Newsmaker: Johnny Depp – Better than a Hollywood script

Oh dear. If testimony in court could be assessed by an adult, then the civil trial unfolding in a Fairfax, Virginia courtroom is colorful enough to test every level of a censor’s beep box. That’s enough to make most adults blush – and it does indeed drive very high viewing figures on America’s court networks.

The lawsuit is a libel case brought by actor Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard is ongoing and will likely take weeks to conclude.

Depp and Heard’s relationship began over a decade ago and eventually blossomed into what appears to have been a toxic marriage.

The couple separated in 2016, but continued to fight in court over an article Heard wrote for The Washington Post in 2018, in which she described surviving domestic violence – without mentioning Depp per her name.

He is suing for 50 million dollars (183.6 million Dh) in damages and denies having ever been physically violent with Heard. She fights back for $100 million and claims she was only ever violent with Depp in self-defense or to defend her younger sister. Depp has spent days testifying and the court is waiting to see which Hollywood names in legal documents will be potential witnesses.

Johnny Depp looks on during a hearing at the Fairfax County Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia on May 3, 2022
Image credit: AFP

Heard and Depp tied the knot in 2015 in a private ceremony — private, but not private enough. They landed in hot water for bringing their dogs, Pistol and Boo, to Australia. They then released a somber apology video that no doubt tested their acting abilities. Heard was eventually charged with two counts of illegally importing Pistol and Boo into Australia and one count of producing a false document.

Perhaps doggiegate was all too revealing of the issues between the two. Less than a year after her marriage, she filed for divorce and obtained a temporary restraining order against him. She claimed he threw a phone at her, leaving her bruised.

Since then, the two men have dueled in courtrooms on both sides of the Atlantic. As my late mother used to say, never air your dirty laundry in public. With Depp and Heard, it’s a prime-time laundromat.

The 58-year-old actor is known for his portrayal of quirky characters in films like Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise – and as quirky as they are on screen, his personal life seems just as chaotic.

The trajectory of success

He landed his first legitimate film role in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). He began seriously studying acting, the lessons paying off in 1987 when he landed a role on the TV show 21 Jump Street. He has since become known for his willingness to take on darker roles in films such as Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow.

His real name is John Christopher Depp II, born in Owensboro, Kentucky, on June 9, 1963, to parents John and Betty Sue Depp. Depp’s father worked as a civil engineer and his mother worked as a waitress and housewife. The youngest of four children, Depp was withdrawn and a self-confessed eccentric.

The family moved frequently to accommodate his father’s job, eventually landing in Miramar, Florida when Depp was seven. The family lived in a motel for nearly a year, until her father got a job. Depp hated his new home and, at age 12, began smoking, experimenting with drugs and self-harming due to the stress of family issues.

At 16, Depp dropped out of high school and joined a garage band called the Kids.

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Actress Amber Heard talks to her attorney during Johnny Depp’s libel trial against her at the Fairfax County Courthouse
Image credit: AP

Depp met and married 25-year-old makeup artist Lori Allison in 1983. That same year, the couple moved to Los Angeles with Depp’s band in hopes of hitting it big. Still living on a shoestring budget, Depp and his bandmates supported themselves by selling pens for a telemarketing firm.

A year later, Depp became an actor when his wife introduced him to her ex-boyfriend, actor Nicholas Cage. He saw potential in Depp and introduced the hopeful musician to a Hollywood agent. After several small roles as an extra, Depp landed his first film role in the horror film Nightmare on Elm Street.

By 1985, the Kids had broken up, as had Depp’s marriage. After his split from Allison, Depp struck up a relationship with actress Sherilyn Fenn, whom he met on the set of the short film Dummies in 1985. They were briefly engaged – but separated soon after.

He then met and proposed to actress Jennifer Gray – and again their romance was short-lived.

Depp began to seriously study acting, first in classes at the Loft Studio in Los Angeles, then with a private coach. The lessons paid off in 1987 when he landed a role on the popular Canadian television series 21 Jump Street.

In 1990, Depp had the opportunity to showcase his versatility as an actor in the lead role of Tim Burton’s fantasy film Edward Scissorhands. The film not only established Depp as a top-tier actor, but it also grossed over $54 million at the box office.

It was while filming Edward Scissorhands that Depp met his co-star Winona Ryder. The two began dating on set and quickly became a power couple in Hollywood. They soon got engaged, Depp even got a “Winona Forever” tattoo on his right arm. The couple separated in 1993, however, after Ryder’s parents forbade their daughter from marrying.

Depp also dabbled in drugs and fell into a deep depression. Around this time, he began a very public relationship with model Kate Moss. The couple consistently made headlines for their passionate and unpredictable behavior.

But on the screen, his career was flourishing and he was in demand. In 2004, Depp was nominated for an Oscar for his starring role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean family adventure. The film was a box office hit, fueling the creation of the Pirates franchise.

His personal issues with Heard, however, mean he is persona non grata with the franchise’s creators. Indeed, part of his lawsuit against Heard stems from the fact that he was effectively forced to walk the plank and cast his tried and true box office roles.

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