Johnny Depp’s forgotten appearance in a Tom Petty music video

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(Credits: Far Out / Andy Templeton)


Despite his widespread success as an actor, for a period of time, it wasn’t actually the profession Johnny Depp actually wanted to follow. Before he stood before a camera, Depp harboured aspirations to venture into the world of music. 

However, fate intervened when a serendipitous encounter with fellow actor Nicolas Cage altered the course of his creative journey. In the midst of a challenging financial period, Cage imparted invaluable advice, steering Depp towards an alternative path. Instead of succumbing to the pressure of unpaid rent, Depp heeded Cage’s suggestion, seizing the opportunity to explore the realm of acting by meeting with Cage’s agent.

Throughout the 1980s, Depp landed a number of roles that earned him Hollywood heartthrob status, including A Nightmare On Elm Street and 21 Jump Street. In a move to detach his reputation from this notion, he played the lead role in Edward Scissorhands. Then, in 1991, during the filming of Arizona Dream, Tom Petty approached Depp about appearing in the music video for his upcoming release ‘Into The Great Wide Open’. 

This opportunity presented itself to Depp at a considerably opportune moment in his career. As he continued to immerse himself in gritty and transformative roles that exemplified his versatility, Petty’s offer must have seemed like a no-brainer. In the music video, Depp assumes the role of the central protagonist, the fictional Eddie Rebel, a charismatic rock star whose journey we follow from meteoric rise to tragic downfall under the clutches of drugs and alcohol.

The video flickers between Petty narrating the story and Depp’s portrayal while showcasing the unfolding events. Towards the end, we see his fame quickly fading, his girlfriend leaving him, and the disappearance of his heart tattoo. The story reaches its conclusion as Eddie returns to the tattoo parlour, only to discover a new face, played by Matt LeBlanc, getting the same ink from a new artist. Petty’s closing words – delivered with wry irony – evoke the trappings of a classic fairy tale where “they all lived happily ever after”.

Tom Petty himself takes up various roles throughout the video, from the narrator and the tattoo artist to the characters of Eddie’s loyal roadie Bart and an inquisitive reporter. The other members of the Heartbreakers make memorable cameos as well: lead guitarist Mike Campbell presents an award to Eddie, keyboardist Benmont Tench portrays Eddie’s discerning record producer, bassist Howie Epstein brings the character of a motorcycle dealer to life, and drummer Stan Lynch assumes the role of the steadfast doorman who stands firm against Eddie’s manager’s attempts to enter a red carpet event. 

Even Petty’s manager Tony Dimitriades gets in on the action, making a cameo appearance as the record label’s A&R executive who keenly signs Eddie into a recording contract. Such was the impact of the video that Petty himself reflected on its success, expressing a rare sense of fulfilment and even fielding offers to transform it into a full-fledged movie.

For Depp, this would become one of many partnerships with big names in music. Along with Petty, he’s appeared in music videos for Marilyn Manson, Avril Lavigne, and Paul McCartney and has featured on songs by Oasis, Iggy Pop, and Aerosmith. He’s also currently on tour with the rock supergroup Hollywood Vampires with bandmates Alice Cooper and Joe Perry. 

From a mere dreamer yearning to join the vibrant music scene, Depp has certainly transformed his passions into a reality.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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