Keith Richards and Johnny Depp’s Friendship Dates Back Long Before ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’

Keith Richards is a rock icon. As a founding member of the Rolling Stones, he has survived decades in the music scene, releasing legendary songs and building a catalog inspiring generations. These days, Richards is still touring the world, rocking and rolling in his late 70s. He’s also good friends with several other notable rebels, including Johnny Depp. The actor notoriously based his Pirates of the Caribbean character, Captain Jack Sparrow, on Richards. And over the years, the two celebrities have opened up about their close friendship and the inspiration they find in each other.

Johnny Depp famously based Captain Jack Sparrow on Keith Richards

Johnny Depp was one of Hollywood’s brightest character actors when landed the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the 2003 Disney hit Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. However, audiences were scarcely prepared for his take on the quirky pirate. As Jack, Depp slurred his words, wore copious amounts of eyeliner, and walked with a swagger that viewers might have found familiar.

Depp later revealed that part of his inspiration for Jack was Keith Richards, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s original bad boys.

“I started trying to figure out pirates of the 18th century and sort of what it was all about … I think it also had much more to do with freedom … to be out there, moving forward,” Depp said of his portrayal. “So I sort of thought that pirates would be the rock ‘n’ roll stars of the 18th century, you know? Then, when you think of rock ‘n’ roll stars … the coolest rock ‘n’ roll star of all time, in my opinion, is Keith Richards.”

When did Johnny Depp and Keith Richards become friends?

Keith Richards Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean
Keith Richards and Johnny Depp in January 1998 in Las Vegas | KMazur/WireImage

Keith Richards was far from offended at Depp’s take on his mannerisms. In fact, the rocker later portrayed Jack’s father, Captain Teague, in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. He reprised the role in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Still, their work in the successful franchise was not the first time Depp met one of his heroes. The two had been friends for nearly a decade by the time the actor based Sparrow on his rock idol.

According to a 2007 Rolling Stone article, the two first crossed paths in the late ’90s.

“At first it was like, ‘Not another one of my fucking son’s friends,” Richards joked. “Johnny started kind of like that, and then he worked his way up with me.”

Depp and Richards bonded over a mutual love of music, specifically obscure blues tracks. 

Are the actor and the Rolling Stone still close?

Another 2007 Rolling Stone article details the great mutual respect between Johnny Depp and Keith Richards.

“He’s always been very gracious, very sweet, very nice, welcoming, and hospitable,” Depp said of the rocker.

Richards described working with the actor as “great fun,” making it clear he would be open to more collaborations with Depp.

Although Johnny Depp and Keith Richards haven’t shared the screen since 2011’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, they’ve worked together on other projects. Notably, the actor has long been involved in the creation and direction of a Richards-focused documentary featuring a roster of famous guest stars.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the film also includes several exclusive performances by Richards and his band X-Pensive Winos. The documentary has yet to see a release date, but because Depp and Richards are still good friends, it’s possible the two are still adding footage to the flick.

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