Johnny Depp's career 'was already waning before Heard article'

Expert witnesses say Hollywood had started to turn its back on him

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Defence lawyers on Monday called more experts to testify in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard libel case, after a week in which her team produced witnesses who described his career decline.

Depp filed a $50 million suit against his former wife, alleging that her 2018 Washington Post opinion piece, in which Heard described herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse”, caused irreparable damage to his career and cost him "everything".

Last week Heard’s lawyers spent most of the trial producing witnesses who said his star was waning before the article and that Depp was frequently jealous, unable to control his anger and often drunk and or under the influence of illicit drugs.

Depp testified that he has never been violent towards anyone and that it was Heard who was physically abusive in the relationship. She is counter-suing him for $100m. The trial is now in its sixth week.

Kathryn Arnold, a long-time entertainment industry expert, testified that Hollywood had already begun to turn its back on Depp before the article was printed.

“His behaviour, both on and off the set, in his personal life and in his professional life, started to interfere with what everybody saw was his great talent … between 2006 and 2010,” Ms Arnold testified.

Last week Tracey Jacobs, Depp’s talent agent of 30 years, said that his actions began harming her ability to get him roles in about 2010.

“Initially, crews loved him because he was always so great with the crew," Ms Jacobs said. "But crews don’t love sitting around for hours and hours and hours waiting for the star of the movie to show up.

“And it also got around town. I mean, people talk, it’s a small community. And it made people reluctant to use him.”

On the witness stand for close to two hours, Ms Arnold affirmed Ms Jacobs testimony, talking of Depp’s tardiness, drinking, drug abuse and “other issues in his personal life”.

“It got more complicated for her to find him work and I think it got harder for production companies and studios to hire him due to the challenges that he put on a production,” Ms Arnold said.

It was after Depp’s bizarre appearance on the 2014 Hollywood Film Awards that Ms Jacobs received “many phone calls from producers, casting directors and production executives” inquiring about the star.

“They all wanted to know, ‘What is going on with your client? Do you know what's going on with his behaviour? Can we get them under control?’” Ms Arnold testified.

Johnny Depp

Given the task of presenting an award for best documentary film to Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, Depp swerved and stumbled his way across the stage, stared down at the microphone and tried to slur his way through the live event.

CBS eventually cut to a commercial after he dropped several expletives.

“And then I think it really started to shift around the Pirates V movie in Australia, with again the lateness and the issues with the finger that stopped production, and things of that nature, and then it just got harder and harder,” Ms Arnold said.

In her opinion, Depp’s unpredictable conduct, absences and intoxication were not the only things to make him unpopular with film executives.

There was also his parade of legal filings against long-time associates, business partners, publications and his former wife.

Depp lost a libel case against the Sun, a British paper that wrote he was a "wife beater". A London High Court judge ruled that he had repeatedly assaulted Heard.

“There's a lot of publicity around anything that he does … and whether it was about erratic behaviour or domestic abuse or drugs and alcohol, and even spending habits, the press and publicity has just been charged up and brought everything back to light,” Ms Arnold said.

Heard’s article never mentioned him by name, but Depp says it cost him a lucrative payday on the sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film.

Tina Newman, a Walt Disney Studios production executive, was asked last week by Heard’s lawyers if any decision maker at the studio said he was not cast because of the article.

“No,” Ms Newman said.

Ms Arnold said that to the best of her knowledge, no one even knew about The Washington Post article until Depp brought it up.

She said it was an October 2108 article in The Hollywood Reporter in which two of the film’s writers gave their opinions that Depp’s character would go away.

Another derogatory piece appeared in Rolling Stone magazine and then a second in The Hollywood Reporter delivered the death knell.

Earlier in the trial, Depp’s lawyers called Richard Marks, who testified that it was the opinion piece that fuelled The Hollywood Reporter’s findings and led to Disney firing Depp.

“It was actually printed in the Reporter the same morning that the Washington Post article was printed," Ms Arnold said.

"So there's no way that the Washington Post article had any impact on what The Hollywood Reporter journalist wrote as they were on the same morning, they were released simultaneously, interestingly enough."

Earlier in the day, jurors were shown graphic photos of Depp's bloody finger and heard testimony from orthopaedic surgeon Dr Richard Moore, who had reviewed Depp's medical records.

"Looking at the images, there's really no, no significant injury to the dorsal or the finger," Dr Moore said.

"And to create the type of injury with that, with that type of a crush injury, we would anticipate both injury to the fingernail and other parts of the finger."

During cross examination by Depp's lawyer, he said: "I can't rule out that a vodka bottle caused the injury, but I can rule out that it was caused in the manner described in his testimony."

Depp in an Australian hospital for surgery to reattach his finger that he said his ex-wife Amber Heard severed with a vodka bottle.  Johnny Depp Legal Team / Reuters

Depp claims that he lost the tip of his finger when Heard hurled a vodka bottle at him while the couple were having an argument in Australia.

Heard testified that they did have a vicious argument, but that Depp may have injured himself when he smashed a wall-mounted phone into "smithereens".

Depp and Heard met in 2011 while filming The Rum Diary and married in February 2015. Their divorce was finalised less than two years later.

Heard's lawyers have argued that she told the truth and that her opinion was protected free speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Updated: May 24, 2022, 6:17 AM
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