Johnny Depp On George Jung

Blow by Blow (Paperback)
by Ted Demme (Author) Johnny Depp (Introduction)


I arrived in New York City late, somewhere around 11.30 p.m., from Europe. With just enough jet lag to keep my peepers wide open for one too many hours - my brain crowded with the threat of Mr. Sun's arrival, knowing that soon he'd nudge me out of my snooze and into the world. I shut my eyes tight with the hope that he might be tardy.

Woke up the following morning - or rather, a couple of hours later - with a very prompt Mr. Sun stabbing through the black protection of my eyelids. The rotten bastard had found me.

I pitched and tossed and turned and spun - doing my best to avoid him - until I just couldn't take it anymore. I forced the heavy lids up and open and stared the eyeballs straight into the beastly light. I dunked my face into the pot of hot coffee and dove out the window and thus began the day. Things to do... Up. Awake. Onward. Forward.

I made my way downtown to St. Mark's Place to a bookstore of the low-down, the lowbrow, the bohemian, the subterranean-counterculture-drop-out types. My mission - to get my paws on some fine literature suitable for... well, you'll find out. First and foremost, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by the good doctor himself, Dr. Hunter S Thompson - a must for anyone and everyone... especially anyone in need of a serious excursion from their four walls. Second on the list, Tarantula by Bob Dylan - we need say nothing about him or his genius. Third, Kerouac - anything at all by ol'Jack... On The Road being the Bible. And why not throw in a little taste of Burroughs and Ginsberg while I'm at it.

I was taking these fine books to prison, to Otisville Federal Correctional Institution, to be specific. I was to meet up with one George Jung, a guest of said facility, Federal Inmate #19225-004.

The ride upstate took a coupla' few hours - I used this time to get through the several thousand questions that swirled inside my head, destined to be received by Mr. Jung. I pondered the answers and then threw them out of the window as I arrived at the prison.

A thick comfort of snow lay on the ground - the sun still pointed in my direction - I found myself standing outside the fence of a bland-looking institution with the benign façade of any Department of Motor Vehicles. And that's exactly what the place felt like inside... that is, until the first set of steel doors. Loaded down with many packets of filterless Camels for Federal Inmate #19225-004, the books purchased on my earlier mission and a pocketful of change for the soda pop machine (one of the very few luxuries allowed at visiting time), I was taken through the congested maze of inmates and their wives, children, lawyers and guards to a small room surrounded by reinforced glass, more steel doors, more buzzing, more clanging, etc. Within a minute or two of waiting in my fishbowl I was introduced to Inmate #19225-004. He stepped up with e crooked half-smile, deep squinted eyes and the weathered, broken, damaged soul of a pirate who'd seen too many days at sea. We greeted each other casually, if a bit warily, and within three minutes - and from then on, he was George and it was as if we'd known each other for a thousand years... or more.

For the next several hours we talked intensely... him doing most of it. I listened and watched him like a hawk spewing tale after tale, esoteric analogies, fact after fact, each one topping the previous. He was generous, he was gentle, he was hilarious, he was heartbreaking, he was all too human - a kind of outcast Zen Master who'd grabbed hold of life by the short and curlies and swung it around for all it was worth. Life, then, snuck up on him and bit him hard on the ass.

Among the many amazing wisdoms that George so generously shared with me, there is one in particular that haunts my thoughts constantly: 'One is the number and two is the one'. The most frightening thought of all is that I'm pretty sure I know what he means.

It's very rare in life that any person opens up their heart and soul to you with unlimited access to their most profound thoughts, dreams, fears, regrets, intimacies... even more rare when you've just met that person and, because of the obvious predicament, it's highly unlikely that you will be spending too much time with them in the near future. So for this and more, I owe a great debt of gratitude to George. And also for the honour of meeting him, knowing him, learning him and learning from him. All of this, along with the opportunity to portray George, was made possible courtesy of Ted Demme and Nick Cassavetes, who were the guys who had the nuts to take the ball and run with it in the first place.

I was asked to write an introduction to a book - a book that I know nothing about. They tell me it's a book of photographs and that these photographs were taken on the set of Blow. I don't know how to write about that. What I do know is, anything that happened on the set of that film only happened because of George... so I wrote about him. And although he was the one major ingredient that was physically missing from our set, his strength, his energy and his spirit was omnipresent.

To the Federal Government, George Jung is nothing more that a whopper stack of papers shoved into a filing cabinet collecting dust, another notch on their belt.

To Otisville Federal Correctional Institute, he is merely inmate #19225-004.

To his daughter Kristina, he is the father that she was never given the possibility of knowing or loving.

To me, he is not a number, he's not a convict, and he's not a criminal. He's a great man whose wisdom and knowledge, unfortunately, was greatly overshadowed by the choices and mistakes he made all those years ago when he hadn't even had time to brush himself off from the conditioning wrought upon him by his parents.

As I write these words and as you read them, George is almost definitely sitting on his bunk in a 4 x 8 foot cell, dreaming of the day that he, too, can be standing outside the fence of that bland-looking institution, far away from the clanging, buzzing steel doors of the inside... a thick comfort of snow on the ground, the sun pointed in his direction... Up. Awake. Onward. Forward.

May the wind always be at your back
And the sun upon your face
And the wings of destiny to carry you aloft
To dance with the stars...

Johnny Depp
Friday 13 April, 2001


Stephen Frasier said...

“Johnny Depp On George Jung” is a well-written, thoughtful piece; I was quite thrilled to find it online – especially now that I can not only enjoy reading about Depp’s experience interviewing Jung, but actually use it: I just finished watching “Blow” for the third or fourth time (I watch it every year or two) and I feel moved to write about it. Here is the post – backdated to July 28, 2011 for various reasons - which should be mostly finished by the time others see it, though I have yet to add any images from the film…
Blow: 2001 film, drug smuggling biopic

I experience a wide range of emotions each time I watch “Blow.” If I were fortunate enough to have a private conversation with Johnny Depp in confidence, I’d want to dig deeper about any similar experiences, temptations, thoughts – although, as someone who experienced financial success at an early age perhaps such temptations never arose. Or, perhaps Mr. Depp is too wise, too practical, too level-headed to be tempted down that shiny, slippery road.

Johnny Depp performed wonderfully as usual. For whatever reason, I particularly enjoy watching Depp portray realistic characters.

I have no idea why there aren't already thousands of comments here, given the certain existence of hordes of adoring Depp fans who'd surely love to make a comment on this blog. (I expect I will shortly find out that my comment won't be accepted…)

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on your blog, and the best to you!

Stephen Frasier – Nashville, Tennessee

Rach said...


Anonymous said...

George Jung was a great man? Are you kidding me? Why, because he spoke a few intelligent words? Or is it because he made millions of dollars? Words mean nothing in the shadow of one's actions. He not only made some bad choices, he lived them. That's not a show of greatness. I have mourned over too many people whose lives were lost and shattered from cocaine addiction. This man was a supplier. Yes, I know, people make their own choices, but that does not eliminate the wrongdoing in those who facilitate it. And now Jung is continuing to profit from his deleterious influence on weak minds by selling products? He's a leech to society, sucking the sanity out of vulnerable minds for his own self gain. Sorry Johnny, I don't see this man as "great" in any stretch of the mind. And honestly, Johnny, I see you in a much weaker light now too.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article and comments.

It's possible to supply a (generally frowned upon) commodity to society and still be a 'great' man.
I too have lost people due to addictions to illegal and legal stimulants but i have no wrath with the dealers.
Hell, let's throw the millions of Mcdonald's workers in prison for contributing to the severe obesity problems in the U.S. for SERVING up artery-clogging food.
Those addicted and those that supply have to accept the possible toll of those decisions.
Ultimately we are ALL responsible.

Great people make bad decisions all the time :-)

Forgiveness and compassion lacks most where it's needed most.

Johnny was obviously able to see beyond the veil of this man's mistakes and see a great man.

Another facet most people lack.

"One is the number and two is the one"


Anonymous said...

I agree with your comment about showing people compassion that need it the most, however spotlighting someone who has consciously focused their efforts on self gain at the expense of hurting others still should not be publicly revered. Society in general lacks values and moral conscious, which is why we are in such a terrible state. We do not need vulnerable minds seeing their idols promoting drug traffickers. There are so many people that should be revered for their heroism and selfless concern for humanity. Comparing George Jung to McDonald’s workers is an unfair comparison for the fact that many of the workers do not realize their contribution to the existing problem. But those who make the decisions to manufacture such unhealthy foods with full knowledge of the harm they cause are as reprehensible as any drug manufacturer and dealer. And you’re right; we are responsible for our decisions…when we KNOW what we are doing. McDonald’s execs know what they are doing as did George Jung. Their actions do not warrant any accolades. I can feel sorry for George Jung spending his life in prison, but his claim to fame is his drug trafficking career and there’s no greatness in that. And now too many anti-establishment, cloned minds feel that this is something to revere without really THINKING about the influence it has on society. Sorry, but there’s no greatness in putting conscious effort into something that causes misery and addictions.

Anonymous said...

I agree with johnny. Everyone makes mistakes. Blow is a wonderful movie.

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Anonymous said...

It’s called survival. How about the cookie you stole from the cookie jar as a child when mommy wasn’t looking? You wanna claim the proverbial “apples and oranges “ here,knock yourself out. How about a former president who’s grandmother died on election night. Talk about an ace in the hole. Great way to get the sympathy vote. Bottom line. People are people. Everyone has an agenda. I guarantee you we can dig in your closet and find some questionable shit.