Denis Meikle

Born: 1947 | Birthplace: Glasgow | Educated: Alleyn's School | Spouse: Jane | Children: Sarah, James | Resident: East Sussex

Published works: A HISTORY OF HORRORS-The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer (1996), JACK THE RIPPER-The Murders and the Movies (2001), VINCENT PRICE-The Art of Fear (2002), JOHNNY DEPP-A Kind of Illusion (2004), THE RING COMPANION (2006), ROMAN POLANSKI-Odd Man Out (2007), MR MURDER-The Life and Times of Tod Slaughter (2019) |

Revised editions: A HISTORY OF HORRORS-large format (2011), MERCHANT OF MENACE-The Life and Films of Vincent Price (2015), ROMAN POLANSKI-The Horror Films (2016), HAMMER-The Haunted House of Horror (2018) |

Contributor to: The Dark Side magazine, Little Shoppe of Horrors magazine

JOHNNY DEPP-A Kind of Illusion

Reynolds & Hearn

Ah, poor Johnny Depp. When I first suggested a biography of ex-punk guitarist and minor cult screen icon Depp to R&H in 2004, he was a rebellious young actor who still picked his scripts with care, still worked with creative and critically-acclaimed directors, still sought artistic integrity over commercial expedience and was more inclined to align himself with literary radicals like the Beat poets, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S Thompson than he was to pursue A-list stardom and box office success. Then came Pirates of the Caribbean.
      In his first twenty years on screen, Depp had featured in so many fantasy-style films - from A Nightmare on Elm Street to Sleepy Hollow - that as an author specialising in that field, I thought he might represent a good mainstream prospect to maintain continuity, albeit more tangentially. But the more I looked into his life during the writing (which took eight months rather than the obligatory six), the more the subject-matter darkened in my eyes, and what had started as admiration for a Hollywood maverick and original and unique talent turned to disquiet and distaste. This mood-shift no doubt surfaced in the text, but I was committed by then and the tone was partially leavened by the ability to continue to praise his performances in each new film - the original Pirates of the Caribbean, for instance, remains one of the best family adventure movies ever made. When it was done, I switched immediately onto The Ring Companion, for which the contract had already been signed, and thought to put Depp behind me. However, the book quickly took on a life of its own and I was asked to return to it at intervals to revise and update. This I did until 2010 or so, but there came a point when it could no longer be revised without affecting the balance of the narrative as a whole. These updates eventually took his career to Public Enemies (2009), if I recall - I would have called a halt at Alice in Wonderland, in any event. Recent news coverage of Depp has filled in the remainder of the sorry tale more cogently than I ever could. In the wake of Johnny Depp, it was mooted that I should write a similar tome on Brad Pitt - which I declined to do; I was no more interested in being a 'biographer of stars' than Depp had been in Hollywood status before he crossed paths with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney.  
      The book sold well enough in its original hardback format to demand an immediate softcover follow-up. Within a very short period, it became the best-selling title in the R&H list. A cut-price version then found its way into HMV in volume and over the following year or two, it sold over 200,000 copies, and it continued to sell as new Depp movies were released, for which the udates were required to keep it current. The rights to it were even picked up by a Polish publishing house! Johnny Depp-A Kind of Illusion should, by rights, have shown up on some best-seller list along the way - but R&H were only a medium-sized publisher and much of the print media effectively operates as a cartel; the book's runaway commercial success consequently went unsung.

A selection of the various softcover editions of Johnny Depp-A Kind of Illusion, from 2004 to 2011