Is Johnny Depp British? His Different Accents Explained

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Johnny Depp is an incredibly famous actor and household name. People can easily cite a number of his popular films from Pirates of the Caribbean to Edward Scissor Hands, but if you ask people where he’s from you’ll likely get a wide range of answers.

Johnny Depp as American cocaine smuggler George Jung and Franka Potente as Barbara "Barbie" Buckley in the 2001 biographical crime film BlowJohnny Depp as American cocaine smuggler George Jung and Franka Potente as Barbara “Barbie” Buckley in the 2001 biographical crime film Blow

Depp has portrayed a number of characters with notable accents, but none quite as famous as that of Captain Jack Sparrow. He perfected the accent for the movie franchise and the English accent seems to have stuck around.

Johnny Depp based his British Jack Sparrow accent on Keith RichardsJohnny Depp based his British Jack Sparrow accent on Keith Richards

In most of his interviews, the dominant accent sounds British, but he’s been known to slip in and out of other accents like Australian and Irish. The odd mishmash of accents has left many people believing Depp to be British.

Is Johnny Depp an American citizen?

In actuality, Depp was born in Kentucky and spent most of his childhood in Florida. In his early films, such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Depp’s accent could solidly be classified as American.

Nick Corri, Amanda Wyss, Johnny Depp, and Heather Langenkamp starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street, a 1984 American slasher film written and directed by Wes CravenNick Corri, Amanda Wyss, Johnny Depp, and Heather Langenkamp starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street, a 1984 American slasher film written and directed by Wes Craven

“I’m certainly not ready to give up my American citizenship. You don’t have to give up your American citizenship,” he adds sarcastically, but then he’d have to pay tax in both countries, “so you essentially work for free,” he said in an interview with The Guardian in November 2011.

His speech was clear and crisp when he spoke, but as he’s gotten older, it’s become increasingly difficult to pinpoint his accent. 

Johnny Depp’s notable accents

Depp’s regular speaking voice may throw a lot of people off, but he has nailed several different accents for his film roles. The role people commonly associate with Depp is his long-time character Captain Jack Sparrow.

Amber Heard’s ex-husband has repeatedly donned this role over the years as Hollywood produced six films in the popular franchise.

21 Jump Street, an American police procedural television series, provided a spark to Johnny Depp's nascent acting career when it ran from April 12, 1987, to April 27, 199121 Jump Street, an American police procedural television series, provided a spark to Johnny Depp’s nascent acting career when it ran from April 12, 1987, to April 27, 1991

The accent used in these movies is based on Keith Richards, an English musician best known for playing the guitar and singing vocals with The Rolling Stones.

Depp received praise for his performance in the pirate films and for his grasp on the slightly drunken English accent he produced.

The character of Jack Sparrow isn’t the only one that required an English accent, either. In his portrayal of Sweeney Todd, Depp took on a slightly different English accent.

This role required a Londoner’s cockney accent, but Depp managed to compellingly capture the tough dialect with passion.

Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow, a 1999 American gothic supernatural horror filmJohnny Depp and Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow, a 1999 American gothic supernatural horror film

An English accent isn’t the only one Depp has perfected. He was also praised for his Scottish accent in the movie Finding Neverland.

He studied tirelessly with voice coaches to perfect the Aberdonian accent needed for his character, and his studying paid off.

Critics were very impressed with his Scottish accent and native speakers even agreed his accent was impressive.

Johnny Depp portrayed Scottish writer J. M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, a 2004 historical fantasy drama filmJohnny Depp portrayed Scottish writer J. M. Barrie in Finding Neverland, a 2004 historical fantasy drama film

“There is a gravity to Glasgow in terms of the accent. There is a gravity and strength to it that I really appreciated,” he said at the premiere of Alice in Wonderland. His portrayal of the Mad Hatter was inspired by a Scottish accent.

Overall, Johnny Depp is known as an American actor who can pull off accents quite well.

More often than not, American actors are criticized for their impression of other accents because they don’t properly mimic the various intonations, pitches, and other characteristics that go into the language.

Depp, however, defies expectations in his films by studiously learning the accents required to make his characters feel authentic. 

The reason Depp has an odd accent

Although Depp can imitate an English or Scottish accent perfectly for a role, his original accent has become lost over the years.

There have been a number of theories proposed to explain why his accent seems to dip in and out of British, Scottish, and even touches of Australian.

Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron in The Astronaut's Wife, a 1999 American science fiction thriller filmJohnny Depp and Charlize Theron in The Astronaut’s Wife, a 1999 American science fiction thriller film

Some people think he embodies his characters so deeply and has worked with these accents on enough occasions that he forgot how to speak in his normal American voice.

Other people believe he’s doing it for attention. After his rocky marriage and a recent divorce, people believe Depp might be using the odd accents to gain attention and spark sympathy. 

Another group thinks it’s possible that Depp has Foreign Accent Syndrome. FSA is a speech disorder that causes a person to speak with what is perceived as a “foreign” accent.

According to National Public Radio, it’s extremely rare and only about 100 people have ever been officially diagnosed with the condition.

In most instances, FSA was caused by some form of brain damage either through a stroke, aneurysm, or blunt force trauma. It’s unclear what would have caused FSA for Johnny Depp, but given his history of drug use, it’s easy to speculate about a head injury or other brain damage.

Johnny Depp as Morton "Mort" Rainey and Maria Bello as Amy Rainey in Secret Window, a 2004 American psychological horror-thriller filmJohnny Depp as Morton “Mort” Rainey and Maria Bello as Amy Rainey in Secret Window, a 2004 American psychological horror-thriller film

The other confusing aspect of Depp’s accent is that while it sounds mainly British, Depp has never lived in Britain. He is an American citizen who mainly lives in Los Angeles, France, and the Bahamas.

Ultimately, Depp’s shifting accent can’t be fully explained. He continues to confuse fans with his British/American/Scottish accent, but his difficultly reverting back to his natural accent luckily hasn’t impacted his acting career.

Credit: WENN

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