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Dark Johnny Depp comes to Venice `from hell'
( 2001-09-08 11:45 ) (7 )

After a parade of beautiful women at this year's Venice Film Festival, it was down to the dark and brooding Johnny Depp to set hundreds of young female pulses racing on Friday.

And the man once voted one of the sexiest stars in film history didn't let them down.

Arriving in the elegant city in baggy combat trousers, fedora hat pulled low and a stubby cigar lodged in the side of his mouth, the shaggy-haired Depp said he was sorry he hadn't come sooner.

"It's shocking really... I was here for about an hour and half once for dinner, but it obviously wasn't enough. It's staggeringly beautiful," he said in his low, steady mumble as hundreds of screaming fans tried to grab autographs.

Fresh from the American Film Festival in Deauville, France, Depp is in town to promote his latest movie, "From Hell," co-starring Heather Graham.

In the dark and sordid tale of Jack the Ripper in 1880s London, Depp plays Frederick Abberline, the tormented inspector charged with tracking the evil serial killer down.

It's a natural role for Depp, 38, who has been drawn to heavy, troubled characters throughout his career and once told Vanity Fair magazine that he often felt threatened by demons.

"I became obsessed with the case of Jack the Ripper when I was very, very young...probably too young," Depp told reporters, explaining why he had taken the part.

"He was the first real serial killer and it really fascinated me in general, as well as all the different theories about who it might actually have been...it's never properly been solved.

"My character Abberline feels like he sees demons in his search for the killer..."


Sexy Heather Graham, forever memorable as CIA agent Felicity Shagwell in the 1999 hit "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," plays Mary Kelly, a young women stalked by the brutal killer.

Depp, the star of "Sleepy Hollow," "Edward Scissorhands" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," had to master a south London accent for the part and got to play a character who smokes, something that hasn't happened in his films for a while.

"Any excuse for a smoke, basically," he said by way of explanation of whether he'd enjoyed the role. Taking a long suck on his cigar he added: "When you're allowed to get away with it, why not."

A torrid character in his earlier years -- he was charged by police for smashing up a US$1,200-a-night New York hotel room in 1994 -- Depp has calmed down since the birth of his daughter, Lily-Rose Melody, with French actress and singer Vanessa Paradis.

Once engaged to Winona Ryder and a former boyfriend of supermodel Kate Moss, Depp says the birth of his child has helped him find balance.

"Anything I've done up until May 27, 1999, was kind of an illusion, existing without life," he said in a magazine article at the time. "My daughter, the birth of my daughter, gave me life."

But he continues to view the world darkly, telling reporters on Friday that life seemed to have lost its innocence: "It's a pretty jaded time out there in the world," said the actor, who's friend River Phoenix died of a drug ovedose outside Depp's Los Angeles night club Viper.

Referring to himself as "unemployed" after finishing "From Hell," Depp said he hoped to work again with cult director Tim Burton, with whom he has made three films, 1999's "Sleepy Hollow," "Ed Wood" in 1994 and "Edward Scissorhands" in 1990.

"He's a real artist," he said of Burton, going on to describe someone somewhat like himself. "He's very true to his vision, to his world, his emotions.

"He proves that you can do things differently and stick around and be successful without compromising. He's a perfect example of a guy who doesn't play the game, but makes the game work for him."



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