It wasn’t just erratic and violent behavior that wrecked one of the world’s most bankable stars. It was his unquenchable thirst for revenge.
In the face of mounting bad publicity, Johnny Depp could still count on one friendly industry group — a Polish film festival.
On Nov. 21, the embattled star was poised to receive a career honor during the 28th EnergaCamerimage cinematography gala and had agreed to appear remotely from the U.S., with his virtual presence touted in the press. As an added seal of approval at a needed moment, the festival scheduled his latest film, the low-budget period drama Minamata, as its closing-night offering.
But after a montage of clips showcasing Depp’s “unique visual sensitivity,” the 57-year-old actor failed to materialize onscreen. Instead, he sent along a bizarre picture of himself — open-shirted and with platinum blond hair peeking out from under a pair of colorful scarves. Inexplicably, he appeared to be standing behind bars in a Caribbean prison — resembling a carefree swashbuckler serving time for a crime that he doesn’t quite take seriously.
Minamata, featuring Depp as real-life war photographer W. Eugene Smith, never screened. MGM, the film’s distributor, pulled it during the seven-day festival. Depp’s absence offered a fitting denouement to a month of reputational and career devastation. On Nov. 2, a U.K. court had ruled against him in his high-stakes libel suit against tabloid The Sun over its description of him as a “wife beater.” In fact, the judge made clear that he believed Depp had assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard on multiple occasions and that she frequently feared for her life.
In the ensuing days, Warner Bros. excised him from its Fantastic Beasts franchise — a firing that played out publicly — while sources tell THR that he is no longer involved with a prestige Harry Houdini TV project produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, his most powerful remaining ally.
Over the course of four short years, Depp has spiraled from an A-list star responsible for more than $10 billion in worldwide box office to Hollywood persona non grata, beginning when Heard’s abuse allegations first surfaced in 2016 and continuing through a scorched-earth legal strategy that has seen him sue everyone in his path.
The result is a tsunami of tabloid fodder as sensitive texts, emails and drug-fueled and violent anecdotes spilled out into the public view. Despite multiple attempts to contact him, Depp could not be reached for comment.
There are few examples of a movie-star implosion of Depp’s magnitude that have been so sudden and spectacular. During the height of his stardom, a 13-year stretch ending in 2016, Depp earned some $650 million, including $55 million from his profit participation on 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, a Disney tentpole that earned $1.03 billion worldwide. For Minamata, which opens Feb. 21, he was paid just $3 million.
The claims made in at least six recent suits, along with multiple interviews conducted by THR, paint a picture of an out-of-control Depp, a casualty of Hollywood’s sycophant culture in which his wild spending and substance abuse were rarely challenged.
Or as one producer who worked on a recent Depp project notes, “He’s just never been told no for the past 35 years. That’s typical in Hollywood. But I’ve never seen it to this extent.” November 2020 simply offered the punctuation.