Wichita film experts take umbrage at actor Johnny Depp’s characterization of filmgoers here

WICHITA — Actor Johnny Depp apparently thinks Wichita movie audiences aren’t too smart.

In a Sunday interview with Britain’s Guardian, Depp discussed his new movie, “The Rum Diary,” which is based on the book by Hunter S. Thompson.

“I believe that this film, regardless of what it makes in, you know, Wichita, Kansas, this week — which is probably about $13 — it doesn’t make any difference. I believe that this film will have a shelf life.”

Depp believes the film will do better in Europe than it’s been doing in the United States.

“Most definitely. It’s something that will be more appreciated over here, I think. Cos it’s — well, I think it’s an intelligent film.”

The Guardian reporter wrote that Depp then took “a meaningful pause” before saying, “And a lot of times, outside the big cities in the States, they don’t want that.”

A few Wichitans beg to differ.

Johnny Depp

“That’s just sour grapes,” says Warren Theatres owner Bill Warren. “Last time I heard, it didn’t do well in New York, either.”

Warren says he’s seen the movie and didn’t care for it.

“Ninety nine percent of people in America go to movies for entertainment, and it wasn’t a very entertaining movie, period.”

Lela Meadow-Conner, executive director of the Tallgrass Film Association, says she respects Depp but wonders what he was thinking in this case.

“First of all, don’t bite the hand that feeds you, Johnny Depp,” she says. Take people “who make you a movie star, and then you’re going to call them unintelligent?”

“People have these preconceived notions about cities like Wichita and cities in the Midwest,” she says. “Because his movie has been deemed a critical stinker . . . and audiences haven’t gravitated toward it, obviously he is trying to displace the blame onto audiences here who he deems unintelligent.”

The recent 9th annual Tallgrass Film Festival was the most successful one yet with what Meadow-Conner calls more than 120 “intelligent” independent films.

“There are obviously people here who are interested in intelligent films.”

Mike Marlett, the association’s director of technology, finds something to appreciate in Depp’s comments.

“It’s very easy for Hollywood to take a swipe at Wichita. It’s nice that they’re doing that now. We weren’t even in their consciousness 10 years ago. We’re getting somewhere. . . . It may be ill-informed and not in line with what’s really here, but they’re starting to notice us.”

Marlett notes that everyone has to start somewhere.

“Anybody who watched ‘21 Jump Street‘ . . . will remember this little punk kid who was on there doing silly detective work,” Marlett says of Depp’s early television work.

Warren says he’d like to point out that his IMAX theater does better than the one in the heart of New York City.

“What’s that say?” he says.

“I would strongly suggest that Johnny Depp doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”