Shields actor's blockbuster debut with Johnny Depp

JOHNNY Depp's new film isn't a weepy – but one woman will be crying when she sees it today.

Margaret Willis will be watching her actor son's blockbuster debut alongside the Hollywood heart-throb in gangster flick Public Enemies.

South-Shields born Richard Short, 33, plays FBI agent Sam Cowley in the film, based on the FBI's hunt for charismatic bank robber John Dillinger (Depp) in 1930s America.

Since moving to the US about four years ago, Richard has appeared on stage and in several independent films, but this is his first blockbuster.

And first in line for the first screening of the film at Cineworld in Boldon will be Ms Willis, 55, from Madras Street, Simonside, South Shields.

She said: "I'm very proud of him. I know I am going to see that movie and I am just going to cry."

Richard made his professional stage debut at the age of 20, in the original UK cast of Grease, playing Johnny Casino.

He has also toured the UK in The Real Monty and landed his first American stage role in 2006, breaking into film in 2007 in Delirious, opposite Steve Buscemi and Alison Lohman.

Ms Willis said: "You can't say he's been very lucky because he's work hard at it and has got a good following."

Richard, who now lives in New York with ex-model wife Teresa Palladino, spent his early years in South Shields, attending Highfield Infants and Cheviot Juniors, before the family moved south.

He began acting with the Woking Youth Theatre in Woking, Surrey, in 1992.

His second biggest passion is Sunderland AFC – and he bears the middle names Ian Porterfield, after the club's 1973 FA Cup-winning goalscorer.

He has also competed in the Great North Run and New York Marathon.

Ms Willis, who moved back to the town four years, said: "He hasn't been home since his sister's wedding three years ago because he's been so busy.

"He's hoping to come over towards the end of this year – probably during the football season!"

Richard had just completed another film, Cafe, shot in Philadelphia, in which he plays a writer opposite Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Ms Willis said: "He's still in a state of shock at being friends with Johnny Depp.

"He says it is quite surreal, but he's used to things now. He goes to premieres and book launches."

Grandparents Richard and Phyllis Short, from Fulwell Avenue, South Shields, are very proud of the actor, who is named after his grandfather.

* Do you remember Richard growing up in South Shields? Share your memories by e-mailing us here or calling 427 4858.