After dropping out of high school, he moved to Los Angeles, where he ended up selling pens over the phone. Eventually, pal Nicolas Cage helped him land a minor role in A Nightmare On Elm Street, which led to a part in Platoon. A starring role in the teen cop TV drama 21 Jump Street followed, and suddenly Johnny was a teen mag cover staple.
"They kept asking me things like: 'Who are you wearing, Johnny?'. I said, 'The Italian guy,' so it must have been Armani. It felt like a do-or-die situation, like I was standing on the precipice of something very uncomfortable." The "something uncomfortable" was international stardom.
Forsaking Hollywood blockbusters, he opted to appear in a series of eclectic roles. "I made a decision to do only movies I wanted to do and to play only characters I wanted to play... I thought it was important to have integrity," he says. Turning in his Jump Street badge he went on to lampoon his own heart-throb status in John Water's Cry Baby.
He became a star almost in spite of himself, turning down parts which made international stars out of other Hollywood bucks, including Brad Pitt, who appeared in the Depp castoff Legends Of The Fall and Keanu Reeves, who picked up another of his rejects Speed.
Meanwhile Johnny signed up for projects such as Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, earning a pair of Golden Globe nominations in the process and considerable industry clout. And in 2003, he earned his first Oscar nomination for his standout role in Pirates Of The Caribbean.
In his personal life, Johnny made headlines years ago, after he trashed a hotel room and had a Winona Forever tattoo changed to Wino Forever when he and actress Winona Ryder split up. Also previously linked to Kate Moss, the reluctant star would later turn his back on Tinseltown and his bad boy image and decamp to France.
In the summer of 1998 he locked eyes with French model and singer Vanessa Paradis and the two have been together ever since. Their first child, Lily-Rose Melody Depp, was born nearly a year later. "Anything I've done up till May 27, 1999, was kind of an illusion, existing without living," he has said. "My daughter, the birth of my daughter, gave me life." The couple had a second child, Jack John Christopher Depp III, on April 9, 2002.
While he's still not sure whether he's "an adult yet", these days a calm seems to have come over Johnny Depp, proud father and acclaimed actor all on his own terms.