ALISON BOSHOFF: He’s filmed half of blockbuster sequel Fantastic Beasts 3, but with his reputation wrecked, Johnny Depp is condemned to walk the plank in Hollywood
His army of true believers won’t accept it. With their hero holed up contemplating defeat with his advisers, lawyers and friends, #JusticeforJohnny was trending on Twitter all day yesterday.
The fact is that Johnny Depp, 57, sought a legal battle in the UK courts — and lost.
He’d sued after The Sun called him a wife beater, and the 129-page judgment rejecting that claim is being seen as not a victory for the newspaper, but for Amber Heard, his wife for just 15 chaotic months.
Depp’s losses now are numerous and deep. There are genuine fears for the immediate wellbeing of a man who, the court heard, has long-standing and serious issues with drink and drug addictions.
Quite simply, he gambled everything on clearing his name — and lost.
The fact is that Johnny Depp (pictured in Pirates of the Caribbean), 57, sought a legal battle in the UK courts — and lost.
Before the verdict, one friend said: ‘Being accused of being a wife-beater is simply a bridge too far, and you cannot let that hang over you the rest of your life.’
Steven Gaydos, the executive editor of the industry bible Variety, says: ‘He had no choice but to defend himself. He was correct in his assessment of the potential damage that the phrase “wife-beater” would have done to his future.’
That was the reasoning behind bringing the suit, which will have cost him around £3 million in legal fees — he’s having to pay his own costs, plus those of The Sun’s publisher, News UK.
It’s not the kind of sum he can afford to lose as, by his own reckoning, £500 million or more disappeared from his fortune, largely through alleged financial mismanagement. He was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy before this latest disaster.
He has assets — numerous properties in Los Angeles, a spread in France, and his private Caribbean island — but the days when he was bringing in £60 million a year are long gone, and he has complained of owing the taxman millions.
He’d (pictured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) sued after The Sun called him a wife beater, and the 129-page judgment rejecting that claim is being seen as not a victory for the newspaper, but for Amber Heard, his wife for just 15 chaotic months
Add in what is known as the ‘Depp litigation train’, referring to the numerous suits filed by him, and you can see that financially he may yet be in dire straits — particularly if he fights on in the American courts, where costs are far higher, as he promised to do yesterday, and loses again.
But more than that, he appears decisively finished in Hollywood, his reputation tainted irredeemably by the sheer nastiness of the domestic abuse which was detailed in court in July.
Depp and Heard met in 2011 when she was cast as his love interest in The Rum Diary. They were first romantically linked in June 2012, just as Depp was splitting from Vanessa Paradis, his partner of 14 years and the mother of his two children.
They married in February 2015 on his island. Soon afterwards, Depp was seen with an injured hand. It was put down to a go-karting accident, but there were rumours of a domestic argument.
Heard filed a restraining order against Depp in May 2016, saying she was ‘extremely afraid’ of the star. Allegations surfaced that he had hit her, and she appeared in public with a bruised face.
Their divorce became final in early 2017, Heard receiving a $7 million settlement which she donated to a hospital.
Depp’s (pictured in Fantastic Beasts) losses now are numerous and deep. There are genuine fears for the immediate wellbeing of a man who, the court heard, has long-standing and serious issues with drink and drug addictions
She became a figurehead for abused wives: in 2018 she wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post, headlined: ‘Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.’
For now, Depp still has supporters in his team of pals and lawyers, and in female friends including ex-girlfriends Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis and former co-star Helena Bonham Carter, all of whom have spoken up for him.
Gina Deuters, wife of his assistant, Stephen, posted on Instagram yesterday: ‘He will always have my love & support. We won’t stop fighting for justice.’
However, J.K. Rowling, who cast him as Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts films in 2018, a move which prompted The Sun’s article in the first place, was remaining silent yesterday.
She defended him after there were protests about his casting in the film, saying: ‘Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.’
Irony is now heaped upon irony as Rowling, herself a victim of domestic abuse during her first marriage, sees her latest film potentially derailed because she chose to believe a man who has been judged guilty of just that.
Also in a tricky position is Warner Bros, which is making the third instalment of Fantastic Beasts, mostly in Leavesden, Herts, with a budget of around £140 million.
They have stuck with the film because of the enormous success of the Harry Potter movies, which brought in billions, and which everyone hoped could be repeated. Any association with Depp, however, could put that in jeopardy.
Media lawyer Mark Stephens says: ‘There seems to be a fond hope he can still complete filming, but I am quite sure his employers are looking to see if they have a morality clause to allow them to eradicate him from any films which have not been released yet.
‘That’s what happened with Kevin Spacey and he didn’t come to court.’ (The actor was ‘erased’ from projects, including House Of Cards, after he was accused by numerous young men of propositioning and sexually assaulting them; all charges were dropped.)
Stephens adds: ‘Here, the judge has picked apart the evidence and found that Amber Heard was telling the truth and Depp was not. He is going to find he is not acceptable in the modern world.’
Stephens went on: ‘His best way out of this is not to fight on as his lawyers suggest. The only way would be to accept that he has problems in terms of drugs, alcohol and violence, and go to rehab and show remorse for what he has done, to seek help for his demons and to apologise.
‘If he does that, Hollywood will want to take him back. He makes himself unacceptable for as long as he remains in denial.’
Depp’s downfall comes at a time when Hollywood is less likely to forgive than was once the case.
Titans have fallen — Harvey Weinstein the most prominent among them. The man once thought of as a movie-making God is now broke, shamed and imprisoned.
At the moment, Warner Bros is saying nothing, in public at least.
I’m told that filming of Fantastic Beasts, which started in September, is too far advanced for Depp to be removed without necessitating months of reshoots.
The problem is that the rest of the cast, such as Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law, may not be available for that — everyone is expecting the movie to wrap in late January or early February.
However, several sources speak of a serious case of nerves from the studio. And after Fantastic Beasts, Depp can hardly expect to work any time soon, at least not as a leading man in a movie of any significance.
One film he made before the case, Minamata, has just landed a distribution deal with MGM. Another, Waiting For The Barbarians, was released on streaming platforms this summer.
Disney are working on a sixth instalment of the hugely lucrative Pirates Of The Caribbean series, but no script has yet been approved according to producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Would the storyline include a role for Captain Jack Sparrow? Surely the answer is no. The five Pirates films made more than $4.5 billion — they simply don’t need Depp to carry on blockbusting.
Depp is due to act as executive producer on a drama series about the recording studio Muscle Shoals, in Alabama, but otherwise his schedule looks barren.
Some think that after admissions made in court about his drug use, he may even find it a struggle to travel to some territories to work.
But one film-maker cautions that, after a period in the wilderness, he believes Depp could come back.
‘I say one name to you: Robert Downey Jr [the actor who made millions as a youth, before running into trouble with drink and drugs and then cleaning up his act],’ he said.
‘He was counted down and out, but he paid the price of his foolhardiness and now he’s one of the biggest stars.
‘OK, yes, Depp’s situation is different because of the wife-beating tag. That’s going to be hard to overcome, but if he repents there’s a path to a comeback.’
So who is supporting Depp? He remains close to former partner Vanessa Paradis, and spent time in France with her and their two adult children over the summer.
He also has a friend in the British rock guitarist Jeff Beck, and spends extended periods at Beck’s home in Robertsbridge, East Sussex.
His other great friend is film director Tim Burton, and some believe he is currently staying at a rented house in North London with Burton.
Depp is godfather to both of Burton’s children with actress Helena Bonham Carter.
She said at the weekend: ‘None of it makes sense — he would never have gone to these lengths if he thought he was in the wrong.’ She has been silent today.
Depp is due at the offices of Heard’s lawyers in Virginia next week. He is due to testify, having accused her of libel over her Washington Post article.
He wants up to $50 million in damages; she is countersuing for $100 million and says he tried to destroy her career.
The case will most likely go to court in May next year.
Depp released an intriguing video on Instagram in September which showed him writing a note in a bold, seemingly unsteady hand.
It ran: ‘Hello All! I just wanted to thank you all once again for your constant and loyal support . . . I am only here because of you — and I’m only here for you!!! All thanks and love to you for all, JD.’
A rare display of vulnerability from a man who was once the acme of cool. It’s enough to beguile the Depp faithful — but will he be able to convince anyone else?
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