The actor Johnny Depp has a history of adapting literature to film, starring in a number of movies based on literary works. Most recently, he portrayed Paul Kemp, an American journalist, in “The Rum Diary,” the second film adaptation of a Hunter S. Thompson book he’s been in.
Perhaps Depp’s foray into literature proper is a logical next step. This week, Depp writes our back-page essay with Douglas Brinkley, the historian and author of “Cronkite.” Together, they are editing a book by Woody Guthrie, the folk singer who would have been 100 years old on July 14. The book, “House of Earth,” his only novel, will be published next year for the first time.
“Growing up in Kentucky, I was raised on bluegrass and country music,” Depp said in an e-mail interview. He’s listened to Guthrie all his life, although “it is thanks to Bob Dylan that the man and his music became solidified in my lexicon.” Music has also figured in Depp’s acting career: he based his character Jack Sparrow, in the mega-franchise “Pirates of the Caribbean,” on Keith Richards.
“He’s the coolest guy I’ve ever met,” Depp said of Richards, calling his recent memoir, “Life,” a “brilliant read.” A fan of books by musicians (among his favorites: Steven Tyler’s “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?,” Dylan’s “Chronicles”), Depp is currently bringing his love of music to the screen, working on a film in Richards’s honor.
If he could portray a musician himself? “Junior Kimbrough,” Depp said. “However, failing that, I wouldn’t mind slipping into the skin and bones of Harry Partch. One of our greatest, pioneering artists, who is rarely given the respect, let alone the appreciation, that he so richly deserves.” As for Woody Guthrie, he “represents the soul and the sound of the America that I love.”