When Johnny Depp takes a role in a film, I often assume the decision is based on a fine balance of money, interest, and abundance of time spent in the makeup chair. That may have been the case with projects in the past, but Depp’s new film Transcendence was born of a different reason, and it’s all tied to one of the greatest living musicians on the planet: Sir Paul McCartney.
Promoting Transcendence at a Los Angeles press conference earlier this month, Depp shared a few stories about the film’s production and promotional campaign, all of which are interesting in their own right. But there’s something in the way she moves, er, there’s something about the ex-Beatle serving as the catalyst for a sci-fi film that’s just so interesting to me. (His Academy Award-nominated theme for Vanilla Sky doesn’t quite match up.)
It goes back to 2012, when Depp agreed to appear in a music video McCartney was directing for his song “My Valentine,” which had none other than Transcendence director Wally Pfister as a cinematographer. Depp said the three of them would hang out between takes, playing guitar and bonding.
“[Pfister] and I would sit there and play guitar,” Depp said, “and then Paul would come over and we’d play guitar. We’d kind of subtly make him teach us things, Beatles songs. We just instantly got along. When the idea of this film arrived, I was beyond thrilled.” Take a look at the video below, which makes one wonder why a director or cinematographer was needed at all.
For years, Pfister was the acclaimed cinematographer on Christopher Nolan’s films, earning an Oscar for his work on Inception. It’s somewhat surprising that Depp has yet to star in one of Nolan’s films, given Nolan’s penchant for filling his casts with Hollywood’s elite. (In fact, Transcendence would have definitely been better had Nolan worked with the script, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Depp also talked about appearing on a Chinese TV show where four quadruplet boys came out with the Transcendence Chinese characters shaved onto their heads. He also talked a bit about how much he enjoys playing characters who are nothing like him, and how he spent a good portion of this movie filming all by himself, for the parts when he forgoes humanity for something with a bigger hard drive.
In Transcendence, Depp is Dr. Will Caster, an artificial intelligence researcher interested in creating a sentient machine. After a terrorist group strikes, Caster and his wife (Rebecca Hall) team with best friend Max (Paul Bettany) to upload Caster’s consciousness onto a computer. It works a little too well, and it soon becomes unclear where Caster ends and where the machine begins. (Cue 8-bit dramatic music.)
It’s in theaters now. Find it, before it finds you.