FilmDistrictObviously, Johnny Depp is doing just fine. He is probably the biggest box office star in the world, he has been nominated for three Oscars, he's beloved and respected and, if he ever feels down about himself, he can just go buy another townhouse in the most beautiful city in the world. Depp certainly doesn't need our advice. But it is worth noting that, well ... he hasn't been in anything good in a while. (Particularly now that his pet project, "The Rum Diary," has bombed.) We suppose "Public Enemies" was all right; "Finding Neverland" has its uses; if you wanna count "Rango," you probably can. But for a guy who, pre-"Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, was famous for taking chances, his eye for non-"Pirates" projects has been pretty off for a while now. Depp is undeniably talented, but for this guy whose skill we've been talking about for years ... it's strange how he still doesn't have a definitive, Truly Great, universally revered performance. And the guy is pushing 50. It's about time he found the right fit, before he starts reaching his weirdo, late-era Brando period. How's it gonna happen? Let's call in Winston Wolfe.
He's Winston Wolfe. He solves problems. He's here to help.
Here's what we've got for you, Mr. Depp.
1. Knock it off with the Tim Burton. Probably the most important one on this list. Listen, we've loved (some of) your collaborations with Burton as much as anybody, most notably "Ed Wood," which is probably still our favorite performance of yours. ("Donnie Brasco" is close.) But we've been through this before with you: Burton is using you as a crutch, and vice versa. He's not gonna dial it back and do another "Ed Wood" any more than you are. He brings out a certain type of performance in you and, to be frank, at this point everyone's pretty tired of seeing it. Don't worry, he'll be fine without you. He'll be better for it, even.
2. Trust other people to make you funny. You can be legitimately amusing: "Ed Wood" is hilarious, you were fantastic in that Ricky Gervais clip and, all told, even Jack Sparrow makes us chuckle every once in a while. But your bug-eyed, bewildered, wobble-legged schtick -- prevalent in both your Jack Sparrow and your Hunter S. Thompson -- is starting to mold a bit. We're not sure the Jonah Hill/Apatow crew is precisely your best bet -- you're a little too weird for their grounded sci-fi nerd realism -- but the bit part in the upcoming "21 Jump Street" is nevertheless a good start. We're thinking maybe you and Zach Galifianakis might do something amazing together. This won't necessarily help you get an Oscar, but it'll get you back on the path to directors feeling like they can cast you as something other than a loopy space alien.
3. Take a shower, man. You don't necessarily have to do an action movie, but we'll say that one smart move you made in "The Rum Diary" was looking terrific. You've spend so much of your career trying to disguise or distort your good looks that it was a legitimate surprise to see simply look handsome for a whole movie. You are a movie star: It's OK, if you're smart about it, do act like one.
4. Call Christopher Nolan. No one's quite sure what Nolan is going to do after "The Dark Knight Rises," but suffice it to say, it'll be challenging, it'll be cerebral, it'll be gritty and grounded, it'll be expensive and it'll need a huge movie star to make sure it gets the budget it'll require. He needs you as much as you need him. You need someone like Nolan, who understands the appeal and importance of big spectacle but makes certain to keep it in a recognizable human space, usually tackling larger philosophical issues along the way. If you can dial back the whimsy enough, you guys are a perfect match.
5. Play a real life figure who is nothing at all like Johnny Depp. The real people you've played: John Dillinger, Ed Wood and J. M. Barrie, creator of "Peter Pan." Dillinger's a little different -- though he gave off a similar charm and love for the spotlight that infuses all your performances -- and Wood and Barrie are pretty much you, without the ability to speak French. Shake it up. Get serious, and dark. Frankly, you might have been a terrific J. Edgar Hoover, even better than Leonardo DiCaprio. That's not an option now. See if you can wrestle that DuPont role away from Steve Carell. Something like that. You are Johnny Depp: You can have any role on earth that you want. Now go get the right one.
There you go, Mr. Depp. That should do it. Thanks for a moment of your time.