Saturday, 20 October 2012

Johnny Depp: Performer, Producer - and Publisher?

Johnny Depp has never been one to shy away from a challenge. Throughout his 28-year film career (yes - it has been that long), his endlessly left-field roles have earned him the enviable reputation of being Hollywood’s most unpredictable chameleon - from the many weird and wonderful characters he has created in collaboration with Tim Burton, to his rum-soaked depiction of Disney pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow, Depp seems to pride himself on his changeability.

Indeed, this precocious eccentricity is not just confined to his acting. In his capacity as a fledgling Hollywood producer, Depp recently adapted Hunter S Thompson’s typically off-the-wall novel, The Rum Diary, for the big screen, to somewhat mixed reviews from critics.

And now, just when we thought that his capacity to shock was beginning to wane, JD has done it again. In fact, with his latest career move, which was announced last week, he has delivered his biggest surprise yet – Depp, it seems, is about to try his hand at publishing. And by publishing, we are not referring to the usual run-of-the-mill celebrity memoir. Oh no. That would be far too predictable. Johnny, in true Johnny style, has decided to launch a new imprint in conjunction with publishing giant, HarperCollins.

The new HarperCollins off-shoot will bear the same name as Depp’s film production company, Infinitum Nihil, and will promote “outspoken and visionary ideas and voices” and will "deliver publications worthy of people's time, of people's concern. Publications that might ordinarily never have breached the parapet." Among the first titles set to be released by Infinitum Nihil are two music-related volumes; The Unraveled Tales of Bob Dylan by Douglas Brinkley (a book which has, incidentally, received considerable input from its usually reclusive subject) is expected in 2015, while the folk singer Woody Guthrie’s previously unpublished 1947 novel, House of Earth will hit the shelves this coming January.

Reaction to news of Depp’s new venture has been almost universally positive. Many new authors find it difficult to get their work into print – and for those writers who fail to fit into conventional literary niches, the task is nigh-on impossible. But with Depp at the helm of Infinitum Nihil, hopes are high that this new imprint will come to their rescue. Indeed, any initiative that attempts to breathe new life into the staid and increasingly short-sighted book industry can only be positive.

Let’s hope Mr Depp doesn’t disappoint.

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