Hey you guys! I bought the September GQ on the off chance there'd be a Johnny Dior ad -- eureka!! I was in a hurry & grabbed it without looking. Inside: a scent sheet with a nice photo. So if you want to smell "sauvage" without buying a bottle, you can! Plus -- I forgot: #5 on their "punch list" is a short piece about Johnny "making himself ugly again" but in an admiring way.....
Sweet smell of success: Hollywood star Johnny Depp is the face of Dior’s new scent Sauvage
FOLLOWING weeks of clandestine conversations about the world’s most exciting movie-star ‘get’, I finally find out the fragrance industry’s best-kept secret.
Hitherto, luxury French brand Christian Dior Parfums can only reveal that their new ambassador is amazing, extraordinary … and has never done anything like this before.
He just doesn’t need to.
“It’s very, very exciting for us,” whispers the PR representative in her husky Parisian accent, as she slides the envelope containing the big reveal across the table to my boss and me.
After signing legal confidentiality documents (and racking our brains for weeks – is it Tom Cruise? Surely not…), we read the name and smile.
It’s exciting, and about as cool as it gets: Johnny Depp.
He’s that rare Hollywood idol with an aura of mystery that transcends Teflon-coated Hollywood, where profit swamps artistic endeavour.
All the pillars of Depp’s appeal point the other way: his retro, bluesy aesthetic – all tatts, hats and jewellery – and soulful essence.
His self-imposed exile in France.
His friendships with American renegades, such as literary superstar Hunter S.Thompson (cue lots of fun, firearms and mayhem) and shock rocker Marilyn Manson (the long-time friend of Depp’s was even snapped accompanying the actor and his daughter, Lily-Rose, then 14, on the school-run last February).
From the moment he hit our screens in the ’80s with A Nightmare on Elm Street (and later, iconic series 21 Jump Street), Depp has captivated audiences.
His extraordinary pantheon of on-screen characters is the bedrock of Depp’s charm; the ‘quirky’ tag doesn’t begin to cover it.
Fantastical, vivid Pied Pipers lure us to cinematic adventure: Captain Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka, Sweeney Todd, the Mad Hatter.
Even his real-life anti-heroes are stuck in a warped reality, from hilarious slacker drug kingpin George Jung in 2001’s Blow to the bacchanalian revelry of 17th-century poet John Wilmot, England’s second Earl of Rochester, in 2004’s The Libertine.
So which of his roles is closest to the ‘real’ him? Depp nominates those etched into our public consciousness.
“I’d say it’s a combination of Edward Scissorhands and Captain Jack,” he says, speaking from the Dior location shoot in LA.
“That’s the combo platter that is closest to me.”
Even when British chat-show host Graham Norton called him “the best character actor in the world” on air in 2011, Depp still wasn’t convinced.
“Good lord!” he rejoined.
“It’s more like some form of schizophrenia that just works for me.”
Now, as the latest Dior hero, Depp brings an incredible harmony to new scent Sauvage, a departure for the brand from classics such as Dior Homme (it’s Dior’s first male fragrance in 10 years).
As for the advertising campaign, the short film’s slow-burn atmosphere – a modern Western – echoes the fragrance.
Depp’s animalistic, rebellious touch embraces perfume-creator François Demachy’s new direction of smoky bitterness under a snap of citrus.
On film, Depp is the male gracenote to the sun-bleached wilderness and desert creatures, while the primal, lonesome drawl of the guitar-based soundtrack – composed by Ry Cooder, the guitar legend of bottleneck blues and country – underscores the campaign’s cinematic juxtaposition of city and desert landscape.
It’s perfect for the shamanistic role Depp plays, and the end result is haunting and beautiful.
All will be revealed when the film launches on September 2.
Speaking of his most haunting characters, Depp’s portrayal of the artificial boy with the metal-blade hands in 1990’s Edward Scissorhands – Tim Burton’s Gothic satire of American suburbia – kicked the decade off as the emo antidote to knuckledragger culture.
His unknowable Edward had a strangely sexy depth that mesmerised his cougar co-stars – not to mention teenage fans worldwide, imbuing Depp with a strange fascination.
“I remember reading the script and connecting to the purity of the character,” he recalls.
“It reminded me of the innocence and unconditional love of a dog.”
When Depp swung in on a vine 13 years later as the devilishly larrikin pirate Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, launching a bazillion-dollar franchise (he recently filmed the fifth instalment on location on the Gold Coast), men, women and children had a new, Keith Richards-inspired naughty boy to fantasise about.
Depp – all slurred speech and anarchy – was irresistible as Sparrow, the shambolic foil to the British cavalry’s stuffed shirts.
“There’s nothing I adore more than irreverence and Captain Jack,” Depp says.
“That’s the luxury of playing that character. You can be as irreverent as you want and people will laugh.
“Jack’s wickedness and Edward’s purity is a classic case of angel versus devil.”
No one expected an actor who takes characterisation right to the edge, both emotionally and visually, to gain such commercial clout, yet that devil-with-a-wink appeal transformed him from indie darling to global superstar.
According to Depp, studio executives apparently freak out after the first take once shooting begins and he unleashes his eccentric character quirks.
On Graham Norton’s show, Depp mimes the shocked silence with a slow, tumbleweed-like whistle. (“You come in with a big stick and you start swinging it.”)
But sometimes it’s Depp who gets spooked, especially when tasked with playing characters who represent a real-life bestie: Depp played versions of anarchic firebrand Hunter S.Thompson on-screen twice – first in 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and then in 2011’s The Rum Diary.
“Hunter was the king of irreverence; there’s only a handful of writers that really make me laugh out loud,” he shares.
“When we first met, he was carrying a cattle prod and a Taser, then we built bombs at his house with propane tanks.
“It was beautiful madness.”
Playing a madman genius who you personally revere – and who packs plenty of nitroglycerine – was enough to make even the fearless Depp nervous.
“When they screened Fear and Loathing for him, I was flipping. He rang and I said, ‘Do you hate me?’ And he said, ‘Jesus Christ, man, no! It was an eerie trumpet call over a lost battlefield.’ It killed me.
“That line just floored me.”
Depp has experienced all the hallmarks of life in the spotlight, but always with edge.
Yes, he had a ’90s supermodel girlfriend, but she was Kate Moss, reigning goddess of South London street cred.
His bad-boy days of tumbling out of LA’s Viper Room (which he co-owned until 2004) are long gone, but Depp’s rather shrouded private life in the south of France emerged into the tabloid glare when his 14-year relationship with French singer, model and actor Vanessa Paradis (mother of their children Lily-Rose, 16, and Jack, 13) ended amicably in 2012.
He’d previously gone on record as saying it would be a shame to ruin his partner’s last name with marriage.
But he did marry his next love, Amber Heard, his scorchingly sensual Rum Diary co-star.
The obvious narrative of middle-aged-star-running-off-with-hot-young-blonde seems different, as always, with Depp.
Heard was as alluring as the film’s sorbet-coloured Corvettes and Puerto Rican coastline, but is clearly not interested in the vacuous role of Hollywood wife.
After coming out as bisexual at a Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation event in 2010, she said, “I’m just as gutsy as my character”, referring to the film that brought her and Depp together and – post-marriage – says she’s still “fiercely independent”.
Even when the couple got busted in May sneaking their Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, past immigration on a private jet into Australia to shoot the latest Pirates instalment, any rumblings about entitlement got swept away by parodies of minister for agriculture Barnaby Joyce’s threats of euthanasia (#WarOnTerrier) and outraged tone (“If we start letting movie stars – even though they’ve been the sexiest man alive twice – come into our nation…”).
It seems even when Depp is in the naughty corner, we just love him too much to care.
Depp maintains a strict “no comment” stance on the affair.
Before Captain Jack swashbuckles once more, Depp appears in Black Mass (out on September 17) with an extraordinarily menacing portrayal of Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger.
Forget gentle or kooky; as a psychopathic crime lord he is as creepy and coiled as a serpent, his pale eyes giving him a reptilian sheen.
“Historically, it’s an important story,” clarifies Depp in response to queries about whether the film glamorises Boston’s criminal underworld.
“Bulger is fascinating and we all want to know what drove him.
“I don’t think it’s as easy as good and evil – and that’s what I hope to show.”
He’s also returning to his musical roots as a member of Hollywood Vampires, alongside Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and ’70s goth legend Alice Cooper.
The trio, who Rolling Stone magazine dubbed a “mega-rock triumvirate”, release their debut self-titled album on September 11.
It’s a welcome move for Depp.
A guitar player from Kentucky long before he was a Hollywood star, his transition to movie star was “pure accident”.
“I never really made the decision to become an actor,” he reflects.
“I was a guitar player and that’s what I wanted to pursue.”
Indeed, Depp’s dreams saw him join a band called The Kids who headed off to LA in search of fame.
“You know that cliché story: come to Hollywood for the record deal. We arrived in LA and knew we were in the wrong spot.
“It was all about Mötley Crüe and Guns N’ Roses, these big-hair bands.
“Most had the same hairdressers, I think. We weren’t quite ready for that.”
After a friend persuaded him to look into acting instead, life took a different turn.
“This [acting] business happened and, 30 years later, somehow I’m still here. I’m still not sure what I want to be.”
Undecided or not, Depp is happy to rock out on stage, although he’s far happier to be in a group set-up than flying solo.
“I’ve always preferred being a sideman,” he explains.
“I have friends that I get the chance to write and record with, stuff you can’t get your head around – [like] playing opposite [Paul] McCartney.
“What is nice is having this second life where there is no character, no talking, no nothing – just a direct shot from the brain, heart or centre of your being, through the veins [and] down to the fingers.
“[Playing guitar] has remained my first love.”
So how did this performer – more at home among the tobacco-swirls of a blues bar, or shape-shifting into a character on-screen – find shooting a fragrance commercial?
“I’ve never done anything like this before, but in the digital age I think certain craftsmen and arts are in danger of being lost,” he says.
“I appreciate the ancient skills of creating a fragrance. Just like a music riff is never the same twice, scent changes on people’s skin – it’s an amazing kind of science, almost an art.
“Scent matches what you’re feeling, it captures moments. [It’s] the same with having one scent that’s just ‘you’.
“You stay with it, you keep it in your life. And there’s a certain gravity to Dior, an elegance …” Doing something new is nothing new for Depp.
“Like I’ve said before, never do nothing twice,” he says of his philosophy both on-and-off-screen.
“Challenge yourself each time to go further. Make weird noises, I guess.”
For Depp, the carefree pirate who turned left off the handsome-leading-man route, finding Hollywood buried treasure without selling his soul, we’ll be listening.
Thank you John! Lovely and long article -- the best type of read one can wish for. Like some of the stuff he says too (or to be more accurate, what the article says he said). Here are some of my favorite quotes (bottom up)
"Never do nothing twice"
"A direct shot from the brain, heart or centre of your being, through the veins [and] down to the fingers."
“I don’t think it’s as easy as good and evil – and that’s what I hope to show.” (about Whitey Bulger and I couldn't agree more. Nothing is black and white.)
“There’s nothing I adore more than irreverence and Captain Jack,”
For the first time in 10 years, Dior has forged a new territory for men, an intimte connection with one’s true nature. This composition by François Demanchy harbours the very soul of a house that sets the bar extremely high.
An olfactory shock with all the appeal of a great classic, a powerfully fresh composition, virile and confident, Sauvage has a bold approach that has always driven the creation of Dior fragrances.
“To create Sauvage, I used a man as my starting point. A strong and unmistakable masculinity, like the image of a man who transcends time and fashion,” said perfumer and creator Demanchy.
The bottle has a pleated black lacquer cap topped with the CD signature. A sleek design, now part of the Dior heritage, there is a stronger emphasis on luxury.
The glass is heavy, dense and dark like the inky night, shading from total opaqueness to smoky transparency.
Each detail has been carefully studied and a thin layer of silver sprayed on the walls of the bottle creates a subtle mirror effect that is both shiny and transparent.
At the base of the bottle, the drop of the glass blossoms in a suspended ‘smile’. The initials CD are engraved on the bottom and a bee is tucked inside the magnetised cap.
Jean-Baptiste Mondino has created a short film for Sauvage, which stars actor Johnny Depp, the face behind the fragrance.
The film is a rite of passage in response to a vital instinct, leaving the urban rage and shallow cities behind and driving towards the desert, trusting the road to take him there.
This is a first for Depp, as he has never portrayed anyone other than the characters that have marked his illustrious career. He has suddenly become the Dior Sauvage man, a world that fits him perfectly.
The full range of Dior products are distributed by X-Treme Co Ltd. For trade enquiries, call 2388 2110.