by Daniel Cubias
The nicest thing my mother-in-law has ever said to me is, “In a certain light, you kind of, a little bit, resemble Johnny Depp.”
Now, even a straight man like me knows that it’s a compliment to be compared, however vaguely, to this guy. Sure, he’s a talented actor, but what he’s best known for is being the uber-hunky male of so many women’s dreams.
I’ve always liked his movies well enough. But recently Depp impressed me by taking a principled stand, which is a rare act for anyone to take, let alone a pampered celebrity. You see, Depp was set to play Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa in an upcoming film with Salma Hayek. However, the actor has since dropped out of the movie.
When asked why, he said the part of Villa “should be played by a Mexican. Not some mutt from Kentucky…I still feel very strongly about that.”
It’s not that Depp is afraid to take on racially charged roles. He’s going to play Tonto, for damn sakes, in an upcoming Lone Ranger movie. Apparently, Depp is ok with that gig because he’s part Native American (hence the reference to being a “mutt”). But portraying a Mexican, when he’s not the tiniest bit Hispanic, struck Depp as offensive. Many commentators, even the perennially uptight Ruben Navarrette, praised Depp for his decision.
Indeed, I’m happy that a Latino actor will get a shot at the part. As we all know, few Hispanic characters appear onscreen, and work for Latino thespians is in short supply. And I’ve written before about Hollywood’s aversion to Hispanics showing up in movies. However, while I respect Depp’s decision and admire his reasoning, I’m not sure his one-man boycott is completely necessary. Acting, by its very definition, requires becoming something that you’re not. As such, if Depp could pull off Pancho Villa — and was respectful in his portrayal of a Latino — I doubt that it would come across as offensive.
To turn the rational around, was it wrong for Andy Garcia to play an Italian (as he did in The Godfather III)? Or would it be bad for Jimmy Smits to play an Arab man? Or would it be offensive for Jennifer Lopez to…well, actually, it’s offensive for J Lo to appear in a movie at all, so that’s a bad example.
Of course, Depp’s withdrawal from the movie had more to do with personal ethics than artistry, and as I said, it’s to be respected for that reason alone. But I think he would have been a fine Pancho Villa — although probably not as good as Benicio del Toro or Gael Garcia Bernal.
By the way, I told my wife about her mother’s comment that I resembled Depp. My wife, who is a fan of the actor, said, “Sorry, honey. I don’t see it.”
Perhaps if she squinted…
To learn more about Daniel, visit Hispanic Fanatic.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.