April 28, 2022

An Odd Couple

I was surprised by how similar Sean Penn and Johnny Depp seemed to be and how weird.

Washington — I do not go to the movies. Oh, I go to reruns of “The Godfather,” “The Godfather: Part II” and “The Godfather: Part III.” (There was a “Godfather: Part III,” was there not?) I got a little tired of all those Italians eating pasta and killing each other. Seriously, I was raised in the suburbs of Chicago, and I grew up with the children of mafiosi. To this day, I am amazed at how true to life the Godfather movies were. At least their domestic scenes were realistic. There have been other movies that I have watched — “Patton” and, more recently, “Darkest Hour.” Yet as a rule, I avoid the movies. I am now working on my memoirs, and in looking back on it, I am reminded that there was a day when I could have become a movie buff.

One day, when I lived back in Bloomington, Indiana, my friend Steve Tesich came to town and needed help with the production of his movie that would eventually win an Academy Award, “Breaking Away.” The mayor of Bloomington was giving Steve a hard time, and the president of Indiana University was, too. Steve thought I could win them over, which I did. I was particularly useful with the president of IU. All he wanted was a spot in the movie. Steve said that was no problem. I promised to put a pretty girl on the president’s lap in one scene. When it came time, Steve reneged. The scene was kept, however, with the fat president in it, but no pretty girl.

You can never trust Hollywood to produce accurately a real happening. “Breaking Away” was typical Hollywood. It was centered around a college bicycle race that had really taken place. In the race, a team composed of world-class swimmers and one very good bicyclist won. However, in the movie version, Hollywood tarted up the race with left-wing ideology, and the winning team was composed of hillbilly kids who did not actually go to Indiana University but got in the race by some kind of miracle. I liked the movie producer and director and, of course, Tesich, but the actors were not real people. They were all standing around waiting for their lines to be given to them.

I thought of the artificiality of the actors that I have known this past week when two actors made the news, Sean Penn and Johnny Depp. I was surprised by how similar they seemed to be and how weird. In the faraway past, the actors I have known were gentlemen, for instance: Charlton Heston, John Wayne and, of course, Ronald Reagan. After them, I have known fewer and fewer actors, and after seeing last week’s twosome, I know why. Penn and Depp could hardly formulate a sentence, and they were dressed like the garbageman. I say this not to insult garbagemen. After all, they dress to pick up the garbage. Penn and Depp were dressed presumably to be presented to the public. Both appeared in televised performances.

As I watched them dressed like slobs, their hangdog look proclaiming their inability to articulate a thought, I remembered the words of Vernon Jordan, the late civil rights leader and high-powered lawyer. He was not a great friend of mine, but he did from time to time say things that were worth repeating. One was that he dressed like a gentleman out of respect for his audiences. Neither Penn nor Depp would know what Jordan was talking about.

Penn was at least appearing on television to relate the details of his appearance in Ukraine, where he had stood up for freedom. It is unfortunate that he could not articulate that very well. Maybe he needed a speechwriter. There is hope for a movie actor such as Sean Penn. He seems to have the right values, if only he could articulate them. Get a good speechwriter, Mr. Penn, and a good tailor. The next time you are in London, stop off at Anderson & Sheppard, a Savile Row tailor. For Johnny Depp there is little hope. He was appearing before a court in a defamation proceeding against his former wife. It sounds to me like she treated him horribly. She allegedly threw bottles at him, chased him into the bathroom, and either she or the dog evacuated on his side of the bed. All these details and more are from The Washington Post. I do not know how his lawsuit will come out, but I would advise against an early remarriage.

And let us end this column again with a line Sean Penn and I both can agree on: Glory to Ukraine!


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