Don Johnson, an American actor who will turn 70 in a few weeks, has had a long and exciting career. I feel like I always did, 16 and reckless,” he continues, flashing that smile. He achieved success in the 1980s as a swaggering Sonny Crockett in the television series Miami Vice.
Johnson lived an exciting, glamorous life both on and off the screen. He was married five times, twice to Melanie Griffith, and he was an Olympic-level hedonist. However, the work has continued, with roles in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Rian Johnson’s amusing and stylish mystery Knives Out.
In the film, Christopher Plummer co-stars with Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Chris Evans as a successful crime novelist whose untimely death drives a dysfunctional family against one another.
You and the performers have had a great time making Knives Out. Or did you deliver that outstanding performance?
I always answer this topic: “It’s our duty to make it look easy and fun. Even though you risk going to jail for whatever terrible crime you committed against them, you must behave that way around them. We did, however, have a fantastic time in this particular joyful circumstance.”
One of Knives Out’s more severe themes is whether or not helping your children find jobs benefits them. As the parent of five children, what do you think?
Oh, the books I could write about that. I think that you hurt your kids on purpose. You handicap them more severely the more you do for them. Initially, you wish for them to have better than what you have. There is a conflict between the forces of creativity, discovery, and curiosity.
Do you have any first-hand knowledge to share? Your path to acting wasn’t quite straightforward.
No way. The worst childhood I’ve ever had. I had the quinella since I was the oldest, and my parents divorced when I was 12. Since I was not content, I left home when I was 16. And it forges a strong sense of character when you go home at age 16 without a plan, has to pay for yourself to finish high school, and have to fend for yourself.
Why do you think your career as an actor was successful?
I’ve always believed in my skills and abilities. You might think that my physical attributes would be advantageous because I was such a handsome young man. I did have to get past some of them, though. I was pretty androgynous, though, at a time when being that way wasn’t always a good thing. I had long hair, was youthful, and had very slim features. I believed I was a handsome boy. I didn’t feel that way about myself, but I had to get over it if I wanted to be taken seriously.
Men, in particular, rarely talk about the negative physical effects of being overly handsome.
Yes, there were several detrimental outcomes. Additionally, it was advantageous in other ways. because when it did function for me, it had a huge impact.
Did you ever think you’d be performing well into your 70s?
Okay, I didn’t expect to live to be thirty. Thus, everything has gone smoothly. When I say that almost always, I think I can speak for all actors when I say, “Well, that was it. I won’t ever go back to work. Actors celebrate Christmas every day as a result. Santa either gave you good service that day, or he didn’t.
How did it make you feel when Dakota said she wanted to be an actress?
That is a story all by itself. She didn’t tell me she wanted to do it. She hadn’t mentioned that to us. I estimate that she was around 18 years old because I decided to keep a watch on her and try to catch her. I never saw Dakota again after that, hehe. The genuine deal, that’s her. She is a brilliant performer, and in some ways, she surpasses both Melanie Griffith, her mother, and me.
How do you get along with Dakota’s boyfriend, Coldplay’s Chris Martin?
I’ll tell you right away that he is a handsome man. But since they have their own affairs, I have no business getting involved. Chris Martin being questioned about Don’s marriage would be comparable to that.
Donald Trump and you are both in an old photo. Were you pals?
Donald and I had just recently become friends. I’ll briefly discuss it now [loud pause, sigh]. Everything, I believe, speaks for itself. My 20 minutes with Donald were up.
But you and Hunter S. Thompson were good friends. Couldn’t you two relax together?
Hunter, oh how I loved thee. I think about him every day. His heart is good. Amen! He was crazy, too. And certainly, we could stay around if you wanted to drink some whiskey.
Do you, however, no longer drink?
Oh gosh, it’s been a long since I had a drink. I don’t know how long. I had to distance myself from him for a while after deciding to abstain from drugs and alcohol. I headed back when I felt comparatively at ease. Being sober was my thing, and he was really interested in it, but dancing wasn’t on his list. He did mark the checkbox next to “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.”
A Miami Vice reboot is rumored to be in the works. Was that show a blessing or a curse for you?
I’m pretty proud of myself because I was able to avoid falling into the same trap that so many other actors do when they take on a role that is so well-known. While others were prepared to respond, “Oh, OK, let me check him out in this,” I was able to separate Don Johnson from Sonny Crockett and take him on an adventure. And that’s a noteworthy accomplishment.