Johnny Depp’s star was fading ahead of Amber Heard’s op-ed

Johnny Depp’s star was fading ahead of Amber Heard’s op-ed

The Johnny Depp and Amber Heard libel lawsuit has grabbed headlines due to the often grotesque and sordid details of the couple’s troubled marriage. But jurors are also being asked to determine if either of them suffered any real damage to their career because of the other’s lies about them.

And while there is evidence that both of their careers were harmed, trying to tie that damage to specific defamatory statements is much trickier.

Depp alleged he lost tens of millions of dollars to Heard’s domestic violence allegations, which she alluded to in a 2018 op-ed. But testimony showed Depp was a star in serious decline even before the allegations, and a series of legal woes rendered him virtually unemployable by major studios.

Depp’s former agent and former business manager testified that Depp’s unprofessional behavior dampened Hollywood’s enthusiasm for the actor, leading to serious financial hardship for the spendthrift star. On the set of the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” and other films, Depp was often late and unprepared, relying on an earpiece to feed him lines.

“I was very honest with him and said, ‘You have to stop doing this. It hurts you. And he did,'” recalls Tracey Jacobs, the UTA agent who helped orchestrate the rise of Depp’s career during three decades of working with the actor “His star had faded,” she added bluntly.

Things had gotten so bad on the set of the latest ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie that Disney, the studio behind the series, had a staff member posted outside the house where Depp was staying to report on the movie’s movements. actor and let the set know when he was awake and able to work. The production was scuttled after Depp’s fingertip was cut off, which he says happened after Heard threw a bottle at him. The studio had to rely on extensive CGI to cover up his injury, another example, which manifests in pixels and green screens, of the drama surrounding Depp coloring his professional life.

Depp is far from the only star to have behaved in an authoritative, rude or debauched way. His idol Marlon Brando used to terrorize studios with his lavish demands and eccentric on-set antics, while everyone from Bruce Willis to Vin Diesel had the kind of production clashes that make headlines.

When movies work, studios are more lenient. And, for a time, Depp was the rarest commodity, an actor with an on-screen presence so magnetic he could have butts in the seats. Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ starring Depp as the Mad Hatter has grossed over $1 billion, while the duo also scored a hit with their remake of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Sweeney Todd “. But over the past decade, Depp’s box office prowess had waned, with flops such as “Mortdecai,” “Transcendence” and “Black Mass” piling up and puncturing his commercial reputation. However, Depp had grown accustomed to studios catering to his whims and indulging him after the outsized success of the “Pirates” films. He faces his problems despite the diminishing returns the studios were enjoying from his films.

“Early on, the crews liked him,” Jacobs said in his recorded deposition. “He’s always been great with the team. But crews don’t like to sit around for hours and hours and hours waiting for the star to show up.

Depp is chasing the 2018 op-ed Heard published in The Washington Post, in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic violence.” His team argues the play cost Depp roles, accelerating his slide.

“After the editorial, it was impossible to get him a studio movie,” said Jack Whigham, the talent manager who took over from Jacobs after he was fired in 2016.

But the op-ed came two-and-a-half years after Heard first made abuse allegations, which had already led studios to start turning away from the star. Heard first accused Depp of physically assaulting her during their relationship when she filed for divorce and a restraining order in May 2016. In her testimony, Depp said Heard’s 2016 allegations cost her “everything”.

“The second the allegations were made against me… I lost then,” he said.

But Depp signed a divorce agreement in which he waived any right to sue Heard for the 2016 claims. So instead, Depp was forced to sue the December 2018 op-ed.

His team tried to show that it was the editorial, not the earlier claims, that did the real damage to his career. Depp continued to work in 2017, but after filming “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” in the fall of 2017, he did not do another studio film. Whigham testified that Depp purposely didn’t work out much in 2018 because he “wanted to take some time off to rest”.

His team also sought to show that the editorial damaged his Q scores, which are used to gauge artists’ popularity. But this impact is difficult to discern. Their own expert testified Depp’s negative score jumped five points – and his positive score dropped four points – after the 2016 allegations. But after the December 2018 op-ed, the impact was much more subtle . Its positive score only lost two points, while its negative score also lost one point.

Depp’s expert also showed Google Trends data showing a spike in interest in Depp around May 2016 – but no spike around the editorial.

Whatever previous damages he suffered, Depp appears to have become genuinely unemployable after losing his 2020 libel case in the UK. It was then that Warner Bros. fired Depp from the “Fantastic Beasts” series and replaced him with Mads Mikkelsen. Warners was already growing increasingly wary of doing business with him. A 2019 Rolling Stone article described the actor as drunk and on drugs, and sounded the alarm about the unwelcome publicity he could bring to the projects.

The jury is not limited to awarding “actual damages”, that is, damages that can be directly linked to defamatory statements. They can also simply “presume” damage to the reputation of one or other of the parties, without direct proof, on the sole basis of the inherently prejudicial nature of the defamatory remarks. But they have received very little guidance on how to award damages that cannot be directly linked to occupational harm.

For his part, Heard claimed that Depp orchestrated a smear campaign that nearly cost him a role in the “Aquaman” sequel, as well as endorsements and other television and film opportunities. She introduced her own expert, who testified about the spikes in anti-Heard tweets that were allegedly linked to claims by Depp’s lawyer that her allegations were a “hoax.” This expert, Ron Schnell, admitted that his analysis could only show mathematical correlations, not clear causal links.

Testimony about the studio’s decision-making process was also obscured. After Heard appeared in the first film and in “Justice League”, Warner Bros. weighed the recasting of the role, testified Walter Hamada, director of Heard and DC Films. Heard said she had to “fight very hard” to keep her role as Aquaman’s love interest in the upcoming sequel and that even when she prevailed, she still had to deal with a down time. reduced screen.

Hamada recalled things differently. It wasn’t the negative publicity resulting from the legal fight against Depp that nearly lost Heard the role, he argued in recorded deposition. Rather, it boiled down to a lack of chemistry with Jason Momoa, the star of the film.

“It’s not uncommon in movies for two leads to lack chemistry,” he said. Hamada said the deft editing and other cinematic tricks concealed the lack of sizzle.

“You can manufacture this chemistry,” he said. “I think if you look at the movie, they seemed to have great chemistry, but I just know when using post-production, it took a lot of effort to get there.”

Heard’s agent also pointed to an Amazon movie that was taken away from her, but admitted it was difficult to show she lost her job specifically because of the backlash over her allegations.

“No one can say out loud, ‘We’re taking this away from him because of this bad press,'” the agent, Jessica Kovacevic, said. “But there is no other reason.”

Kovacevic said “Aquaman” was a global blockbuster – grossing over $1 billion – and Heard’s performance had been favorably reviewed, and argued that she should have become famous after that, quoting Ana de Armas as a potentially comparable career path. But “Aquaman” reviews weren’t actually uniformly stellar, with one calling Heard’s “wooden” line delivery and another calling his character “one of the least interesting big-screen love interests in history.” recent memory”.

Depp’s team took issue with a series of compositions – including Zendaya, de Armas, Momoa, Chris Pine and Gal Gadot – offered by Heard, noting that several of these actors had played lead roles and had much more established careers than Heard. .

Depp claimed Heard’s op-ed cost him a lucrative return to the world of “Pirates of the Caribbean”, costing him $22.5 million in salary. Although here, too, cause and effect become murky. Depp’s contract for the film, if it existed, was never written.

Heard’s opinion piece was published in December 2018, but a report in October of that year in the Daily Mail had already said Depp was out of the franchise. Depp appeared to acknowledge that he could have been ousted before Heard’s article, but still tied it to his original allegations in the 2016 divorce filing.

“I wasn’t aware of this, but it doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “Two years had passed without the world constantly talking about me as this woman beater. So I’m sure Disney was trying to cut ties to be safe. The #MeToo movement was in full swing at that time.

The Disney rep said there was nothing in the company’s records regarding Heard’s op-ed, and there was never an agreement for Depp to star in the sixth “Pirates” movie. “.

A verdict in the Depp and Heard case is expected in the coming days, but the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series that lifted Depp into the stratosphere is sailing without him. In a recent interview, franchise producer Jerry Bruckheimer acknowledged that Depp will not be returning. Instead, the studio is developing two potential sequels, one a female-centric adventure that would star Margot Robbie.

As for Depp, he says he would never apply Jack Sparrow’s mascara again, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit or a rich offer.

“There was a deep and distinct feeling of feeling betrayed by the people I worked hard for,” Depp said.

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