On Pirates of the Caribean:
"Knowing what he knows now, I wonder if he'd have thought twice before making it. "I wouldn't change anything, no. Because I think I went into it innocently, and it became what it became. And now they want to tear me down. Instantly, as soon as I did Pirates II, they say: 'Oh, he's selling out.' What the fuck does that mean, selling out? What if I did Ed Wood II, is that selling out? I mean, it's not like I was ever looking to become franchise boy, I was never looking to become anything like that. I just latched on to a character I loved."
On The Rum Diary's box-office chances in America, and his love of Europe:
Early US box office returns suggest The Rum Diary may not break even - but he says he couldn't care less about the money. "No, God no, no. It's always a crap shoot, and really if you have that in your head while you're making a movie the process would become something very different. No, I couldn't give a rat's arse really, not really."
The publicity blitz in the past week might make cynics suggest otherwise. But the film is Depp's homage to Thompson, who died in 2005, and also the first release by Depp's own production company, which would account for his uncharacteristically energetic media campaign. "I believe that this film, regardless of what it makes in, you know, Wichita, Kansas, this week which is probably about $13 it doesn't make any difference. I believe that this film will have a shelf life. I think it will stick around and people will watch it and enjoy it." Does he suspect it will go down better in Europe than the US?
"Most definitely. It's something that will be more appreciated over here, I think. Cos it's well, I think it's an intelligent film." He leaves a meaningful pause. "And a lot of times, outside the big cities in the States, they don't want that."
Depp's well-documented love affair with all things European has always had a hint of hero worship about it too. I ask if there's anything he doesn't like about Europe, and he thinks hard for a while. "No. Not that I can think of, no. It's a very old and beautiful culture, people know how to live. You know, here you have Sunday roast or the pub lunch, that kind of thing. It's comforting. We don't have that in our culture in the States. Sunday is football day, so it's chicken wings and pizza."
And there's more:
He got into hot water in 2003 for describing the US as "dumb", having told another interviewer in 2000: "I want to be in the country where life is simple, and we don't have to worry about being mugged or approached by some guy selling crack on the street." Depp has been despairing of America's trashy culture and violence for as long as I can remember, and France is so central to his identity as a discerning sophisticate that I assumed he would never return to the US. So when I ask if he could ever imagine living there again, his reply comes as quite a surprise.
"Well, I kind of do. I'm between wherever I end up on location, and then the States."
What? Hang on a minute; why did he leave France? He makes a sour noise, part grunt, part hurrumph. "Cos France wanted a piece of me. They wanted me to become a permanent resident. Permanent residency status which changes everything. They just want," and he mimes peeling off notes in his palm. "Dough. Money."
If Depp spends more than 183 days in France, he explains indignantly, he'd have to start paying income tax. "I'm certainly not ready to give up my American citizenship. You don't have to give up your American citizenship," he adds sarcastically, but then he'd have to pay tax in both countries, "so you essentially work for free."
And all of a sudden, he sounds exactly like your average corporate Middle America multimillionaire anti-government, anti-tax and apparently oblivious to the part these twin monstrous affronts might play in creating a country where he doesn't have to worry about being mugged by crack dealers on every street.