"I could tell a mile away. I said, 'You're going to be a star. There's just absolutely no question. You've got a great face, you're unbelievably handsome, and you have an original character. You have a quality.'" Oliver Stone on casting Johnny Depp in Platoon
War movies are not my favorite, but Platoon is a good one. Oliver Stone's semi-autobiographical drama set in the jungles of Vietnam won 4 Oscars in 1986. It's not fun to watch, but it made many people see and think differently about the Vietnam War and its veterans.
[What is Johnny Kitties? See Johnny Kitties: Celebrating Johnny Depp for all the details!]
Following a soldier who voluntarily enlists, we experience with him the horrors of war and the internal battles he faces to survive. Led by Charlie Sheen, the movie included an all-star ensemble cast on not-yet-famous actors: Forest Whitaker, , Tom Berenger, and Johnny Depp.
Johnny as Lerner
Johnny scored the small role of an interpreter named Lerner. Like everyone else in the cast, he committed to the rehearsal period in Luzon, Philippines, prior to shooting. Johnny's first trip out of the United States landed him in the middle of the Philippine Revolution. Nice timing.
As the actors arrived, they were immediately treated as their characters--rank and all--and their "rehearsal period" was actually 2 weeks of bootcamp under the supervision of Marine Seargant Dale Dye. "They were new guys coming into a unit in Vietnam. Nothing else existed," Dye said. "We wanted them to understand the pain and the agony and the angst and the psychology of being a grunt in Vietnam."
On this compressed schedule, they learned everything they would have learned through basic and advanced infantry. They received military haircuts, had no access to showers, slept in the jungle, and rotated nightwatch duty. "The rations we were given to eat were the most shocking thing you've ever seen," Johnny said. "It would be things like 'bean component,' 'turkey loaf.' But I'd have eaten my socks by that point, man. We were all starving to death."
Oliver Stone's got a reputation for his aggressive directing style, and--according to Platoon's behind-the-scene's documentary--everyone hated him during filming because he pushed his actors to the brink. "I didn't know if I was going to make it out of there alive," Charlie Sheen said of the experience.
As you may imagine, there are no scenes in Platoon that lend themselves to happy kitties. We all watched it with our hands (paws?) poised to shield our eyes from the violence when needed.
In the end, we chose the most peaceful scene we could find: Two soldiers gazing up at the stars on a quiet night in the jungle, reflecting. The war is almost forgotten for a moment.
I know, Johnny's not technically in this scene. Is that cheating on my project rules? Well, The Kitties and I imagine that, given the chance, any soldier would look up at the stars for a moment of peace in the middle of the Vietnam War--or any war, for that matter. So, we assume that Johnny is doing the same--even if it's off camera.
Next up, Johnny takes over [my] TV on 21 Jump Street!