The Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard case hinges on an argument that couldn’t be further from the truth – even if his fans don’t want to hear it.
Kate Moss’ appearance in the nasty libel suit between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard reminded us of one thing: Back when he and Moss were dating, Depp was one of the biggest movie stars in the world.
These resurfaced photos of Moss and Depp, a bright, sharp-cheeked couple, were taken just as he was about to hit his prime, working with movie giants, gracing the covers of huge magazines and pumping up the box office.
He was clearly Tim Burton’s favorite (Corpse Bride, Alice in Wonderland, Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the chocolate factory and more). He took creative risks with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or played the romantic lead role in Chocolate while with his independent darling Jim Jarmusch he did some of his best work in a trippy western Dead man.
His talents crossed genres and he was equally dashing and persuasive in horrors From hell and The Ninth Gate as he was in crime thrillers Donnie Brasco and Blow.
With Pirates of the Caribbean, he built an entire franchise on the back of his charisma and playfulness in front of the camera, turning a Disneyland ride into a blockbuster monster. He was even nominated for an Oscar as the hard-drinking Jack Sparrow.
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It was a spike that lasted for many, many years – but if there’s one massive myth at the heart of the Depp-Heard affair, it’s that Depp’s career was still at that boom time.
The actor is suing his ex-wife for $50 million in lost profits, arguing that his 2018 Washington Post editorial, in which she accused him of domestic violence, cost her several plum roles and, in fact, her career.
Here’s a truth his ardent fans won’t hear, but I hope the jury does. By the time Heard’s article was published, Depp’s career had long been in decline.
The turning point was 2013 when The Lone Ranger bombarded. The idea sounded good on paper: it was Depp and his pirate director Gore Verbinski and was essentially a cloak-and-dagger adventure on earth.
But it didn’t even recoup its massive $250 million production budget, let alone marketing costs, and sequel plans were quickly scrapped.
It put Depp’s career in the spotlight – his appeal alone wasn’t enough to sell a movie. In the decade that followed, his moderate successes, including Black Mass did not make up for flops such as Mortdecai. More often than not, Depp booked smaller films at smaller studios, helmed by lesser-known filmmakers.
Only his most diehard fans have heard of it – The teacher, city of lies Where Minamata.
Where his films made big money, he was not the title but part of a larger whole.
Depp defenders discuss trio of box office hits ahead of Heard abuse allegations in 2018 – Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Don’t Lie, Murder on the Orient Express and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
There’s a big difference between these hits and films from his previous career – people didn’t go to see them because of Depp, audiences flocked in because of their familiarity with the titles. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald wasn’t a “Johnny Depp movie”, it was a “Harry Potter movie”. Depp was right there.
And Pirates of the Caribbean was bigger than Depp’s mark then – the beast he helped create surpassed his star power.
It’s not just true for Depp. The last decade has seen a huge growth in the appeal of IP thanks to the dominance of Marvel, Harry Potter, Fast & Furious, Transformers and his ilk, and the corresponding decline of movie stardom.
Except in rare cases – Top Gun: Maverick is one of them – moviegoers aren’t motivated by who’s displayed at the top of the bill. This movie star model is moved to streaming where the barrier to entry is much lower and requires little effort to sample a new offering from Chris Pratt, regardless of the story.
And unlike Robert Downey Jr, Dwayne Johnson, Tom Cruise or Charlize Theron, Depp also struggles with a tough reputation.
He’s notorious for being late to set which not only wastes everyone’s time but also costs the production tons of money and then when he shows up he hasn’t made the appearances the most rudimentary of his job, like learning his lines. .
His predilection for drugs and alcohol made him too much of a liability for major studios such as Universal, Warner Bros. and the family Disney.
Disney executive Tina Newman testified that the decision not to proceed with a Depp-led Pirates of the Caribbean 6 had nothing to do with Heard’s op-ed, while his former agent Tracey Jacobs said there were several complaints from every film he worked on, stemming from his “basic anger issues”.
Jacobs said her unprofessional behavior had become more prominent over the past 10 years and she had to fly to Australia twice during production for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean to resolve complaints about his work ethic.
“The news got around it made people reluctant to use it towards the end,” she testified.
Regardless of the jury’s decision in the Depp-Heard trial, even if it wins, movie star Depp is doomed. It has been done for many, many years.
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