Johnny Depp’s $50m defamation case against his former wife, Amber Heard, entered its 12th day of testimony in a Virginia courtroom on Monday, a day after Heard was reported to have fired her PR team.
Jurors were told that after Heard made allegations of domestic violence against Depp in 2016, his film work and earnings dropped dramatically.
Depp’s agent, Jack Whigham, testified that in 2017 the actor made three studio and two independent films with fees of about $35m, but in 2018 made just two independent films for fees of $4m.
Whigham said that for one of those films, Minamata, financing became “shaky” and Depp was forced to drop his fee “to save the movie”.
Disney, which had scheduled Depp for a sixth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, “were going in a different direction”, Whigham said. Depp, who was due to be paid $23m plus a share of profits, was to be replaced by Margot Robbie.
“I was not successful in rescuing Pirates for Johnny,” Whigham said.
“After the op-ed it was impossible to get him a studio film,” Whigham said, referring to the Washington Post article at the center of the defamation action, in which Heard said she was a survivor of domestic and sexual assault.
“With respect to Johnny, it was catastrophic,” Whigham said.
Under cross-examination, Whigham said the article became “a death knell, catastrophic thing for Mr Depp in the Hollywood community”. Depp had not made a movie, he said, since July 2020.
Richard Marks, a dealmaker across the movie business whose job, he said, is to help clients to “get to yes” and into a successful contract, said that Heard’s allegations against Depp ultimately created a “cancel situation” for Depp.
Marks said the studios had always put up with idiosyncratic behavior from its stars.
“Johnny Depp has a reputation for being Johnny Depp. When you hire Johnny Depp you get all of Johnny Depp – and that includes being late.” Hollywood, he said, “only puts up with ‘diva and drugs’ when money is involved, big stars are involved and artistry is involved”.
But the accusations levelled by Heard made him effectively unemployable. “In the past five years, especially with the #MeToo movement you wouldn’t want to hire an actor who had ‘been cancelled’. Right now the pinnacle of negativity in Hollywood is being accused of domestic or sexual abuse,” Marks said.
“You wouldn’t want to pay to hire an actor with negativity following them. You wouldn’t want to pay to bring your brand down,” he added.
Earlier, the court was also presented with testimony from Travis McGivern, a member of Depp’s security team who often worked the night shift.
The choreography of disputes at Depp and Heard’s five-penthouse complex in Los Angeles again became the subject of attention, as McGivern testified that he saw Heard punch Depp in the face after he and Depp’s nurse were called at 4am one day in April 2016.
McGivern said Heard threw a Red Bull can at Depp from a second level, hitting him on the back.
“She threw a bag or purse, she spat at him, a lot of verbal vitriol,” McGivern said.
“Typically, it was Ms Heard directing her feelings at Mr Depp,” he added, as the frequency of arguments increased to “several times a week”.
McGivern said Depp never responded physically. As the verbal insults continued, Depp “gave as good as he got”, he said.
The abuse, he said, could include “anything and everything … the f-word is my favorite word but it was being thrown around to the point I was uncomfortable.”
On the night in question, McGivern said, Heard left and returned with her sister, Whitney, while he was trying to get Depp out. By then, he said, Depp had thrown racks of Heard’s clothes and accessories off a third-floor balcony.
McGivern said both Heard and Depp were “agitated”. Typically, he said, Depp would grab framed letters from Hunter S Thompson or Marlon Brando before going back to his house on North Sweetzer, which was once owned by Bela Lugosi.
McGivern said he was standing between Depp and Heard when “in the corner of my eye, I saw a fist and an arm come across my right shoulder. I heard and saw a closed fist contact Mr Depp on the left side of his face”.
McGivern testified it was Heard who threw the punch and that Depp had a look of “shock” on his face. The actor had a “nice little shiner”, he said.
Depp’s lawyers will wind up their presentation on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it is believed Heard will take the stand in her defence against Depp’s $50m defamation claim, and counter with a $100m claim of her own, for nuisance.
Heard was reported on Sunday to have fired her team at Precision Strategies. She has reportedly hired another firm, Shane Communications. One source told the New York Post of the switch while another said the Aquaman actor was “frustrated with her story not being told effectively”.