One of the fun things about being a movie critic is your friends asking about various movies; whether it’s the latest releases at the theater, or something they’re considering on the streaming services. It’s even more fun when I get peppered with questions about movie stars who are in the news.
“Could you believe Will Smith slapped Chris Rock?”
No. Especially since I had talked to Smith a week before at the Critics’ Choice Awards and he was as nice as his reputation.
The latest thing I’m being asked about is the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial. While smoking cigars in Escondido at Lord Puffer, someone asked if I think it will hurt Depp’s career. I thought that would make for a great topic to tackle.
There’s no doubt this will hurt Depp’s career. Technically, it already has. After Amber Heard made her first accusations, Depp was immediately dropped from a “Pirates of the Caribbean” film.
Now, his career was going downhill slightly before all this. A story had come out years ago about how he was the highest paid actor for movies that made the least amount of money. In 2015, Forbes stated that he was literally the most overpaid actor, because his films earned just $2.80 for every dollar he was paid to star in them.
And while we immediately think of Edward Scissorhands and Jack Sparrow and how those characters brought in big bucks for the studios, we forget about clunkers like “Mortdecai,” “The Lone Ranger,” “The Rum Diary,” “City of Lies,” “Into the Woods,” “Transcendence,” “Dark Shadows,” and a few others. Depp was paid $55 million for the Pirates film “On Stranger Tides” which had production costs over $400 million (including that salary).
Now, despite the bad reviews for “Alice in Wonderland” and the $68 million Depp was paid for it, it grossed over a billion dollars worldwide. Yet, that wasn’t enough for studios to keep shelling out $20 mil a film for Depp. That asking price was going down and then the accusations from Heard hit. Disney dropped him from a future Pirate film, and other studios stopped calling. That’s when he decided to sue for defamation, since he claims he never abused her.
I don’t want to recap what we’ve seen in the trial, but most people watching it have sided with Depp. They’re realizing Heard has a lot of problems (one of which being, her inability to distinguish between a bed and a bidet). And let’s say we all come away from this trial convinced he never abused her – well, we still realize he had a problem with alcohol and other drugs (by his own admission). And that he’s a bit of an eccentric nutjob. Now, that never slowed down an actor’s career before, but in this day and age, it wouldn’t be worth it for a studio – certainly not paying Depp’s previous acting price of $20 mil. So, let’s say Depp is willing to drop it to $5 million. Again, is a studio going to risk what the insurance will cost for a guy who is a known drug user? Will a studio want to risk casting someone who might bring protests from a #metoo style movement?
So it’s safe to say this has all hurt Depp’s career. Yet it’s not going to be all that hard to get it back on track. That certainly won’t happen overnight. It will be a lot like Robert Downey, Jr. who was known for drug use, fighting police, breaking into a house and passing out, and then served jail time. No studios were going to hire Downey. It looked like his career was over.
Surprisingly, he got a second chance from Mel Gibson (I still can’t figure out how he still has a career, but that’s another column for another time). Gibson told the studio he’d cover the insurance on Downey for “The Singing Detective” (a pleasant little film). Since that went well, he got a big part in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (a terrific movie). His career was back on track, and he was cast as Iron Man (where he made over $105 million on the last movie, in which Tony Stark died; Oh, sorry. Spoiler Alert if you haven’t seen End Game).
When Depp was involved in a lawsuit with a manager, it was reported that he lost over $650 million (his net worth is currently around $100 million, so don’t feel so bad for him). So while he may have to do some indie movies, filmmakers with a small picture would jump at the chance to cast him – he’ll do what Nicolas Cage did. Go from a bunch of bad movies, to some critically praised ones (oddly enough, it was Cage who, when Depp came to Hollywood and his band The Kids broke up, suggested he try his hand at action, and even got him a few parts). And once one of those indie parts garners an Oscar nomination for Depp, people will forget about the craziness of the trial, and he’ll be back to bigger parts. People won’t talk about the bad movies he did, but films like “Donnie Brasco,” “Blow,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Ed Wood,” “Chocolat,” “Fear and Loathing,” etc.
I find it interesting that people ask me if this will hurt Depp’s career, but nobody is asking me if I believe Depp was abusive to Heard. I think that’s because we’ve all heard the testimony (or highlights from it), and little of her story makes sense. She said he broke her nose, and claimed to use a type of make-up to cover it up. That make-up wasn’t around at that time, and photos showed her at an event the following night with Depp and her nose looked fine. She claims he choked her on their honeymoon. Yet you wonder, why an actress who makes good money and has a career in Hollywood, would stay with someone like that. It’s not as if she’s an abused woman who has no job, no other options, has kids, and all those things that often keep women in abusive relationships.
She didn’t donate the $7 million in the divorce settlement to the charity like she said she would. Basically, everything she’s said has already been proven in court to be lies. So it’s hard for us to believe what she claimed about Depp and the alleged abuse. But even with all that being said, yes, it will have an impact on Depp’s career.
As for her career, I heard (no pun intended) there were well over a million signatures to get her off the latest Aquaman movie. And superhero movies have no qualms about replacing people. When Terrence Howard was complaining after the first Iron Man, they replaced him with Don Cheadle. Oh, and Howard had been accused, on multiple occasions, of domestic violence, as well as violence against complete strangers (including a woman). It never seemed to hurt his career, so…there you go.