As part of his campaign to induce PTSD symptoms in moviegoers of all ages, Johnny Depp will lend his trademark eccentricities to another children's classic by potentially starring as Dr. Seuss (born Theodor Geisel) in a live-action biopic. The star of the upcoming film adaptation of the Hunter S. Thompson novel The Rum Diary will produce the project with Universal and Illumination Entertainment, whose animated adaptation of Seuss's The Lorax will open in theaters next March. Depp has the option to star as the famed children's book author, who sold more than 200 million books worldwide before dying of throat cancer in 1991.
Given the wacky whimsy of Seuss classics like The Cat in the Hat, Depp, who is pretty freaking wacky and whimsical himself, seems like an obvious casting choice. After all, over the past decade or so, you haven't been able to shake a stick without hitting him in a zany hat, or reciting rhyming couplets in an effete, pseudo-Michael Jackson voice, or voicing a dickless sheriff lizard. Unfortunately, Depp has pulled these roles off to varying degrees of success; his Jack Sparrow is epic, but his performance as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland made most people want to take two Xanax and a hot shower.
Depp could potentially avoid transgressing the boundaries between delightfully wacky/shoe-salesman-creepy, however, by playing Dr. Seuss in a live-action biopic, because by most accounts, Geisel's life was not quite as wacky and whimsical as his oeuvre. His wife committed suicide at an early age, possibly as a result of her husband's philandering, and although his political cartoons were sharply critical of racial and religious discrimination, he spent the early part of his career grappling with his own prejudice against Japanese-Americans. A great actor like Depp could easily tackle such a complex role with great nuance and panache — provided there are no zany hats or sheriff lizards involved.