What is movie star Johnny Depp doing playing guitar amid the red rocks of southern Utah? Selling a men’s fragrance.
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star is featured in a 60-second spot for Dior Sauvage, released Thursday. A spokeswoman for the Utah Film Commission said Thursday the ad was filmed in Grand and San Juan counties, in southeast Utah.
The commercial bears the title “We Are the Land,” which is also Depp’s only line of narration aside from the product’s name. The ad shows, according to Dior’s press notes, “the ongoing quest that travels into the heart of vast landscapes of completely virgin nature.”
In the ad, Depp is seen walking in a stream, stacking rocks to mark his path. Elsewhere, a Native American fancy war dancer — Canku One Star, a Rosebud Sioux member — performs atop a cliff, and a young woman (played by Tanaya Beatty, descended from the Da’Naxda’xw Nation in British Columbia) follows Depp from a distance.
Then Depp lifts a Native American blanket to reveal an electric guitar. He plays a famous riff, “Rumble,” by the Shawnee guitar legend Link Wray. (The instrumental introduced the “power chord” when Wray recorded it in 1958; it was reintroduced to audiences in 1995’s “Pulp Fiction.”)
Depp, who moonlights in the band Hollywood Vampires with shock-rock legend Alice Cooper and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, performed “Rumble” for the ad with guitarist Jeff Beck, who is not seen onscreen.
In an accompanying behind-the-scenes video — three times as long as the commercial itself — Depp says that “everything [in the ad] has some symbolic reference. … It’s almost like you can hear the land.”
Hanley Frost, a member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, also speaks on the video: “We’ve always called this home. We have a thing that says, when you go into the old ones’ territory, you ask for forgiveness, and you do a blessing so that you don’t upset the spirits.”
Depp and the commercial’s director, Jean-Baptiste Mondino, collaborated with Americans for Indian Opportunity, an advocacy group for Native American people, “in order to respect indigenous cultures, values and heritage,” Dior’s press notes say.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the ad was filmed in southwest Utah, based on incorrect information from House of Dior.