By Denise Pearson
Early last year in August, it was brought to my attention that the film crew of “Richard says Goodbye”, starring Johnny Depp, were due to arrive at Hatley Manor on the 22nd and that this was possibly my opportune moment to meet the celebrity I have emulated for the last 15 years.
Due to poor timing, our daughter and I tried unsuccessfully to meet Mr. Depp a year before when he was on set Pirates of the Caribbean 5 re-shoot which was filmed on location in Vancouver. Almost a year later, the fact that Mr. Depp was now arriving in my own backyard (figuratively speaking) all sounded so spectacular and too easy, and yet I was fully aware that even arriving on set was going to be a huge gamble whether I would see him or be told to leave as soon as I arrived. This led me to have second thoughts about going. Meeting icons is much like winning a lottery if you tried. Our daughter persisted to encourage me via texts and ultimately a a phone call haunting me with the words “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. My husband was equally supportive, reminding me “think of the next day, when you are sitting at your desk at work, staring at your computer and thoughts of ‘what if’ starts to mess with you”. I got dressed into my Jack attire, (not to show it off, but in hopes to draw enough ‘unusual’ attention as a female Jack on set) and headed down to Royal Roads. Upon my arrival the situation was by no means easy, even though I was dressed as a JD character. I respected the guidelines and that all crew members were under strict orders to deny any information to visitors, me included.
After an hour and half I got my lucky break. Apparently, at that point, most of the crew on location were aware that a “female” Captain Sparrow was roaming the grounds of Royal Roads, which actually sort of concerned me.
“As long as you’re not put in handcuffs, you still have a chance”, a crew member teased.
Minutes later, I was told Johnny Depp and his bodyguard Jerry were also aware of my presence and shockingly both wanted to meet me as they were leaving the set for a short break. I arrived at the main security check point just in time to see a black SUV pull out past the barricade. The tinted back window rolled down, and there before me was a very familiar face sporting a big smile. As he and his entourage were all piling out of the vehicle, I introduced myself and shook hands with his bodyguard before I walked over to Mr. Depp to whom I said, “I am not going to lie, but I am a deer in the headlights at this very moment and this is happening….” as I raised my hands showing everyone they were shaking. The genuine, charming and very kind soul that Johnny Depp is, said “Oh good, I am too” as he raised his hands shaking. I laughed and thanked him for that fabulous icebreaker, as he accompanied it with a hug to give further comfort and support. We discussed his visit to BC Children’s Hospital as he and his bodyguard were aware that I had also visited it in the fall of 2012 dropping off a donation with another pirate from the Cowichan Valley. Of course cross dressing was a topic that was discussed. He as a woman in past films such as “Ed Wood” and “Before Night Falls” along with an episode on “21 Jump Street”, and myself as him and a handful of his characters, which he seemed pleasantly taken by. I had a couple of photos on my person, one of me dressed as another one of his characters with a second photo of me as him. He seemed genuinely captivated. His bodyguard was absolutely incredible, engaging and very generous in allowing me 10 minutes with an icon who has inspired me in so many ways over the years, even though they were on a tight schedule. When it was time to say goodbye, I was given another hug, as Mr. Depp got whisked away by his entourage back to his trailer.
The whole experience was quite overwhelming. Meeting Johnny Depp was one thing, but noticing that his personal team seemed quite comfortably at ease with me, was a huge compliment. I believe they were convinced I wasn’t a crazed fan by many crew members who were observing me prior to the meet. At one point they were beginning to root for this opportunity to come to fruition. I also got exceedingly lucky with lots of incredible photos taken by a crew member bystander and I believe Mr. Depp’s personal driver, to whom I gave my camera. I can’t be more honoured and flattered as I am, with that day.