New Edition Excerpt


Nine days after Lily-Rose fell seriously ill, and she was discharged from hospital, Johnny and Vanessa took her back to the London hotel where they had set up home while he filmed Sweeney Todd at Pinewood. As one hotel onlooker observed, when they arrived from Great Ormond Street, ‘Johnny carefully lifted her from the car, held her close and carried her in. He looked exhausted and ill with worry.’ Not surprising when you consider that his daughter was lucky to have survived what has since been described as a very serious medical condition. It was, said friends and colleagues, ‘certainly touch and go for while.’

Despite initial reports that Lily-Rose had blood poisoning that spread through her body to affect her most vital organs, it turned that it was not blood poisoning at all, but a bout of the lethal E coli virus that caused one of her kidneys to shut down, and placed her on the critically ill list, which became even more of a concern when she did not respond to treatment. According to most medical journals E coli is a type of food poisoning that is commonly caused by improperly cooked meat, unpasteurized milk or water contamination. But certain strains can get into the blood causing a rare but very serious infection. It is a bacteria which normally lives inside the intestines where it helps break down and digest food. It has up to a 50 percent mortality rate in the elderly and children under five, and can also lead to long-term kidney and sight problems. And it was that ‘very serious infection’ which knocked Lily-Rose for six.

Facing their darkest hours, days and nights, Johnny and Vanessa kept a round-the-clock bedside vigil until their seven-year-old daughter pulled through and was well enough to go home. ‘It gave us a great scare,’ Johnny recalls. ‘What got us through this wasn’t the strength of Vanessa or me, but our daughter and her incredible ability to make us feel okay even though she was very unwell. She was super-strong. It was a very bumpy patch, but she has come through it beautifully and unscathed, and she is now as healthy as she always was. She is wonderful. It was a reminder to us of how lucky we are to be able to breathe, walk, talk, think and surround ourselves with people we love.’

It was something that Johnny’s Los Angeles spokesperson, Robin Baum confirmed. ‘We are happy to report that their daughter is doing much better. The family greatly appreciates the continued support and respect of their privacy.’ The apprecation that Baum was referring to was how the press had refused to reveal details about Lilly-Rose’s medical condition or the location of the hospital where she was being treated, ‘out of respect for the family’s privacy.’

Johnny and Vanessa were grateful. It would be some months before Johnny could bring himself to speak publicly, as any parent would, about the pain that had affected him and Vanessa, so much, and at one stage, even threatened his departure from the set of Sweeney Todd. He even called Tim Burton to tell him that he should perhaps recast. ‘It was a very bumpy patch,’ says Johnny. ‘To say it was the darkest moment, that’s nothing. It doesn’t come close to describing it. Words are so small. Now every single millisecond is a mini-celebration. Every time we get to breathe in and exhale is a huge victory. She pulled through beautifully, perfectly, with no lasting anything.’

The cast and crew at Pinewood were also ecstatic to hear the news. ‘We adjusted the schedule to accommodate Johnny’s needs at this moment. We understand that Lily-Rose is improving. Obviously, everybody at the studio is certainly with them in their good spirits.’ Not that Johnny expected what he did out of love to be turned into something heroic. As one journalist remarked, quite ironically, ‘Isn’t it interesting how when Johnny Depp demonstrates he’s a devoted and thoughtful dad, the impossible happens, he gets even hotter!’

As if to prove his appreciation for the ‘wonderful care and treatment’ the medical staff provided to his family, less than nine months later, Johnny made an unannounced visit to Great Ormond Street Hospital to donate £1million to their fundraising drive. They needed to raise £170million in five years as part of a redevelopment and expansion programme. Even then, Johnny was still describing the ordeal over his daughter’s illness as ‘the most frightening thing we have ever been through.’ Disney, the studio behind Johnny’s Pirates of the Caribbean films also donated £10million. And if that was not enough, Johnny had already spent time at the hospital some months earlier reading bedtime stories to patients while dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow. It was, all enthused, a remarkably gracious thing for him to do.

Once Johnny and Vanessa were given the all clear about Lily Rose’s health, he dived straight back into work. He was only too aware that the production of Sweeney Todd was now behind schedule, and that he had to get back to Pinewood as quickly as he could to complete the filming, which in the end, wrapped, just in time, for him to cut into the promotion for the third Pirates outing that was due to open worldwide on Memorial Day weekend, the traditional start to the U.S. summer movie season.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End had its world premiere at Disneyland on May 19, 2007. It is where thousands of fans lined Main Street to watch Johnny and his colleagues walk the red carpet. Like its predecessor, At World’s End brought moviegoers to the box office in their droves and in no time whatsoever, it had become the top-grossing film in the world for its year of release, earning more than $961 million at the box-office and went onto to become the fifth highest-grossing film of all time. Critical reaction was mixed at best, but the general consensus was that it was far too complicated to follow. Just two weeks earlier, the debut of Spiderman 3 with its biggest movie opening ever for the month of May was promptly broken when World’s End burst onto 4,362 screens across America.

Not long after World’s End had opened, there was talk of a fourth sequel. Obviously, Johnny admits, virtually no cinema’s perfect. ‘Pirates One had its own thing, Two and Three, I suppose, had their own thing, and it got a little confusing here and there in the story, not that I’ve seen the movies, but I hear tell,’ he laughs. ‘I think, for me, because I love the character so much and I enjoy playing the character so much and people seem to like it, if there’s an opportunity to try again, you know, it’s like going up to bat. You want to get back out there and try and try and try and see what you can do. I enjoy playing Captain Jack very much.’

Having got over one hurdle, Johnny was to soon face another. The news of Heath Ledger’s tragic and untimely death in New York from a drug overdose in January 2008, just one month after Sweeney Todd had been released, left Johnny’s old ally, Terry Gilliam, in a quandry and without a star for his then latest film in production, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. In fact, Gilliam was presiding over concept art when he was informed by phone that Ledger had died. His initial thought, after getting over the shock and sadness of Ledger’s premature departure was that the film was over, and like some of his previous casulaties, would be abandoned and shut down, and no one would ever get to see Ledger’s final work. As expected, the production was suspended indefinitely…