In 1994, the young Johnny Depp was offered the role of a young man who believes he is the world’s greatest lover, Don Juan. The young man, Don Juan DeMarco, is carted off to a psychiatric care unit and becomes the patient of Dr Jack Mickler, who is due to retire in less than a fortnight.
Depp liked the script, and liked the role, but he could only see Marlon Brando in the role of Dr Mickler, and refused to do it unless Brando was cast. “They looked at me as if I was insane,” Depp told Sky Magazine in June 1995. That wasn’t surprising. Brando was still held in awe, the greatest actor of his generation, a veritable cinema god - would Depp's career ever reach such dizzy heights?
But Brando, as it turned out, liked the script as well, and with Faye Dunaway as Marilyn Mickler, the three created a movie of enduring charm and cult status. It also serves, since Brando’s death in 2004, as a memorial to the legacy he left behind, and passed on to younger actors. Right to the end, Brando delivered memorable and deeply moving performances, and was gracious and generous to those who worked with him – especially those to whom the torch was passed on.
For once upon a time, Brando had been all that Depp encompassed on the screen and especially in the role of Don Juan DeMarco. As a young man, and the prince of Hollywood, he was the beautiful young man of the silver screen, one of the most gifted actors of all time, the man with mesmerizing eyes, silky voice and unforgettable screen presence. He starred with the greatest leading ladies of his era, played definitive roles like Stanley Kawolski in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Sky Masterson in Guys And Dolls. Later, his career included other iconic roles in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, among many others. His fame and his charisma never waned. He was legendary - he was awesome.
But for an actor with such a proud movie pedigree, Brando was a surprisingly modest man, whose thoughts did not revolve around movies and Hollywood. He espoused many causes in his life, and left a legacy of responsibility as a human being to the world he lived in that has been taken up by many young actors, such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. To Johnny Depp, however, he passed on the legacy of his own awesomeness.
But it is his kindness and humor that Depp remembers. He worked with Brando again, on a production that he directed, called The Brave in 1997. The story tied in with one of the causes Brando was most passionate about – the plight of Native Americans. In fact, it was so important to Depp that he refused to show it in the United States after poor reviews there. This is reminiscent of Brando’s refusal to accept an Oscar award in person – instead he sent a young Native American to speak for her people.
Don Juan Demarco is full of magic and gentle humor. The scenes in the Sultan’s harem, of Don Juan’s early life, and of Dr Mickler shedding his skin and romancing his still beautiful wife are filled with charm. For me, the one scene that makes my heart race is when Dr Mickler asked his wife what she wanted all those years when he was pursuing his dreams, and she says, “I thought you’d never ask.” Even the movie’s theme song, Have you Ever Really Loved a Woman by Bryan Adams, has some magic to it as it changes mysteriously to suit whatever is happen ing on the screen.
A classic of the screen, even more so for the presence of the legendary Brando, and the man destined to become a legend.
I paid for this DVD with my own funds.