Initially known as a teen idol thanks to his role on 21 Jump Street and tortured pretty-boy looks, Johnny Depp survived the perils of adolescent heartthrob status to earn a reputation as a respected adult actor. His numerous collaborations with director Tim Burton, as well as solid performances in a number of critically acclaimed films, have allowed Depp to carve a niche for himself as a serious, if idiosyncratic performer, a real-life role that has continuously surprised critics intent on writing him off as just another photogenic Tiger Beat casualty.
Born in Kentucky and raised in Florida,Depp had the kind of upbringing that would readily lend itself to his future portrayals of brooding lost boys. After his parents divorced when he was 16, he dropped out of school a year later in the hopes of making his way in the world as a musician. Depp fronted a series of garage bands; the most successful of these, the Kids, was once the opening act for Iggy Pop. During slack times in the music business, Depp sold pens by phone. He got introduced to acting after a visit to L.A. with his former wife, who introduced him to actor Nicolas Cage, who encouraged Depp to give it a try. The young actor made his film debut in 1984's A Nightmare on Elm Street (years after attaining stardom, Depp sentimentally played a cameo in the last of the Elm Street series), and his climb to fame was accelerated in 1987, when he replaced Jeff Yagher in the role of Officer Tom Hanson, a cop assigned to do undercover duty by posing as a student in crime-ridden Los Angeles-area high schools, in the Canadian-filmed Fox TV series 21 Jump Street (1987-90). Biding his time in "teen heartthrob" roles, Depp was first given a chance to exhibit his exhausting versatility in the title role of Tim Burton's fantasy Edward Scissorhands (1990).