Johnny Depp has been in the Hollywood spotlight since the late 1980s, but his best film Ed Wood saved his acting career. Johnny Depp rose to fame with his role in Fox television series 21 Jump Street but took issue with his teen idol persona. With his first Tim Burton collaboration, Edward Scissorhands, Depp was able to turn from teen star to a serious actor. His role as Edward Scissorhands earned him the first of what would be many Golden Globes nominations for Best Actor in Comedy or Musical.


After Depp’s critical success with Edward Scissorhands, Depp decided to take roles that interested him instead of ones that would do well at the box office. Depp went on to star in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Arizona Dream which both were small budget films where he earned critical acclaim. Yet, even with his critical acclaim, Johnny Depp was continuing to feel disillusioned by Hollywood, a feeling that started from his time on 21 Jump Street.

Ed Wood ‘Rejuvenated’ Depp’s Love For Acting

Johnny Depp as Ed Wood

In 1994, Tim Burton met with Johnny Depp to discuss his idea for a biopic on the notorious Ed Wood, who is widely considered the worst director of all time. According to the IMBd Ed Wood trivia page as well as other secondary sources, Depp was depressed about films and filmmaking before Burton came to him with the idea for Ed Wood. By accepting this part, Depp said he got a “chance to stretch out and have some fun,” and working with Martin Landau “rejuvenated my love for acting.”

If Tim Burton hadn’t come along with another collaboration idea, Johnny Depp may have quit acting altogether. After all, his first collaboration with Burton garnered him critical success also showed that Depp wasn’t a one-trick pony. He could play more than the brooding leading man, which helped cement him as an actor who could reliably bring charm and depth to characters rejected by society. Perhaps, Depp needed this push to remind him of the joy of acting.

Why Ed Wood Was Such A Success For Depp (Despite Bombing)

Johnny Depp as Ed Wood in Ed Wood

Ed Wood failed to make back its budget at the box office, but the film captured the attention of critics. Johnny Depp’s role as Ed Wood earned him his third Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in Comedy or Musical. Not only did this mark another successful collaboration between Depp and Burton, but its critical success displayed Depp’s acting talents. It’s likely without the acclaim of Ed Wood, Depp’s career could have been very different.

While Johnny Depp’s long Hollywood presence may make one think that he always fit in, Depp struggled to find happiness in the commercial realm of filmmaking. Following his heart, Depp joined Burton’s Ed Wood project and continued to choose interesting roles to inhabit. To this day, Ed Wood is considered one of Johnny Depp’s best films, as well as one of his highest-rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes.

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