Well, well. The new issue of the Hollywood Reporter is all about the downfall of Johnny Depp. In November, Depp lost his libel case against the Sun and a British court affirmed, definitively, that Depp is a “wife beater” who physically abused Amber Heard. Soon after, Warner Bros dumped him from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, and Depp still refuses to drop or settle any of his other lawsuits. He’s persona non grata at every major studio, and his most of his professional allies have run for the hills. THR picks over the carcass of his life and career, spilling some tea about how Depp fell so far. You can read the full piece here (it’s dishy, tragic and infuriating) and here are some highlights:
What went wrong: “He’s just never been told no for the past 35 years. That’s typical in Hollywood. But I’ve never seen it to this extent.”
In addition to smearing Amber to his friends, Depp smeared her professionally: It also appears that Depp attempted to interfere with the career of Heard. “I want her replaced on the WB film,” he wrote to his sister, producer Christi Dembrowski, who previously had a deal with the studio and was influential there. During the trial, he admitted that this was a reference to the Warner Bros. film Aquaman, in which Heard starred.
Depp has a Trump-like cult of personality around him: “He has suffered immense reputational carnage from a reckless set of choices that has left him in septic muck,” says Eric Schiffer, a crisis PR rep whose clients include a number of high-profile Hollywood and sports figures. “Can he come out of that? It really comes down to Johnny’s choices. He still has a fan base that in many ways is like Donald Trump’s with their emotional intensity and commitment to a star icon. It’s not based around principles. It’s about charisma and their identification of the range of characters that he’s played.”
He’s radioactive with studios: “You simply can’t work with him now,” says one studio head. “He’s radioactive.” One studio executive who has worked with Depp in recent years says his inner demons had long ago bled into his professional life, making him “a huge liability” thanks to frequent tardiness and costly behavior, all cataloged in the U.K. suit. “The discovery that came out in that trial alone would be enough to scare any studio,” says the executive.
Jerry Bruckheimer isn’t in his corner anymore: Disney had already backed away from a Pirates future with Depp well before the U.K. trial, even if it never formally severed ties. Bruckheimer, who has been one of Depp’s biggest champions and once suggested the finger injury happened because “he got it caught in a car door,” was hoping to at least bring the Captain Jack Sparrow character back briefly in the next outing — said to be a female-centric incarnation fronted by Margot Robbie. Disney balked. Insiders say Depp’s relationship with Bruckheimer has frayed in recent months. Sources say the actor was poised to play the iconic illusionist Harry Houdini in a Bruckheimer-produced high-end production… But the defamation ruling may have made his casting untenable.
His lawyer Adam Waldman: Waldman is a handsome Washington lawyer with his own sheen of controversy given a clientele that has included Russian oligarchs and Julian Assange. Waldman, who is married to Berlin-based jet-setter and luxury skin-care entrepreneur Barbara Sturm, conducts himself in an unorthodox manner, mocking his legal opponents on Twitter. Sources say Depp met Waldman through Saudi Arabian Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the country’s powerful minister of energy, in summer 2016. (Depp spent time aboard the prince’s megayacht in the past.) Waldman quickly became a Svengali figure in Depp’s life, with the actor axing most of his inner circle. “Never mind Svengali. He’s Depp’s Rasputin,” says one insider.
Depp went on a suing spree: “The abuse and drinking and drugging are one thing — certainly horrible — but then to top it off by going after the very people who were the closest business and personal relationships for years, shows a level of toxicity rarely seen,” says one industry figure who has faced off against Depp.
What???? Even before Waldman entered the picture, Depp was engaged in legal drama on all fronts, much of it playing out of the public eye. Sources say he paid his first wife, Lori Anne Allison, $1.25 million to keep quiet after he allegedly left a long ranting message in which he repeatedly used the N-word. The previously unreported settlement was accomplished using fictitious names to avoid scrutiny, with Richard Green serving as the stand-in for Johnny Depp.
Depp’s Bot Army: One of the perks a distributor can count on with Depp is his social media army of fans. They are among the most loyal and shrill on Twitter. They heap praise on the actor, eviscerate anyone associated with Heard, and have posted exclusive audio recordings of the couple fighting (albeit edited in a way that favors the actor). But many who have battled Depp question whether the army is real or high-end bots. Kaplan believes it’s a combination of the two, with bots amplifying what real fans post. “My firm is involved in a lot of controversial cases,” she says. “Our clients are suing the white supremacists and neo-Nazis responsible for the violence in Charlottesville. I have clients who are suing Donald Trump. But, by far, the one case [of ours] that has generated the greatest amount of hostile social media attacks is Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard. Not even close.”
There was stuff in this cover story which I hadn’t seen before, because I was not following the British case all that closely. Like, I didn’t know the details of Depp’s texts with Paul Bettany or his texts with Amber Heard’s former manager. Depp really did set out to destroy Amber, and it’s a wonder she didn’t sue HIM. Instead, she didn’t engage with his attempts to emotionally and financially abuse her. Yeah – I get that the point of this piece was “will Johnny Depp still have a career?” But the question should be: SHOULD Depp have a career? And the answer is no.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.