Johnny Depp, The Rum Diary, Alice In Wonderland

GK Films; Disney

When it comes to box office, I have a theory about Johnny Depp: he's only popular when he looks weird. Back me up on this.
—Obvious C., via the inbox

Johnny Depp has a rep as one of the world's sexiest men, but only, apparently, when he sits very still. Say, on the cover of Vanity Fair.

As soon as Johnny wants to move about on a screen, people don't want to see him in his underwear, seducing Amber Heard. They want to see him smeared in charcoal and grease paint, lurching like an extra on The Walking Dead.

It's true. I have the proof!

The numbers, they do not lie. Let's start with films where Depp does not look recently deceased or diseased:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Made $10 million, per ERC box office analyst Jeff Bock.

Ed Wood: $5 million.

Cry Baby: $8 million.

The Tourist: 'Bout $67 million domestic. That sounds just fine, until you learn that the Angelina Jolie movie cost, um, $100 million.

And of course, there's The Rum Diary, which recently bombed with a roughly $5 million opening weekend. (Ouch. Somebody pour the man a mojito.)

Now for Depp's freakshow projects:

Alice in Wonderland: $334 million.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: $206 million.

Pirates of the Caribbean I, II, III, IV, V, etc: Eight bazillion trillion dollars.

Wild card projects:

Sleepy Hollow: $101 million. Depp wasn't the guy with the punkin for a head in that one, so I can't put it up there with the others.

Same deal with...

Sweeney Todd: $53 million. "For a musical about cannibalism though, I'd say that's pretty decent," Bock notes. "That was another one where he was playing a character that was freaky real, vs., say, freaky freakish."

So, at this point you are wailing, lo, Answer B!tch! What does all this mean? Does it mean that America is scared of Depp's sophisticated faux-euro sexiness?

No. No it does not.

There is another general commonality among all of Depp's wig-and-eyeliner projects: they are also, by their very nature, family films. Unlike Ed Wood or Fear and Loathing, they attract more than one sector of the American audience.

And that means more money. Much, much more money.

"Fact is, Johnny Depp is one of the last true movie stars, but even he is not impervious to box office bombs," Bock says. "It still has to reach multiple demographics, and the best way to do that is through blockbusters, or family films."

Bring on the grease paint.

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