The difference between Johnny Depp and his on-screen Pirates of the Caribbean character Captain Jack Sparrow goes well beyond thick eyeliner and a large hat, the actor tells the new issue of Rolling Stone. While Sparrow is an unabashed drunkard, Depp denies ever being an alcoholic, though he says he has consciously quit drinking for about a year and a half now.
"No, I don't have the physical need for the drug alcohol," he says. "No, it's more my medication, my self-medication over the years just to calm the circus. Once the circus kicks in, the festivities in the brain, it can be ruthless."
Depp, who just turned 50 earlier this month on June 9, adds that his decision to give up alcohol stemmed from his own realization that though he was able to function just fine with alcohol on a day-to-day basis, he could manage almost just as well without it.
"I just decided that I pretty much got everything I could get out of it," he tells the magazine. "I investigated wine and spirits thoroughly, and they certainly investigated me as well, and we found out that we got along beautifully, but maybe too well."
The actor's reputation as a drinking man may also stem from the company he keeps, he admits. Pals with Keith Richards and Bob Dylan, Depp was also close friends with the late Marlon Brando and Hunter S. Thompson.
"Maybe that's why Hunter and I got along so well," he says. "I'm able to continue for great periods of time, weirdly. For weeks. There's no great point to it, ultimately. You realize that you wouldn't treat your car that way."
Depp is so dedicated to his new pledge of sobriety, he says, that even after he split with longtime love Vanessa Paradis last year (the pair announced their breakup in June 2012), he hasn't been hitting the bottle the way that he might've for previous heartbreaks. The actor previously dated actress Winona Ryder in the 90s and supermodel Kate Moss shortly afterward.
"In terms of the breakup, I definitely wasn't going to rely on the drink to ease things or cushion the blow or cushion the situation," he explains. "Cause that could have been fatal. I felt it was my duty to be real clear throughout that."
"I had something pretty serious to focus on, really," he continues, "which was making sure that my kids were gonna be cool."
The pair dated for 14 years and had two children together — Lily-Rose, 14, and Jack, 11 — and have both been dealing with the "complicated" situation as best they can.
"The trajectory of that relationship — you play it out until it goes, one thing leads to another," Depp explains. "So for whatever reason that ceases, it doesn't stop the fact that you care for that person, and they're the mother of your kids, and you'll always know each other, and you're always gonna be in each other's lives because of those kids. You might as well make the best of it."