Johnny Depp has stayed pretty low key since his split with longtime partner Vanessa Paradis, but he came to the Toronto International Film Festival on Saturday, wearing his usual scarves and bracelets and a pair of blue-tinted sunglasses, to talk about something close to his heart: the documentary West of Memphis.
The doc – about three teen boys who were arrested, convicted, and sent to prison for allegedly killing three 8-year-olds in Arkansas and who served 18 years in prison before getting released – also premiered at the fest Saturday. Depp is good friends with one of the now men, Damien Echols, who joined Depp, the film’s director, Amy Berg, and Echols’ wife, Lorri Davis, at a press conference (director and big supporter Peter Jackson joined via Skype).
“It became a witch hunt,” said Depp, speaking in slow, deep-voiced sentences, about how the Memphis Three, as they’re called, were zeroed in on and convicted.
Depp, overly modest about his own involvement (he took in Echols after he was released from prison), also downplayed his own celebrity status. “I’m essentially a gas station attendant with a very strange job,” he said. “I don’t think of myself as a celebrity.” Of course the rest of the world certainly does.
Echols, who said he maintains some sort of balance post prison by meditating and spending time with his wife, talked about always feeling grateful to both Depp and Jackson. “They were there to catch us the day after prison,” he said. Depp also reaffirmed his interest in a feature project about Echols.
Depp himself gushed, as a friend, about the former inmate, also a new author, with a book about his experience out Sept. 18. The pair, both wearing sunglasses, their hair long and shaggy, shared a total rocker aesthetic.
“There was an instant connection. There was a brotherly love too,” said Depp. When Echols first arrived at his home, Depp added, “We had Tater Tots and tacos, and a natural course of events took place, and we went to the tattoo parlor.”
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