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Though Garcia had made a few high-powered contacts during his time as a screenwriter in Los Angeles, he wanted to avoid going through the typical film-industry channels. "I've always considered art a level playing field," he explains, "so I wanted to see if we could get around all the Hollywood red tape and actually get a true response from the artist. At the same time, we realized that getting to Depp is an incredibly arduous task. Being filmmakers, we decided it had to be documented. It's like three sugar ants trying to move a '67 Buick. You have to tape it just because they might."
Thus was born Do It for Johnny, a documentary about getting Narcophonic and its accompanying guitar into the hands of Captain Jack Sparrow.
Garcia recruited Scott, his old stage manager from his days as a musician, to serve as a logistics man; his friend Deel to act as a one-man camera-and-sound crew; and Darcy Grabowski, who'd suggested Depp for the Narcophonic role, as a co-producer. They sold executive-producer credits on eBay, collecting $5,000 for one from a Hollywood-producer friend of Garcia's, Giovanni Agnelli, who gave the credit to Farrah Fawcett as a gift; the filmmakers used the cash to buy the Turtle. And they set up a website, www.doitforjohnny.com, to both spread the word about their project -- Garcia keeps a running diary of the documentary's progress -- and collect information about Depp's whereabouts.
They contacted Sky Wilson, a journalist and indie filmmaker in the United Kingdom, who last September tracked Depp down to the Pinewood Studios outside of London, where he was filming Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- but was unable to reach him. In October, the filmmakers traveled to DeppCon in Los Angeles, the first annual Johnny Depp convention, where it was rumored the star might make an appearance. No go. When they left Colorado last month, they drove first to Texas, to chase down legendary independent filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, in hopes that he might sympathize with their indie spirit; they didn't get as far as Rodriguez's publicist. They hoped to salvage their Texas sojourn by filming some footage at the Hard Rock Cafe where Baxendale once worked. Hard Rock reps readily agreed, allowed them to film for a day, then promptly told them they couldn't use any of the footage.
"It was pretty disheartening," Garcia says. "If you can't get to the most-rumored anti-Hollywood guy in existence with your indie project, can't even get to his publicist, it makes you wonder what the hell you're out here doing on the road."
With Texas a bust, the filmmakers pointed their RV west and headed to Hollywood, where this past Sunday they attempted to crash the Academy Awards. Arriving at 10 a.m., they encountered a mob scene unlike anything they'd seen to date, a swarming mass of people all trying to get to Depp and other stars, if for entirely different reasons. Originally, Garcia had planned to fly an enormous banner from the top of the Turtle that read "Depp, We Have Your Guitar" and listed his phone number, but the standing-room-only throng of tabloid media was not keen on the idea.
"We were carrying the banner, and this news guy who was also trying to film threatened us," Garcia reports. "He was worried we would mess up his shot. He said, ŒIf you don't get that banner out of my face, I will cut it in half and then stab you.' We didn't realize how crazed these people were."
The crew managed to film a few shots of Depp arriving at the ceremony, but didn't get anywhere near him. After the show, they decided to make one last stand at Depp's Los Angeles home, a spot they had visited on several occasions. They hung the banner from a tree just off Depp's property, positioned the guitar in the middle of the quiet, dead-end drive leading up to his house, illuminated it dramatically with a battery-powered lamp, and waited for four hours, hoping to capture the star's attention on his way home. But Depp never showed; he spent the night in a hotel with some friends.
Garcia's not about to give up now. More doors have opened than shut in Hollywood. His friend Agnelli has taken an increased interest in the documentary, outfitting the filmmakers with a fancy wireless mike, taking them to expensive dinners and lending them a more Beverly Hills-friendly Range Rover in place of the Turtle for use in California. They even managed to score an interview with an assistant to the Sultan of Brunei, who explained how the second-richest man in the world had trouble getting to Johnny Depp, too. It's all made for a glitzy, glamorous Hollywood portion of the documentary that juxtaposes nicely with the SpaghettiOs-in-the back-of-an-RV indie spirit of the rest of the footage.
But can the documentary be successful without Depp?
"Because Johnny Depp is this huge name, a lot of people think we're doing a documentary about him," Garcia says. "It's more about filmmaking and trying to get a story that you think is worthy to someone in Hollywood on the basis of art. We're fully prepared for other actors to play the role; we just want to get this guitar to Johnny. If he doesn't like the script, fine: Play the hell out of that guitar, and thanks for your time. I have an outcome that I want, but this is a documentary; you have to go with what happens. Maybe we wind up finding it's impossible to go artist-to-artist in this day and age, I don't know. I would love to have a quaint little meeting with Depp on some corner where I hand him the guitar, but in making this documentary, a lot more different roads and avenues have opened up to us. I feel like I owe it to the genre to pursue those."