My mother taught me a lot of things. The first thing that comes to mind is: Don’t take any sh* off anyone, ever. When I was a little kid, we moved constantly. Bully picks on you in the new place? Don’t ever take any sh* off anyone, ever. Eloquent and right.
My life is my life because of Tim. Definitely.
This is Tim Burton in a nutshell: We were doing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I was on the set. We were shooting, working, working, working. All great. Everything’s cool. One of my pals comes up and says, “Helena [Bonham Carter, Burton’s partner] just called. When you get a moment, she’d like you to give her a call back.” “Okay,” I say. “As soon as I’m done on set, I’ll go back to my trailer and give her a call.” So I go back to the trailer, call Helena, and say, “Hey, what’s going on?” I thought maybe Helena had a question about little boys because Billy was a little baby then and I’ve got two kids. So I say, “Is everything all right?” And she says, “Billy’s fine. Everything’s fine. But, well, you know how Tim is. He wants to know if you’d be . . . he’d like for you to be Billy’s godfather.” I say, “But I was just with Tim. I was with him three minutes ago. I had to leave him to walk back to the trailer to call you.” So she called me to ask because Tim just couldn’t. That was his way of asking. I went back to the set and said thank you, told him that I was honored. It doesn’t get heavier than saying I’d like you to be the godfather of my son. But he’s not ever going to put himself into a corny kind of situation with a pal. He’s like, “Good, yeah, yeah.” Boom. “Let’s get back into the work.”
The characters are always there and, depending on the situation, not far from the surface. So they show up every now and again. It can’t be good for you. It just can’t. Then again, who knows?
I don’t think anybody’s necessarily ready for death. You can only hope that when it approaches, you feel like you’ve said what you wanted to say. Nobody wants to go out in mid-sentence.
I’m in a very privileged position. And I’m certainly not going to bite the hand that feeds me. I like doing the work. But I’m not a great fan of all the stuff that goes along with it. I don’t want to be a product. Of course you want the movies to do well. But I don’t want to have to think about that stuff. I don’t want to know who’s hot now and who’s not and who’s making this much dough. I want to remain ignorant of all this. I want to be totally outside and far away from all of it.
I remember one time I had done some television interview, and they asked about my family life and kids. I talked about how I’m a proud father and how much I love my kids and how they’re fun and what we do and how it’s great. I was thinking that if in twenty-five, thirty years my kids watch old footage, I’d be proud for them to see their dad saying how much he loves them. Well, the show aired, and I get a phone call. “What the f** are you doing?” I said, “Marlon, what are you talking about?” He said, “That’s none of their business!” I tried to say, “Marlon, listen, man, I only wanted my kids to . . .” And it was like he gave me this sort of once-over. “You don’t do it, man. That’s your world and it’s nobody else’s business. It’s not anybody’s entertainment.” And he was right.
There’s no limit to the possibilities of what I could do to the paparazzi if I catch them photographing my children.
You don’t go through the front door of hotels anymore, you go through the garage. Or you go through the kitchen of a restaurant. Some people want to think that’s cool, that’s exciting. But it’ll definitely make you a little weird if you’re constantly being stared at. Part of the process that I’ve always enjoyed is being the observer. You know, just watching people and learning. At a certain point, the reversal took place. I was no longer the observer — I was being observed. That’s obviously very dangerous because part of an actor’s job is to observe.
My definition of freedom is simplicity, really. Anonymity. I’m sure it will be a possibility someday again. Maybe when I get old. They get tired of you.
“Didn’t you use to be Johnny Depp?” That will be the clincher.