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Johnny Depp narrates 'When You're Strange'

Tom Dicillo talks about the new documentary about the Doors

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Say you want to get a star to lend some wattage to your documentary. If you’re When You’re Strange director Tom DiCillo, it helps to have friends in high places. TV mogul Dick Wolf (Law & Order), a producer on the film, called Depp after the movie debuted at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. (The narration was originally read by DiCillo himself.) ”Depp was my first choice,” says the director, who wanted a narrator with a strong connection to the band. ”Johnny is a Doors fan. I think he identified with their artistic struggle and the attempt to maintain integrity in a world that requires you to get bigger and bigger.”

DiCillo and Depp never had a single meeting for the project, and, in fact, the director doesn’t even know where the actor’s lines were recorded. (”He’s very secretive, and I respect that,” says DiCillo.)

But when the tapes arrived, there was no question that Depp — who also contributed readings of Morrison’s poetry to the film’s soundtrack — was the right choice for the job. ”He did something like 10 takes of each line, experimenting with rhythms and meanings,” says DiCillo. ”You could tell he was putting everything he had into it.” And for the director, Depp’s legendary ability to channel a character took the movie’s narration to a new level. ”At times in the film, he speaks some words as if he’s Morrison,” says DiCillo. ”And it was spooky to me. You know it’s Johnny Depp, but you feel like you glimpse Jim Morrison for a second””