Johnny Depp started smoking Marlboro at 12, and played guitar in a rock band called The Flame. He lost his virginity to a groupie at 13, in the band’s van. His parents divorced when Depp was in high school, and Depp soon dropped out to pursue music full-time. Rechristened The Kids and later Six Gun Method, the band moved to Los Angeles, and had their biggest moment as an opening act for Iggy Pop.
Depp struggled to get by, but eventually met Nicolas Cage, who suggested he try auditioning for film and TV work. His first major role was in A Nightmare on Elm Street, as a young boy plagued by bad dreams. Depp sprang to fame in the lead role on the upstart Fox network’s first show, 21 Jump Street, playing a baby-faced cop recruited to infiltrate high schools and young criminals’ gangs. At the time, 21 Jump Street was Fox’s biggest (and only) hit, but Depp abhorred being a “teen heartthrob” and left after three seasons.
Depp often takes roles in darker films, appearing as a robotic topiarist in Edward Scissorhands (1990), Ed Wood in Ed Wood (1994), and Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Other roles tend to play more on his looks, such as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003).
He had “Winona forever” tattooed on his arm while engaged to Winona Ryder. After they broke up he had the tattoo reworked to read “Wino forever”. Depp owned the nightclub where River Phoenix overdosed in 1993. He now lives in France.