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`Entertainment Weekly` Magazine, May 7, 1993, Pages 20 & 21
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`A Perfect Mismatch: Benny & Joon Beats The Odds`
Written by Ryan Murphy
 
Mary Stuart Masterson has experienced love in the movies. But love at the 
movies...now that's a very different story. On her first movie date, at a 
showing of `Aliens,` she barely watched the screen. "I wasn't feeling 
well," the 26-year-old actress says, blushing. "I spent an hour and a half 
throwing up in the bathroom."

For Johnny Depp, the topic of romantic movie dates summons equally 
bittersweet memories. "When I was a teenager," remembers the 29-year-old 
heart stopper of `Edward Scissorhands` and `Cry-Baby,` "I went to see `Star 
Wars` at a drive-in in Florida. I was all excited." But instead of getting 
smitten, Depp and his date just got bitten, by mosquitoes. "It was so bad 
that I ran to the snack bar and got this mosquito repellent, but all it did 
was make us stink. It was a total disaster."

"Actually," Depp adds, his eyes narrowing into slits, "I've never heard of 
this phrase date movie. Is this a new phenomenon?"

New? No. Rekindled? Yes. After a decade dominated by action films, the 
sleeper success of `Benny & Joon` -- an oddball romance starring Masterson 
and Depp as seemingly illmatched lovers who find each other a perfect 
fit -- is the latest evidence that movies made for couples are finding 
their niche once again. In its first few weeks, the film has launched a 
flurry of hand-holding in the dark, despite its commercially improbable 
story: Masterson play Joon, a schizophrenic cared for by her big brother, 
Benny (Aidan Quinn). Enter Depp's Sam, a dyslexic charmer obsessed with 
silent comedies. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy visits girl in 
institution and wins her back.

"People don't just want to see tits and screwing and shooting and 
decapitated heads," says Depp. "I think movie executives have 
underestimated the American public.

Masterson agrees. "It's stupid that people think of movies like `Benny &
Joon` as surprising when they do well," she says. "They are basic stories 
about the most fundamental human needs. And the fact that those are 
considered risks, and the `RoboCop` movies mitigate those risks -- well, 
it's backward.  Movies like `Benny & Joon` are universal."

Even so, the film was nearly derailed before shooting began. Originally 
Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson were attached to the project. But then 
Dern passed and Harrelson, who had committed to play Benny, jumped into 
Paramount's `Indecent Proposal.` Furious, MGM slapped Harrelson and 
Paramount with a lawsuit (since settled out of court), and the movie's 
fate hung by a thread.

"Laura Dern is great," says Depp. "And Woody Harrelson...well, I've never 
seen anything he's done, but I'm sure he's very good. But Aidan is my idea 
of the perfect man. And Mary Stuart, she has knowledge way beyond her 
years."

Like many of his roles, Depp's Sam is a misunderstood antihero, a type he 
gravitates toward because "somebody who is different, who is judged on 
appearance instead of heart, who is looked upon as a freak -- well, all I
can say is, freaks are my heroes." Nonetheless, "after playing Sam, I 
figure we've pretty much covered the innocent-lonely-guy sort of thing. I'm 
trying to go elsewhere." That he may do in Tim Burton's `Ed Wood,` a black 
comedy in which Depp is set to play the '50s transvestite filmmaker Edward 
D. Wood Jr. (`Plan 9 From Outer Space`), who is considered the worst 
director in movie history. In the film, due for production at Disney this 
summer, Depp gets to pet pink angora sweaters and dress up in women's 
clothing. He can hardly wait.

Masterson, whose roles in `Some Kind of Wonderful` and `Fried Green
Tomatoes` gave her ample experience with eccentric characters ("I get a lot 
of `I'm a misfit too!` fan letters"), had to walk a finer line when playing 
Joon.

"Every time you see something about mental illness in movies," she says, 
"it's always this descent into madness, or people are labeled as special, 
like, `What we're actually trying to say is, this person is fucked up.` In 
preparing for Joon, I discovered that it's not gloom and doom all the time. 
But I was very scared of coming off as flip."

For all its difficulties, Masterson considers the role "a gift." Usually,
the actress says, she's "like the twelfth girl on the list. If the part's 
a tomboy and she swears, I might get it. Or if it's written for Jodie 
[Foster], I might have a shot after the others in front of me pass."

Because there aren't enough good parts to go around, Masterson has written
her own. In `Around the Block,` an independent production she'll also 
direct this fall, she plays a woman who conquers her fears by becoming a
singer. "It's a romantic comedy too," she says proudly.  "Who knows?  Maybe 
it will become a big date movie. If I'm lucky."