Could the judgement in Johnny Depp’s libel case against Amber Heard, in which a US jury mainly agreed with him, help the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor restore his declining career?
Depp was ecstatic on Wednesday after the jury awarded him more than $10 million in damages for defamation, compared to only $2 million for his ex-wife, who had counter-sued.
Testimony from Hollywood agents, accountants, and attorneys, who were asked to determine whether the former couple had destroyed one other’s careers, was at the heart of the high-profile trial.
Depp’s side told jurors that Heard’s claims of abuse cost him a $22.5 million paycheck for a sixth “Pirates” film.
However, witnesses for Heard’s legal team testified that her ex-star husband’s was already fading due to “unprofessional behaviour” such as drinking and drug usage.
“The harm is done, and from here, it may start a road back to some type of normalcy,” said a Hollywood producer who has previously worked with Depp but did not want to be recognised.
“However, I don’t believe he’ll be able to land huge, big, large studio jobs where so much is at stake.”
“They’re not going to put up with the tardiness that costs a boatload of money for someone who isn’t a bright star any longer if he’s throwing bottles and taking drugs and he’s late.”
According to the producer, major Hollywood studios may have difficulty obtaining insurance for mega-budget movies starring Depp.
“Putting a guy like that into billion-dollar franchises now is too risky,” they added.
Similarly, just because jurors and social media opinion were influenced in Depp’s favour during the trial does not mean his box office appeal will return, especially among women.
“The things he said are nasty,” the producer remarked, referring to text conversations revealed during the trial in which Depp referred to Heard as a “idiot cow” and discussed her “rotting corpse.”
Of course, while not directly similar, Hollywood heavyweights such as Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson have had huge movie office success following major scandals.
“I believe there are studios that will be willing to deal with him at this point,” said Karen North, a reputation management expert at the University of Southern California.
Despite a spate of recent disasters, she claims that “he’s nearly always been very excellent for the box office,” adding that Depp is “as much in the public eye today as he has ever been because of the trial.”
While a recovery from gruesome reports of drink and drug-fueled binges could be difficult for someone with a more clean-cut image, Depp “has never stated that he was a mild-mannered do-gooder.”
“People say, ‘Well, I’m not surprised — it doesn’t change who I think that person is,’ when someone is a bit of a bad boy… when they’re accused of doing anything that involves being volatile.”
“I believe Johnny Depp will return personally, which makes sense,” North remarked.
“Isn’t that assuming he wants to do it? He has a lot of options available to him.”
Depp spent the days leading up to the decision doing rock concerts in England with guitarist Jeff Beck, possibly proving that his interests extend beyond a return to the big screen.
And if he were to return to the big screen, it wouldn’t have to be in the flashy world of Hollywood.
“He might become an independent darling,” said a producer who worked with Depp, “where the shoots are six to eight weeks, the remuneration is $250,000, and he gets 25 percent ownership of the movie, or something like that.”
“And he could get nominated for some cool tiny role where the stakes aren’t as high and the budget isn’t as big, and he wows everyone with some crazy performance.”
What if that doesn’t work?
“He’ll be based in Europe. They don’t give a damn about this sort of thing, I mean “said the director.
“He’ll make films in the French language. He intends to make German films.”
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