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Johnny Depp Reveals He Beat Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, and Even Michael Jackson for the Role of ‘Edward Scissorhands’

Photo Credit: Dave Benett / WireImage / Getty Images and Twentieth Century Fox / Flaying / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Dave Benett / WireImage / Getty Images and Twentieth Century Fox / Flaying / MovieStillsDB

Sitting down for an untitled docuseries about director Tim Burton, actor Johnny Depp made a shocking revelation to director Tara Wood. He listed the people he was he was competing against for the titular role of Edward Scissorhands, and it’s pretty daunting. His competition was so stiff, that he almost backed off of going for the role entirely.

Depp wanted to break away from being ‘pigeonholed’

Johnny Depp posing with a handgun.
Actor Johnny Depp in character as Tom Hanson in “21 Jump Street” in Los Angeles, 1987. (Photo Credit: Bonnie Schiffman / Getty Images)

Prior to the making of Edward Scissorhands, Depp had just finished his stint on 21 Jump Street, where he starred as Tom Hanson, one of four young-looking officers to combat crime in school. He appeared in the television series from 1987 to 1990 and, near the end, really wanted to drop the teen idol reputation he felt he had been “pigeonholed” into. “In all honesty, I was probably doing my best for probably the last two years to get fired,” Depp said.

In order to “fight” the label he had earned from being on the show, Depp explained that taking on the role in John Waters’ Cry-Baby (1990) was the “first solid step in the direction I wanted to go.” By starring in that film, he was pretty much making fun of the image he was trying to shake.

He loved the script but didn’t think he’d get the part

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands.
Johnny Depp was up against some serious competition for the role. (Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox / Flaying / MovieStillsDB)

After reading the script, Depp knew he wanted the role. In the interview, he explained that the script has “passed through everything, anything, solid and went to the very core of whatever I am. The writing was beautiful. The character was beautiful. What I suppose [attracted] me emotionally was that Edward was me. It’s exactly what I should be doing.”

However, he had some stiff competition. He revealed that at the time, he was up against the likes of Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, and even Michael Jackson for the role. He explained that Cruise himself “was not far away from actually playing Edward Scissorhands — true story.” With all of these A-list celebrities gunning for the part, Depp convinced himself that Burton is “never going to cast me when everyone in Hollywood is after the part.”

He almost backed out

Headshot of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.
Director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp on February 25, 2010, in London, England. (Photo Credit: Jon Furniss / WireImage / Getty Images)

Burton himself was on a promising trajectory as he had just seen success from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985) and Beetlejuice (1988). With all of these different factors, Depp truly convinced himself he should just back out. “Tim’s really juggling because he’s getting hit by his agent, the studio, everybody. So I called my agent after reading the script and said, ‘Please cancel the meeting, I’m not going,'” he recalled

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Thankfully, as Depp described, “She said, ‘Are you f***ing nuts?'” Looking back, he explained why he had felt the way he felt prior to getting the role. “It was weird because there’s always that bastard in your skull that goes ‘Come on, man. You’re a TV actor guy.’ Because at that time it was almost either-or.” Ultimately, Depp “finally gave in” and met with Burton, and good thing too, because he ended up being the perfect fit for the part.

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This marked the beginning of decades-long collaborations between the actor and director, with other notable projects being Sleepy Hollow (1990), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), and Alice in Wonderland (2010).

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!