Johnny Depp is a prince among actors a solid performer, unafraid to take on risky parts, friendly to his fans, accommodating to journalists. Well, accommodating if you can get to him. At last weeks press gathering for his new film Transcendence at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, more than 100 feature writers requested some one-on-one time with him. Alas, he was only there for a few hours, and most of us myself included had to make do with the hopes of getting a couple of questions in when the microphone was handed to us at a crowded press conference.
In the smartly written science fiction thriller Transcendence, Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, a brilliant artificial intelligence researcher who, after an attempt is made on his life by anti-technology terrorists, has his mind melded into the Internet. Complications ensue.
I had two questions for Depp. Being a science fiction buff myself, I wanted his memories of which SF films knocked him out as a kid. I also knew that Wally Pfister, former cinematographer and now first-time director of Transcendence, shot a video for Paul McCartneys lilting song My Valentine a couple of years ago, which featured Depp hand-signing to McCartneys singing and string-syncing one of the coolest acoustic guitars Id ever seen. I wanted own one of them. My (non-film-related) second question would be about the make and model of the instrument.
Alas, the press conference ended early; I was never handed the microphone. But as Depp was headed for the door, surrounded by handlers, I made a beeline to him and blurted out the question.
Me: Johnny, what was that amazing guitar you were playing in the My Valentine video?
Depp: Oh, right, yeah, thats a beautiful old guitar. It actually has two f-holes on the back.
Me: Who makes the guitar? I want to buy one.
Depp: Oh, man, umm, its Uni ... Uni-something. (He closed his eyes, trying to come up with the name.) Maybe Unitone? I think its a Unitone.
Then his handlers pulled him out of the interview room. My question was asked, but catching him off guard, I got only a quasi, unsure answer in return. Hey, a good try. I went off to do other interviews, wrote a review of the film and, about four hours later, headed to the hotels business center, where I Googled Unitone guitars, but came up with nothing. Again, a good try, but youve got to know when to give up. I signed off, gathered up my papers, opened the door, walked out ... and bumped right into Depp as he was passing by, still surrounded by handlers, on the way to one last interview of the day.
He recognized me and let out a genuine, Hi, how are you doing?
Me, walking with him: Great, but I couldnt find anything called a Unitone guitar. Do you think it might have been another name?
Depp (eyes closed tight): Umm, umm, I can see it, but I just cant remember. Are you staying here at the hotel?
Me: Yeah.
Depp: Will you be here tomorrow?
Me: Yeah, but Im leaving pretty early, probably before youre up.
Depp: Do you have a card? Ill call home tomorrow and find out the name, then Ill get it to you.
Me (reaching for one of my cards): Oh, that would be very cool!
While I was doing that, he closed his eyes even tighter, reaching deeper, thinking to himself, What IS that name? Then he opened his eyes wide. He had it.
Depp: Vivitone! Its definitely a Vivitone!
Me: Great! Thanks! Isnt it funny how the mind works? Just like the mind stuff that was going on in the movie. Oh, I really enjoyed the movie.
Depp: Thank you. I hope you find one of those guitars. It shouldnt be too much trouble. Im glad you dug the movie.
Then his handlers pulled him into the interview room.
Author's note: After online publication, an astute reader (in Connecticut) noted that Depp was mistakenly thinking of a different guitar. The one he used in the video is a Weymann, not a Vivitone.
Transcendence opens on April 17.
Ed Symkus can be reached at