He has collaborated with director and close friend Tim Burton in seven films, the most recent of which include Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and the upcoming Alice in Wonderland. Depp garnered acclaim for his portrayals of real life figures such as Edward Wood, Jr., in Ed Wood.
Films featuring Depp have grossed over $2.2 billion at the United States box office and over $4.7 billion worldwide. Depp has been nominated for three Academy Awards and has won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Depp was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, the son of Betty Sue Palmer (née Wells), and John Christopher Depp, Sr. He has one brother, Danny, and two sisters, Christie (now his personal manager) and Debbie. Depp has German, Cherokee (mostly from a great-grandmother), and Irish ancestry. According to biographies, the Depp family originated with a French Huguenot, Pierre Deppe or Dieppe, who settled in Virginia around 1700. Depp stated he did not know the origin of his surname and joked that the name translates to "idiot" in German, though it is actually a minor insult meaning "fool". The family moved frequently during Depp's childhood, and he and his siblings lived in more than 20 different locations, settling in Miramar, Florida, in 1970. In 1978, Depp's parents divorced. He engaged in self-harm as a child, due to the stress of dealing with family problems and his own insecurity. He has seven or eight scars from practicing self-harm. In a 1993 interview, he explained his self-injury by saying, "My body is a journal in a way. It's like what sailors used to do, where every tattoo meant something, a specific time in your life when you make a mark on yourself, whether you do it yourself with a knife or with a professional tattoo artist".
Depp's mother bought her son a guitar when he was 12, and Depp began playing in various garage bands. His first band was in honor of his girlfriend, Meredith. A year after his parents' divorce, Depp dropped out of high school to become a rock musician. As he once explained on Inside the Actors Studio, he attempted to go back to school two weeks later, but the principal told him to follow his dream of being a musician. He played with The Kids, a band that enjoyed modest local success. The Kids set out together for Los Angeles in pursuit of a record deal, changing their name to Six Gun Method. The group split before signing a record deal. Depp subsequently collaborated with the band Rock City Angels and co-wrote their song "Mary", which appeared on Rock City Angels' debut for Geffen Records titled Young Man's Blues.
On December 24, 1983, Depp married Lori Anne Allison, a makeup artist and sister of his band's bass player and singer. During Depp's marriage, his wife worked as a makeup artist while he worked a variety of odd jobs, including a telemarketer for ink pens. Later, his wife introduced him to actor Nicolas Cage, who advised Depp to pursue an acting career. In 1985, Depp and Allison divorced. After his marriage ended, Depp dated and was engaged to Sherilyn Fenn (whom he met on the set of the 1985 short film Dummies).
In 1994, Depp was arrested and questioned by police for allegedly causing serious damage to a New York City hotel suite. He was arrested again in 1999 for brawling with paparazzi outside a restaurant while dining in London with his girlfriend, Vanessa Paradis. Since 1998, following a relationship with British supermodel Kate Moss, Depp has had a relationship with Vanessa Paradis, a French actress and singer whom he met while filming The Ninth Gate.
The couple have two children. Daughter Lily-Rose Melody Depp was born May 27, 1999, Son John "Jack" Christopher Depp III was born April 9, 2002. In 2007, his daughter recovered from a serious illness, an E. coli infection that began to cause her kidneys to shut down and resulted in an extended hospital stay. However, earlier sources reported that she had blood poisoning due to stepping on a rusty tack.
Although Depp has not remarried, he has stated that having children has given him "real foundation, a real strong place to stand in life, in work, in everything. "You can't plan the kind of deep love that results in children. Fatherhood was not a conscious decision. It was part of the wonderful ride I was on. It was destiny; kismet. All the math finally worked." The family divides its time between their home in Meudon, located in the suburbs of Paris, Los Angeles, and their villa in Le Plan-de-la-Tour, a small town an hour and a half from Saint-Tropez, in the south of France. Depp also acquired a vineyard estate in the Plan-de-la-Tour area in 2007.
Depp has 13 tattoos, many of them signifying important persons or events in his life. They include an American Indian in profile and a ribbon reading "Wino Forever" (originally "Winona Forever", altered after his breakup with Winona Ryder) on his right biceps, "Lily-Rose" (his daughter's name) over his heart, "Betty Sue" (his mother's name) on his left biceps, and a sparrow flying over water with the word "Jack" (his son's name; the sparrow is flying towards him rather than away from him as it is in Pirates of the Caribbean) on his right forearm.
In 2003, Depp comments about the United States appeared in Germany's Stern magazine, commenting that "America is dumb, it's something like a dumb puppy that has big teeth — that can bite and hurt you, aggressive." Although he later asserted that the magazine misquoted him and the quotation was taken out of context, Stern stood by its story, as did CNN.com in its coverage of the interview. CNN added his remark that he would like his children "to see America as a toy, a broken toy. Investigate it a little, check it out, get this feeling and then get out." The July 17, 2006 edition of Newsweek reprinted the "dumb puppy" quotation, verbatim, within the context of a letter to the Magazine. Depp has also disagreed with subsequent media reports that he says paint him as a "European wannabe" who enjoys the "simpler" life and anonymity that living in France provides.