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star struck

The Candy man
Johnny Depp and Tim Burton complement each other’s eccentricities in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
By Chris Betros

Chris Betros

Johnny Depp has often been referred to as one of Hollywood’s chameleons for his ability to play so many offbeat characters. His latest effort, as eccentric chocolate tycoon Willy Wonka in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is no exception. With his clip-on teeth and garish make-up, Wonka is another in the 42-year-old Depp’s long line of unique characters, among them Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Ichabod Crane, James Barrie and pirate Captain Jack Sparrow.

Charlie reunites Depp with Burton for their fourth collaboration (a fifth, the stop-motion feature Corpse Bride, is due out later this year). “Ever since I met Johnny for Scissorhands, each time he has been more amazing,” said Burton, 47, during a visit to Japan this month with Depp. “He likes to act strangely and wear funny costumes. That’s the sort of person I like to work with.” For his part, Depp described Burton as someone he can have complete trust in.

Depp, who was last here in 1995 to promote Dead Man, received a rousing reception at Narita airport when he flew in by private jet. Nearly 2,000 fans were on hand to greet him, and at his news conference, a couple of hundred waited in vain outside the room. Depp seemed touched by the reception, although he doesn’t give much away. He speaks slowly and softly, sometimes not sure what he is supposed to say. Dressed in jeans and a brown jacket and with a flannel shirt tied around his waist, he looked cool with his grungy, casual chic style. He is still sporting a beard from his just-finished sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean.

Charlie is a remake of the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, based on the book by Roald Dahl. It tells the story of five children who win a candy bar contest. Their prize is a tour of a giant factory run by the eccentric candy mogul Wonka, who has more than just a tour in mind for the kids. Both Burton and Depp said they felt some pressure. “I think Tim felt it more than me,” said Depp. “I felt a responsibility to be true to the author’s intent about who Wonka might be.”

In the US media, there has been a lot of talk that Depp based his characterization of Wonka on Michael Jackson, among others. “Actually, Tim and I talked a lot about where Wonka was coming from. My foundation for the guy was all those children’s TV show hosts I saw as a kid. They had this bizarre speech pattern and rhythm. Once I find a character, then everything else falls into place.” Of his choices, Depp said, “I like to explore different possibilities. Beyond that, it’s all about having fun, really.”

Depp said he got a buzz when his 6-year-old daughter Lily-Rose and 3-year-old son Jack visited him on the set one day. “I was decked out in Wonka gear. They were stunned. After about three minutes, my son said, ‘Dad, you’re really weird.’” Depp, his partner, French actress Vanessa Paradis, and their kids alternate between homes in Los Angeles and France, and he has said that his children have made a big difference in his work life.

On the other hand, Burton’s son is too young to think anything of his father’s work yet. The director said the birth of Billy Ray, his 18-month-old son with British actress Helena Bonham Carter, hasn’t really influenced his own work. “If anything, I think I’d be more inclined to make an alien or horror film,” he joked. “That’s what the experience was like.”

 

Q&A

Star Tanaka
Say the magic word

A full-time magician, Star Tanaka is friendly and modest about his profession. Fluent in English, Tanaka does shows at five locations, including the Hard Rock Café in Roppongi, Monaliza in Nihonbashi, Bull Dog in Ginza and Club Asia in Shibuya.

Why did you choose to be a magician?
I went to Canada when I was 20 and got a job as a bartender. I thought it would be nice if I had something to entertain customers with at the bar, so I practiced magic.

What magic are you good at?
Close-up tricks and card magic.

What’s your style?
I try to involve customers in my magic. Some magicians like to demonstrate their magic only, but I enjoy what I’m doing together with the audience.

What are the good points about being a magician?
Being able to meet many people. I haven’t found any bad points. Do magicians ever tell? I’ll teach people who really want to learn magic, but I do not like to give away secrets to someone who is just curious.

How do you practice?
Practicing magic is not just practicing itself, but involves other things such as eye, finger and hand movements. I practice a lot the night before a show, but I try to relax the day that I have a show or a test.

Where do you get your ideas for tricks?
I always think about what the audience likes to see.

What’s your ultimate goal?
I want to own a bar where I can do magic and serve drinks.

Visit Star Tanaka’s website at http://star.walker.jp CB


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