According to his talent manager, Johnny Depp had been planning to reprise his Captain Jack Sparrow role until his ex-wife, Amber Heard, published an essay in which she described herself as a “public figure associated with domestic abuse.”
On Monday, the talent manager for Johnny Depp testified in the actor’s defamation case that after his ex-wife Amber Heard published an op-ed in which she referred to herself as a “public figure representing domestic violence,” Mr. Depp lost a $22.5 million deal to star in a sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film.
Because Mr. Depp’s lawsuit against Ms. Heard claims that her op-ed, published by The Washington Post in December 2018, “devastated” his reputation and career, the precise moment he was removed from the franchise has become an important topic at trial.
Although the op-ed does not name Johnny Depp by name, he has maintained that it was clear allusion to their connection. Ms. Heard has accused Mr. Depp of repeatedly assaulting her throughout their relationship, which he denies.
At the Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia, Jack Whigham, the talent manager, testified that a verbal agreement existed between Disney and the actor to reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in a planned sixth film, but that it became apparent in early 2019 that Disney was “going in a different direction.”
“After the op-ed, it was impossible to get him a studio film,” testified Mr. Whigham, who has represented Mr. Depp since 2016.
Ms. Heard’s lawyers have maintained that it was not the actress’s essay which damaged Depp’s career, but rather his own actions that generated negative publicity, attempting to show during cross-examination of Whigham that Depp had indeed lost the “Pirates” job before the article went live.
Ms. Heard’s counsel, Elaine Charlson Bredehoft, noted a prior deposition by Mr. Whigham in which he stated that it was the fall of 2018 — before the op-ed was published — when he learned that it was more unlikely than ever that Johnny Depp would appear in the next “Pirates” film.
Mr. Whigham recalled that, at the time, Disney had not yet decided whether or not Johnny Depp would appear in the film and it was “trending badly,” but he and film producer Jerry Bruckheimer were still trying to persuade the firm to keep Mr. Depp in the series.
“We had hope,” Mr. Whigham said, “and it became clear to me in early 2019 that it was over.”
Ms. Heard claimed in the op-ed that her career was harmed when she became a “public figure representing domestic abuse,” with the phrase being dropped from a fashion line and her part being recast in a film.
On Monday, Ms. Heard’s attorneys attempted to refute Mr. Whigham’s allegation that Mr. Depp had a binding contract for the sixth “Pirates” film at all.
“Do you have any explanation for why there exists nothing — no piece of paper — nothing suggesting that Mr. Depp ever had a deal with Disney for ‘Pirates 6’?” Ms. Bredehoft asked.
Mr. Whigham explained that it was not unusual for an actor to have a verbal contract for a film that is subsequently put into writing.
Ms. Bredehoft also noted that other factors besides the op-ed may have contributed to Mr. Depp’s reputation falling, including a headline from The Sun newspaper in Britain that referred to him as a “wife beater.” In April 2018, she added, the article was published, and Mr. Depp sued the newspaper.
Ms. Heard’s attorneys have repeatedly referred to the defamation lawsuit in Britain that resulted from it. However, it appears that the team has been prohibited from discussing the case’s outcome, in which a London court found there was “overwhelming evidence” Mr. Depp assaulted Ms. Heard frequently during their marriage and ruled against him.
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