Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: can their careers survive the trial?

CNN spoke to six entertainment industry experts for this story, some of whom spoke on background to protect professional relationships.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect before he spoke and I think it only improved his public image,” the source said.

Another top Hollywood publicist, who hasn’t worked with Depp or Heard, said none of their images had well done.

“Both are very dysfunctional. Money is toxic and greed destroys. Nobody wins here,” said this publicist.

A “forgiving” industry

Naturally, the two actors must overcome obstacles once their legal battle is over.

Heard testified that Depp was verbally and physically abusive. She also accused Depp of sexual abuse during their relationship.
Depp repeatedly claimed on the stand that he had never hit a woman, denied Heard’s allegation of sexual assault and called himself a victim of domestic violence by Heard, which she denies.

Depp and Heard met in 2009 on the set of their movie “The Rum Diary” and were married from 2015 to 2016 before divorcing.

Photographs as well as audio and video recordings painted a picture of two people in a relationship with what was called “mutual abuse” by Laurel Anderson, a clinical psychologist who worked with Depp and Heard in 2015 as a counselor conjugal, in testimony broadcast on April 14. (To illustrate how controversial this trial was, the witness’s use of the term itself has drew criticism.)

entertainment agent Darryl Marshak thinks movie studios might — at least initially — be hesitant to engage with actors embroiled in a controversy that has played out so publicly.

“Robert Downey Jr. won an Oscar and then took his personal business out into the world and people kind of backed off,” said Marshak, who has previously represented stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Hilary Swank. “I think Hollywood is a weird place. When you’re airing your dirty laundry in front of the machine, the executives, all the people moving the pieces, they kind of recoil from a hot flame.”

Depp claims that a 2018 op-ed by Heard in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic violence” defamed him. He has acted in two films since the editorial, which did not mention him by name, “Waiting for the Barbarians” and “Minamata”, two independent films.

Heard, whose countersuit claims she was defamed by a Depp lawyer who called her abuse allegations a “hoax,” will appear in the sequel to “Aquaman,” slated for release in 2023.

Marshak said he thought Depp’s “incredible talent” would help him return to movie screens.

“Hollywood is also forgiving and as it goes on this thing stops airing and Johnny is able to flow back into the business smoothly. I think he’ll reappear,” he said. . “Hollywood is an unstable place.”

The courtroom performance by Depp and Heard’s legal teams – a live trial watched by millions – may also shape the industry’s perspective on the two stars.

“People globally have apparently become polarized by the trial, we saw this play out in the press before it ended in the courtroom,” Amanda K. Ruisi, Founder and President of AKR Public Relations & AKR Venturestold CNN.

Ruisi believes Depp’s representatives have been more efficient.

“Mr. Depp’s legal and strategic communications team has done an incredible job of delivering a consistent message in the courtroom and in the media, which I believe has helped rally support from his base. fans.”

Not that Depp supporters needed a boost. The scales of social media justice are tilted heavily in his favor, so much so that the imbalance has prompted headlines meditating the reason behind it. A writer from The Cut asked: “Here is a woman recounting, in excruciating detail, how a hugely famous man allegedly assaulted her. Why, in 2022, do so many people seem to hate her for this?
Sociologist Nicole Bedera has offered a few theories — both about Twitter and in an article for Harper’s Bazaar — on why female survivors of domestic violence and many women seemed to support Depp.

“It can be frightening – and for the victims, traumatizing again – for women to sympathize with an abuse survivor. If the violence is really *everywhere* and if it *feels* like it can happen to n anyone, then a lot of women will start worrying that they’ll be next,” she wrote. “So is it surprising that a lot of women are coming to Depp’s defense? No. Not at all.”

Heard had his supporters, but significantly less vocal than Depp – both in the field of entertainment and in and around courthouse.
Heard’s former co-star David Krumholtz publicly came to his defense, actress Ellen Barkin testified for his defense team and comedian Kathy Griffin wrote in response to a preliminary tweet from Heard, “Thinking of you and sending you all the love.”

For two active actors, the question once the court adjourns is whether producers will send them scripts as reliably as viewers sent tweets?

The future of the franchise in danger?

The core of Heard and Depp’s lawsuits lie in claims that their careers — particularly their futures in the respective film franchises — have been affected.

In recent weeks of testimony, Depp’s team has tried to prove that Depp, who portrayed Jack Sparrow in five films, was cut from a potential sixth film in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise due to the editorial by Heard.

Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, told The Times that “the future is still to be decided” regarding Depp’s involvement in a possible next installment.

The producer said the creative team was “developing two ‘Pirates’ scripts” – one that would potentially have Margot Robbie in the lead and “one without ‘Robbie’.

The last movie was 2017’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’.

In recorded deposition played in court, former Depp agent Christian Carino, who began representing Depp in October 2016 and even represented Depp and Heard at the same time, said he believed the abuse charges domestic made by Heard against Depp were costing the actor. a salary that would have been worth tens of millions of dollars.

And when a lawyer for Heard pressed Carino about other issues Depp might have had while working on previous “Pirates” films, he dismissed them.

“I know he’s late, but he’s been late for everything his whole life,” Carino said. “I think it’s embarrassing for everyone, but everyone has learned to produce a film to deal with it.”

Other witnesses saw his behavior as more damaging.

Tracey Jacobs, who testified in recorded deposition and represented Depp for 30 years as a talent agent before being fired, said as a witness she was honest with Depp by regularly showing up late on sets and his behavior, including drug and alcohol use, was hurting his career.

“His star faded as it became more difficult to find him a job given the reputation he had gained due to being late and other things,” Jacobs said. “People were talking and the question was out there about his behavior.”

A Hollywood director, who hasn’t worked with Depp but has met him, told CNN he doesn’t think Depp will ever helm another major franchise.

“I believe that Johnny Depp will be able to be cast in various independent films because he still has significant name value and there is an audience for him, but studios will be more cautious for insurance reasons and because of of the possibility of stopping protection and they would be more concerned about public reactions than small independent companies,” he said.

Jason Momoa and Amber Heard in

As for Heard, the director thinks the focus on the trial hasn’t helped her image.

Currently, there’s a petition to have Heard removed from the upcoming “Aquaman” sequel, which has already filmed and is in post-production. (CNN and Warner Bros. are both part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)

It probably won’t happen. But Walter Hamada, the head of DC Films, which produced “Aquaman,” said the creative team feared Heard would reprise his role in the franchise due to a lack of chemistry with co-star Jason Momoa.

He also said that the studio never planned to portray Heard as a co-lead in the second film and that Heard’s role was not reduced in the upcoming film, titled “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. “.

Regardless of the jury’s decision, Juda Engelmayer, founder of Herald PR, who has represented celebrities like disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein, told CNN that Depp’s time in court — which included quirky moments and memorable ones involving doodles and sweets – bolstered his image.

“His testimony, whether true or act, brought about an upsurge of fans who missed him,” he said. “For his reputation and his career, the studios see that he still has a fanbase,” he said.

As for Heard, whose career was less established than Depp’s when their relationship and troubling accusations began, that’s harder to say, sources say.

Almost a decade ago, before the drama with Depp was revealed, Heard told Vanity Fair that she was ready for the ebbs and flows of an acting career.

“Do you think you would have pursued him if you knew it would be such a circus?” Heard was interviewed in a interview 2013.

“Absolutely,” Heard replied. “I really like the struggle that you’re constantly…you’re constantly put in a fight or flight state. It’s a constant struggle. So I don’t know if I could have it any other way.”

CNN’s Sonia Moghe contributed to this report.

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