Johnny Depp has lost a libel battle in London and it may be the final straw in a deteriorating career as a famous actor but much of the damage had already been done, Hollywood experts said yesterday. The 57-year-old is best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Depp sued a British tabloid that referred to him as a ‘wife beater’ during his rocky relationship with his former wife, actress Amber Heard. He told the court that he was never violent towards Heard. His lawyers described the ruling as ‘perverse as it is bewildering’ and said it was ridiculous for him not to appeal.
Former editorial director of the Hollywood Reporter, Matthew Belloni said the sordid details of the short-lived marriage had been aired so often in recent years that the London verdict likely had little impact in the industry.
“There is a sense in Hollywood that Johnny Depp is a tainted brand, and his dominance of the box office in the 2000s has come to an end,” said Belloni.
The actor always played offbeat characters and has a large following of fans using social media hashtags like #JusticeForJohnnyDepp who reacted angrily to yesterday’s verdict. However, things like head butting and scrawling graffiti in blood that were recounted in the July trial were in conflict with Depp’s family-friendly films like the Pirates and Fantastic Beasts franchises.
“I think this is the final nail in the coffin of Johnny Depp’s brand,” said celebrity branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev. “The verdict does not align with that image.”
Disney did not comment on queries regarding Depp’s future. The company is working on a reboot of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Its producer Jerry Bruckheimer shared in a May interview that it was not certain what Depp’s role would be in the sixth film. The actor’s casting as villain Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts had already provoked controversy in 2017.
Depp is set to make a third appearance in the Warner Bros. franchise which began shooting last month. The company declined to make a comment. The Sweeney Todd actor is also the face of fashion house Dior’s male fragrances. The luxury fashion label did not respond for a request for comment about their future relationship with Depp.
Belloni said that while Hollywood studios “are not clamouring to be in the Depp business anymore,” the actor’s career was far from over.
“He’s always going to work if he wants to because he is a talented actor and there will be smaller films that will cast him. If one of those became a major hit, he may be back,” Belloni said, recalling the comeback of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man eight years after serving a year in prison for drug possession.
Heard’s Hollywood profile is smaller. She is expected to start production in mid-2021 on Aquaman 2 but Sehdev said producers “would do well to increase her role in that movie.”
“She should absolutely reap the benefits of her bravery. Sentiment is changing where we do believe victims and we recognize that there is a darker side to Hollywood,” Sehdev added, referring to the criminal sexual assault convictions of producer Harvey Weinstein and comedian Bill Cosby.
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