Johnny Depp’s latest public exposure began last week in a northern Virginia courtroom, lifting the veil on the secretive world of celebrities and hangers-on.
Depp is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for $50 million for calling herself a “domestic abuse public figure” in a 2018 Washington Post article. It revived accusations she made when the couple divorced in 2016, about which they each vowed to remain silent, and according to Depp, a public characterization could not go unanswered.
But after Depp lost a similar case in London in 2020, his public reputation and career were in shambles. He hasn’t appeared in a major studio film since Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald in 2018, although he has starred in smaller indies like Minamata. Revisiting these issues, which entails the reappearance of text messages in which he called Heard “c-” and fantasized about her “rotting corpse,” is unlikely to make a difference.
Video: Johnny Depp speaks in court against Amber Heard
“Maybe part of him is thinking, ‘What do I have to lose? I’m going down. I’m taking her with me,” says Hollywood divorce lawyer Judy Poller.
Reports of Depp’s erratic on-set behavior, extravagant spending and drug abuse didn’t contradict his promiscuous persona, which helped him earn $650 million over three decades in the movie business with hits like Pirates of the Caribbean and Alice in the Country. miracles.” But Hurd’s assault claims, once confirmed by a British court, left him virtually unemployed.
And that’s why 11 Fairfax County citizens were forced by jury to hear six weeks of testimony about their relationship — and more about the star’s troubled personal life, which first broke through in 1987 on 21 Jump Street television. series and remained in the spotlight for decades.
Depp’s trial also came as other celebrities faced infamy. From slapping Will Smith at the Oscars to arresting The Flash star Ezra Miller, it’s been a difficult time for Hollywood’s top actors and the studios that hired them.
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“It’s always dangerous for celebrities when there’s a crack in the plywood that lets in an unpleasant reality,” says Derek Long, assistant professor of media and film at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “When this crack occurs and bad behavior, human weakness or imperfection comes to the fore, the illusion explodes.”
When the trial began, Depp’s lawyers began to restore his public image. Their first witness was his older sister, Christy Dembrowski, who runs his production company, Infinitum Nihil. She is her brother’s most loyal protector.
Recalling their growing up, she described Depp as “a very typical, happy little boy.” She also drew family dynamics – an angry mother hitting her children with a rosette and a timid father trying to keep the peace. The goal was to explain Depp’s desire to hide from conflict.
But cross-examination revealed a more disturbing dynamic in adult sibling relationships. In February 2014, Dembrowski wrote to her brother: “Stop drinking, stop cocaine, stop pills.” But she struggled to acknowledge his drug problem on the stand.
“I wrote those words,” she said in court. But I don’t know the context of these words.
Dembrowski said she believed at the time that Heard was exaggerating Depp’s drug and alcohol use and urged her not to challenge him, saying that “confrontation unfortunately doesn’t help.”
For her part, Hurd presented her 2018 paper as a lesson in power. She called Depp’s career “a huge undertaking”, comparing it to “Titanic” and stating that many people were interested in patching holes.
Depp’s other witness, Isaac Baruch, told jurors that Depp offered him free living in a penthouse in downtown Los Angeles. in a “patronage” manner.
Depp and Heard lived in a nearby penthouse, and Baruch said he never witnessed violence between them. After the breakup, Depp sold the penthouses, forcing Baruch to move to another Depp property. In one message to Baruch, Depp lamented that “it r-ruined such a damn cool life we had for a while.”
At the booth, Baruch said that he thought Heard was lying about the abuse, but that he wasn’t angry.
“I want it all to end – for her to be treated, he to be treated,” he said. “So many people have been affected by this malicious lie that she invented and created and that has spread all over the world. I can’t even draw anymore.”
Monday’s testimony turned into even darker terrain when a nurse and doctor went into gory detail about the search for Depp’s missing fingertip after a 2015 fight with Heard. Depp claims Heard cut off the tip of his middle finger after throwing a bottle at it; Heard opinions that the actor probably cut his finger by breaking the phone.
In the early days, the trial was like sifting through the rubble of a royal court after its ruler had been deposed. In the age of superheroes, Hollywood found that it didn’t have to cater to stars like Depp and Smith like that. Both reached their apogee at the turn of the century, but their box office performance has waned in recent years.
“In the past, the movie star played an important role in identifying a film,” says Will Scheibel, an associate professor of film and screen studies at Syracuse University. “Now it seems like companies like Marvel or intellectual property like Star Wars or even directors like Christopher Nolan is how people define what they want to see.”
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