Brad Pitt is 49. Johnny Depp is 50. Pitt has four Oscar nominations, while Depp has three. Both have been bona fide leading men since the mid-90s.  They have both done their share of mainstream movies while still maintaining some independent roots. Each is followed relentlessly by the tabloids. They both have a $20 million price tag.

So where do these two differ?

Box office … that’s where.

Each is a box office draw, but Depp has proven to be a superstar.  Or, has he?

Take away the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and where does that leave Depp? Uh, well pretty much the exact same place as Pitt.

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What is the bigger draw, the content or the actor? I have a feeling people would have gone to see the Pirates of the Caribbean regardless of Johnny Depp. Same with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Both were already proven commodities before Depp’s involvement.  Likewise, you could say the same about World War Z and Pitt’s Ocean’s franchise.

It’s been an interesting summer for the two actors. For months the speculation was that World War Z would be one of the biggest box office failures of all time and that it would be an awful movie. In actuality, the rumors of an over-inflated budget, conflict on the set, and a lousy film, were very wrong.  The budget was closer to $170 million rather than the rumored $400 million, the movie has received pretty solid reviews, and the reportedly scrapped sequel is still underway. In fact, World War Z should end up earning well over $300 million dollars and truly be a summer blockbuster.

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However, Depp as Tonto, was expected to revitalize The Lone Ranger, create another Verbinski-Depp franchise, and launch Armie Hammer into super-stardom.  Whoops. Something went wrong. Disney is now looking at a $150 million loss because of the masked man.

In fact, outside of Pirates, Depp has experienced some pretty big financial duds. Dark Shadows cost $150 million but didn’t make $80 million. The Rum Diary only earned about a quarter of its $45 million budget. Even Rango, which crossed the $100 million mark fell short of its $135 million price.  Then there was The Tourist and Public Enemies.  And both fell short of expectations. In fact, many of Depp’s success fall short of expectations, even when they are profitable.

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Pitt’s career is comparable, with a combination of underwhelming box office duds (Happy Feet Two, The Tree of Life, Troy, Meet Joe Black, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) as well as those that didn’t meet expectations (Megamind, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

Both of these actors have a litany of films that met with solid critical support but couldn’t get the audience to follow them to the theaters.

Sure, they’re different types of actors and they take on very different roles. But when it comes down to it, as far as Hollywood is concerned, I’d say they are basically the same guy.

Let the Pitt vs. Depp debate begin.

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by Gordon Shelly, super special to Influx Magazine