film together. Daniel flew to LA reluctantly, thinking he'd be there for a weekend. Instead he got caught up in revising the script of The Brave, a sombre film about a destitute Indian offered the chance to star in a snuff movie to earn $50,000 for his family.
"I didn't want to go. I knew what was going to happen. I loved the idea of making a film but I knew it would be a headache – there'd be this business of being the star's brother, and I knew I was walking into a heated political situation, with a lot of people who were going to consider me a hayseed, anyway.
Back then, despite several screenplays doing the rounds, Depp kept his novels locked away, refusing to publish them. "It drove my brother crazy! I never thought I'd actually make a living writing. I've never gotten the sort of thrill out of publishing my work that lots of people do.
For me, it's about a series of challenges to be met. The way I judge what I've done is to see how close I actually got to meeting those challenges."
The challenge he's set himself,which begins with Loser's Town, is creating a three-act drama charting a proper character arc that follows the development of David Spandau, a stuntman turned private investigator. "In a way, the book was a payback to all the writers who influenced me hugely. I can go on for ages about Chandler. Philip Marlowe is a direct descendant of all the Arthurian legends, a knight errant.And it was fun to be able to draw on my Hollywood experience and perhaps tell people things they hadn't seen before."
Didn't he say that the best social criticism comes out of the crime genre? "I said that the two genres with the most freedom to criticise the culture and get away with it are stand-up comics and mystery writers, because people will tolerate it. Stand-up is obvious; with mystery writers, it's because the genre's never quite been considered literary."
What, then, is he keen to tell us about American culture? "I hope what seeps through is that awareness of illusion. I have a great deal of sympathy for actors. They're absolutely vulnerable and fans don't quite realise that. I don't think we want to let them be life-sized. It's the only mythology that we have." The last thing anyone wants, he contends, is to see their illusions shattered, even though we know they're faked. And yet, I argue, it seems as though we're forever trying to peer behind celebrity façades. He shakes his head. "You're never going to see what really happens.You do not.
It's way too controlled. If it seems not to be, that's another veil of illusion. It's no different than going to Vegas and seeing David Copperfield." Loser's Town is not a roman à clef, he reminds me, though he accepts our natural inclination to superimpose real-life people on his made-up characters.
None of whom are based on his brother, a fact he was at pains to point out to his family pre-publication.
"Johnny's been incredibly supportive and I don't think the book would have got done without him saying, You've got to finally publish something; you're killing me! Whatever I wanted to do, he'd be supportive of [it].We're a very close family. All of us." Asked if he'd like Johnny to star in the film, Depp hesitates and seems embarrassed. "I don't want to say, because it would sound too obvious."
Shall I say it? I offer. I think your brother's a brilliant actor. Relieved laughter. "I think you're probably right. I would love to be able to do my job nearly as well as he does his. The fact that what we do is so different means we can enjoy it, because there's no envy. We both appreciate what the other does. I've been very lucky. I wish I could say it's sheer brilliance, but it's not. I've been incredibly blessed."
Fame 60 seconds
Daniel Depp: 'Me and Johnny are very close'
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Daniel Depp, 55, is the half-brother of actor Johnny Depp. A former Hollywood scriptwriter and producer, his debut novel, Loser's Town (Simon & Schuster, £12.99) features stunt man turned private investigator David Spandau, hired to protect heart-throb actor Bobby Dye.
Is this your first book?
It’s the first I’ve published. I’ve written three or four mystery novels but I was never really attracted to publishing.
So if you get a multi-million-dollar contract, you’ll fob them off on a publisher?
No – that would be an act of intolerable cruelty.
With a script, do you have to lose the ego?
Oh yeah! You can’t be attached to it because they are going to take it away from you. You know you have limited control. You’re a carpenter knocking up a room for somebody else – you’re not going to live in it yourself.
Are you ready for your artistic vision to become corrupted when Loser’s Town is filmed?
I hope not. I’d like to do the screenplay.
Is Hollywood really as sleazy as you portray it?
There are some remarkable things about Hollywood and some brilliant people there. In fiction, you look for the conflict or you don’t have a story. There are parts of it that are horrible, though.
Hollywood would prefer an ending where some of the nicer characters don’t get killed.
Hard cheese. I really don’t care. I want to do three novels and the problem is that when they film it – there have been some offers – the audience tends to identify with the movie character. With Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series, when John Thaw took it over, the character in the book changed also – he’s no longer driving the Lancia, he’s driving a Jaguar. I’m worried about that sort of thing happening.
What’s the worst thing that ever happened to you?
Oh my God! The worst times were the nights I spent lying awake at 3am knowing some disaster was waiting for me on set the next day. I didn’t know what it was but I knew it would be there – the duplicity, the backbiting. When you make films you’re asking people to give you vast amounts of money for something that only exists in your head. The hardest thing was not being able to trust people.
Is selling your soul the price of fame?
Definitely, yes. People do forget there are gazillions of actors who make very little – the average salary in the Screen Actors Guild is about $6,000 [£4,000]. But at the higher level of actors – because you don’t have that many famous writers or producers – there’s definitely a reason they pay you all that money. You sacrifice a great deal of privacy and people write things about you that are often untrue and quite often cruel. And you have no recourse.
It must be hard to be in the shadow of such a famous brother.
There were times I’d fly down to Los Angeles to pitch a script and after I’d done my little song and dance, they’d say: ‘By the way, we have this wonderful part for your brother.’ But there’s no sibling rivalry because we do such different things.
Does the Depp name get you a good table in restaurants?
I’ve never tried. I don’t like using it. I honestly thought about not using the name to write the book. But the name gave what I was writing about a certain veracity.
How close are you?
Very. A tight family. Very protective.
What did he give you for your last birthday?
A photo of an author. I collect books – first editions – so it was a lovely present.
Why this fascination in Hollywood with stunt men?
They are considered demi-gods because they do something nobody else can do. A lot of actors would like to do their own stunts but the insurance companies won’t let them. That’s probably a good thing because they’d kill themselves. You have to be really good at what you do because your life depends on it. So they are realists: on the inside but still on the outside, onscreen but not caught up in the hype. There is very little ego.
March 29, 2009
Another Depp steps up
Half-brother's novel is character driven
By Steven Mirkin
Special to The Courier-Journal
LOS ANGELES — Daniel Depp doesn't look as if he could be the brother of superstar actor Johnny Depp. There's a reason for that: They're half-brothers, actually, and Daniel Depp is on the short side, with a physique more square than lithe, his beard and pulled-back hair streaked with gray.
The avuncular, 55-year-old Kentucky native could be a literature professor holding court for his students as he leans back in a booth in a dark Hollywood bar, nursing a Jack Daniel's ("I'm a traitor," he admits, with his Tennessee drink). But his debut novel, "Loser's Town" (Simon & Schuster, $25), certainly takes advantage of his front row seat to Hollywood glamour.
That wasn't his original intention. Depp initially set out to write a novel set in the world of Kentucky thoroughbred racing. But after 120 pages, he realized it wasn't working out. The plot was too convoluted.
"It's hard to do a noir-ish detective story in Kentucky; it doesn't quite come off," he said. "The character turned out to be too big for the setting."
Hollywood provided no such problems. Set in the world of movie sets, red-carpet premieres, exclusive nightclubs and gated, hillside mansions, "Loser's Town" deftly mixes the moral gravity of Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe with the smart dialogue and sharply drawn characters of Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen. The book follows David Spandau, a retired stuntman (and part-time rodeo performer) turned detective, who is hired to find out who is threatening rising matinee idol Bobby Dye.
Depp packs a lot of plot into the novel's 290 pages. "Loser's Town" is filled with drug deals, double crosses, seductions and murders, but feels more like a character study than a whodunit or police procedural. That's by design, he said.
"I didn't want to write a slick novel. I wanted something that had a little jagged edge. The fun of writing the book was to set these characters up and have their own natures determine where they're going to go."
At the heart of "Loser's Town" is a growing but conflicted friendship that develops between the old-school Spandau and the guarded, suspicious Dye. Spandau starts to have almost paternal feelings for the alternately arrogant and vulnerable young actor as he takes on Ritchie Stella, a nightclub owner who has photos that could derail Dye's career. (In one of the book's wittier touches, Stella — an oily fixer who orbits around the stars with a supply of drugs, booze and women — isn't looking for money but instead wants Dye to star in his screenplay.)
Depp is emphatic that Dye was not based on his brother, and the book bears him out. The prickly Dye has none of the cool smarts that have defined Johnny's career; he comes off more like a lonelier, less secure version of Vincent Chase on HBO's "Entourage." The brothers didn't even discuss the book; Daniel simply called Johnny and gave him the general outline of the plot. But the Depp brothers' close relationship (they co-wrote "The Brave," a 1997 movie directed by and starring Johnny; and Daniel runs Scaramanga, Johnny's production company) obviously colored Daniel's attitude toward Dye.
"I've seen what happens to actors," Depp said, calling Dye an "incredibly sympathetic character."
"To say that I am proud is a monumental understatement," Johnny Depp told USA Today. "I've been proud for a long, long time, having been well aware of my brother's great talent for the majority of my life. That he and his work are finally being recognized by readers and serious book-heads alike is, of course, spectacular, but not all that surprising.
"And though this particular genre isn't your typical laugh/riot fare, there are a mere handful of writers who can describe a situation to the degree that it can send me into giggling fits: Hunter Thompson, Terry Southern, Tom Robbins, Bruce Robinson and my very own brother, Daniel. Yes I'm biased, but what brother wouldn't be? I'd be recommending this book, blood or no blood!"
Spandau, Daniel Depp said, was "a gift from the gods," a character who is both inside and outside the industry.
"I wanted someone who could straddle both worlds," and a stuntman proved ideal. "They're inside, but what they do is practical. They're privy to what's going on, but not really caught up in the hype. And they risk their lives, so there's that element of physical and emotional bravery."
With a busted marriage (from Dee, the ex-wife he still loves), a love of cowboys and the Old West (he's turned one room of his house into a cowboy shrine Dee named "the Gene Autry Room") and a sore thumb from a rodeo accident that sticks out like a sore thumb, Spandau has a brooding complexity that connects him with classic detectives such as Chandler's Marlowe and Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer.
Like them, Spandau sees Los Angeles through a cynical, hard-boiled filter. The city is filled with "too much light, all depth burned away and sacrificed ... a thousand square miles of man-made griddle on which to fry for our sins."
While writing the book, Depp worried that he had made Spandau "too butch." There's the danger that "if you're not really careful, you can get clichéd. You can hard-boil an egg, but at some point you can bounce it off the wall and it becomes indigestible."
He wasn't sure that someone as "old-fashioned and romantic, as in love with the mythology of the American West" would play in a contemporary novel. For Depp, Spandau's connection to that mythology is what makes him modern. "His character is determined by something that may well be a myth. He knows there's a problem with the myth, but he's struggling for something to hang on to."
He dreams of nothing more than to retire to the ranch his mother-in-law owns north of Los Angeles, raise horses and read his collection of antiquarian books. Spandau shares some of the more highbrow interests of his creator — Depp ran a bookstore in Santa Barbara — and while "Loser's Town" "has its share of brittle agents, harried directors and knighted thespians on the downslope of their careers, Depp reserves his affections and most pungent dialogue for the characters who live in the lower rungs of the Hollywood food chain.
"I know these people," Depp says. "I lived in Florida in the ''70s, and lots of friends were bumped off in drug deals, worked construction with guys just out of prison. That's the way they are."
What connects these characters are their dreams, the world they are struggling to hold on to. Those dreamers, Depp says, are what makes Los Angeles a loser's town. (The title is taken from a description of L.A. by ''50s bad-boy actor Robert Mitchum, who added, "you can make it here when you can't make it anywhere else.")
Depp envisions "Loser's Town" as the first in a trilogy of Spandau novels. He's already worked out the plots for the next two: "Babylon Nights" finds Spandau hired to protect an aging actress in L.A. and at the Cannes Film Festival, and "Devil's Dance" will delve into Spandau's office. If the books are successful, he's not averse to writing more, but "the problem with most series fiction is the character can't change that much." Which can be very difficult because "by the fifth volume, he may be unrecognizable from what they fell in love with in the first one."
No matter how many Spandau books he writes, he has no delusions that he'll ever match his brother's fame.
"I could win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and my obituary will still read, 'Daniel Depp, brother of Johnny Depp and. ..." Their common last name can be a mixed blessing.
"It opens up a lot of doors, but at the same time, it closes a lot of doors. I can't tell you the number of times I've shown up to pitch a script, and it end up with them going, "'Oh, great idea ... and by the way, we have a great idea for your brother ...'"
But being a Depp has its perks. As the interview winds down, Depp looks at his watch. It's time to go, he says. He has plans to meet Johnny for dinner, then a screening.
RTÉ Radio 1
The Arts Show
Simon & Schuster UK
Daniel Depp - Your Questions Answered!
Apr. 21st, 2009 at 11:30 AM
Daniel Depp answers your questions!
Sorry about the delay in answering these questions, but I’ve been on the road for a couple of months, and wanted time to answer them properly. I’ve just now come to rest at home for a week or so, and then I’m off again! Thanks for your patience!
Anyway, here goes…
Daniel: is -- well, to avoid spoilers, let's just say a character who went on the run for very good reason near the end of Loser's Town -- due to play a part in sequels? After a lot of buildup throughout the book his story seemed to be left hanging somewhat.
I’m asked this question a lot – readers have developed an odd affection for the guy, who was meant to be a minor character but ended up collecting his own fan base! And the answer is… yes. He’ll be back at some point, most likely Spandau 3 or 4. I’m developing a story for him now. My editor once said he’s the nicest multiple-murderer she’s ever read. I’m not quite sure how to take this. Who knew?
Hiya Mr Daniel Depp,
I am interested to know what inspired you to write Loser's Town? I haven't read your book as of yet, but it is on the top of my list of books to buy. I have read some brilliant reviews on it and the plot seems extremely interesting, i look forward to reading it.
I’ve always loved detective novels – especially the noir genre – and wanted for years to write one. I tried several times over the years but was never happy with the results and didn’t bother to publish. It wasn’t until after working in Hollywood that things came together, and I hit on the idea of David Spandau as a central character. As an ex-stuntman, Spandau gets to observe the inner workings of the entertainment world without actually being a “player” – he’s at once inside and outside, making him the perfect engine to drive along the tales I wanted to tell, and the observations I wanted to make on what that very closed world is actually like.
you worked on the film The Brave. This had very limited release. Is there any chance it will be released on Region 1 and 2 DVDs?
I honestly know very little about the DVD release aspect of The Brave, which lies in the esoteric realm of film distribution. I know it’s available in Europe, and there are various pirated bad Asian copies floating around. There are definitely no plans right now to release it here in the US, though people really want to see it. Sorry.
Loser's Town by Daniel Depp
Daniel, I loved your story and look I forward to the sequels.
I'm sort of re-iterating snorkackcatcher's comment/question, but also I'd like to know if you wrestled with deciding that character's fate? Did you write a different ending for him before settling on that one?
Also, I just wanted to say how much I love your writing style and how I came to love all the characters in Loser's Town. You fleshed them out and gave them a realistic humanity with an impressive economy of words. Thank you!
Thanks for the lovely compliments! As for the fate of “that character”, no, I always knew how he would end up – though I confess it never occurred to me people would take such a liking to him (if that‘s the word). Plans to bring him back are in the works thanks to reader demand, you’ll be pleased to know.
@scarlettgirl64 For Daniel Depp: I love your book. Can I possibly get you to sign my copy. And are you going to be writing a sequel?
I’m writing the second Spandau, Babylon Nights, even as we speak. It takes place in LA and Cannes, and is about a depressed actress being stalked by a potential killer. She might just go ahead and let him murder her. Spandau is trying to stop it.
As for signing your copy, best to send it to my agent or publishers -- along with a self-addressed, stamped book envelope – and they will send it to me. But, as I say, I’m on the road a lot and anything sent snail-mail may be a while getting to.
Mr Depp: I've just read the Q&A entry on the main page , and it states we can ask anything even if it's about " how you like your breakfast”, so for the sake of taking things literally , how do you take your coffee?
Also, if you were given a chance to choose one existing work of literature and claim to be it's proud author ,which one would it be and why ?
I’d love to have written Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (or practically anything by Dickens, really). I used to teach the book and every time I read it I found something new, some nuance I’d missed before. It was also wonderful discussing it with teenagers, who always had their own takes on it and taught me quite a bit in return. Dickens manages to create a world you can get lost in, and I owe him what little sanity I have left: in times of stress I always go back to his books.
As for coffee: Black. Strong. Made in a percolator and nothing fancy-schmancy, just the way my grannie made it, though I’m cranky about coffee and prefer self-ground Jamaican Blue Mountain ($60 a pound last time I checked, for chrissake!) when I can find it but otherwise Illy. Scalding hot. Drunk from one of my collection of mystery bookshop mugs, usually first thing on rising, in bed, staring, slackjawed and eyeswollen, into space, trying to shame myself into getting up and writing something. My conscience usually wins after two mugs.
The Sunday Times
May 17, 2009
My hols: Daniel Depp
The author says he’s a travelling peasant at heart (but he likes the Hôtel du Cap)
Daniel Depp talked to Lizzie Enfield
I’m not normally a risk-taker, but on holiday I like an element of surprise.
I far prefer taking a train, getting off somewhere, finding a place to stay and seeing what happens, to the more organised routine of business travel.
I guess, subconsciously, by failing to book a decent hotel and ending up in a dump where you have to run the gauntlet of crack dealers to get to the bathroom, I’m on the lookout for adventure. So far, this hasn’t led to any really bad experiences — just a few dodgy rooms and being pickpocketed in Rome.
My son is my ideal travelling companion, and last summer we spent a few months taking trains around France. My brother John has a house in the south, but I prefer the mistier environs of Brittany.
I’m of Irish descent and I like the Celtic influence on the region, plus, the people are much friendlier and the light is totally different, mainly because it is filtered through rain. Most of all, I like the roughness of northern France. The south is beautiful but a little too perfect.
I’m basically a peasant at heart and mistrust things that are too refined. In the north, everything is more connected with the earth. Even in Paris, for all its sophistication, citizens are still dubbed paysans de Paris and you stumble across vineyards in the centre of Montmartre. I like that earthiness.
Jacob and I both love art and France is like one huge gallery. Some of the best works we saw were not in the main mus¬eums but at tiny exhibitions in small provincial towns. We came across one in Plan-de-la-Tour, a small village in the hills, near where John lives, which was basically all the work of local artists and utterly brilliant. If you’d gone to the equivalent place in America, the work would have been dismal. But art is so much a part of life in France that these tiny¬regional exhibitions yield some exceptional work.
Hailing from LA, where you have to drive everywhere, I find the greatest thing about Europe is the train system and the freedom it gives. One of the best rail trips I’ve ever done was across the spine of Norway, from Bergen to Oslo. The landscape changes as you go past fjords and through valleys in the western part, across the Hardangervidda plateau with its glaciers and snowcapped mountains, before entering the flat, green, cultivated area of eastern Norway. The jour¬ney only takes about seven hours if you do it all in one go, but you feel as if you’ve crossed continents.
My wife and I have an ongoing dispute as far as holiday destinations are concerned. My great love is France, whereas hers is Italy. Nazee is Persian and she likes the chaos of Italy, especially Rome, which reminds her of Tehran. Persians are very emotional and operatic, and their language and culture very flowery and ornate. Many of the Iranians we know tend towards Italy, as they find the culture very similar. I love Italy too, especially the Amalfi coast, but I feel at home in France, whereas Nazee is definitely more at home in Rome.
My idea of heaven is staying in the Hôtel du Cap, in Antibes in France. It’s one of those places that has such old-world elegance and grandeur, with unsurpas¬sable service. It’s also imbued with a great sense of history and you can almost see F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda romping around on the beach, and Somerset Maugham enjoying a cocktail on the terrace overlooking the Med. I stayed there once, when I went to the Cannes festival, and felt very cosseted and protected.
A few friends and I have regular fly-fishing trips up in the Sierra Mountains of California. We usually camp in a lodge and spend the evenings cooking and drinking round a fire, and the days waist-deep in ice-cold water. The Sierras are an incredibly beautiful, craggy range, covered with forests and crisscrossed by clear streams. Fly-fishing there is about the closest thing I get to Zen. When I’m on the water, I forget about everything else. I’m not the kind of person who can lie on a beach for a couple of weeks — I prefer moving from place to place — but fishing is my way of getting away from it all.
by Daniel Depp
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Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!
Wow! What a ride!
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