Johnny Depp, Will Smith Expose Darker Side of Movie Stardom

The latest act in the pretty public unraveling of Johnny Depp began past week in a courtroom in northern Virginia, pulling back again the curtain on the secretive environment of celebrity enablers and hangers-on.

Depp is suing his ex-wife, Amber Read, for $50 million for describing herself as a “public determine representing domestic abuse” in a 2018 Washington Post belief piece. That revived allegations she manufactured when the few divorced in 2016 — about which they experienced every single promised to continue to be silent — and in Depp’s view the general public characterization could not go unchallenged.

But following Depp missing a similar case in London in 2020, his community reputation — and job — are in tatters. He has not appeared in a important studio film since “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” in 2018, although he has starred in lesser indies this kind of as “Minamata.” Relitigating these challenges, which entails resurfacing text messages in which he named Heard a “c—” and fantasized about her “rotting corpse,” is unlikely to transform points all-around.

“Maybe a aspect of him feels like, ‘What do I have to eliminate? I’m likely down. I’m bringing her down with me,’” says Hollywood divorce law firm Judy Poller.

Studies of Depp’s erratic conduct on established, extravagant spending and drug abuse were being not in conflict with the rakish persona that helped him generate $650 million about three decades in the film business enterprise with hits like “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Alice in Wonderland.” But Heard’s assault statements — as soon as validated by a U.K. judge — manufactured him almost unemployable.

And that is why 11 citizens of Fairfax County have been compelled by a jury summons to hear 6 weeks of testimony about their romantic relationship — and extra about the troubled personal lifetime of a star who initial broke through in 1987 with the “21 Bounce Street” Tv sequence and has remained in the public eye for many years.

The Depp demo also will come as other A-listers have had their personal brushes with ignominy. From Will Smith’s Oscars slap to the arrest of “The Flash” star Ezra Miller, it is been a rough time period for Hollywood’s main guys and the studios that utilize them.

“It’s generally perilous for celebs when there is a crack in the veneer that allows in an disagreeable actuality,” says Derek Extensive, assistant professor of media and cinema scientific tests at the College of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “When that crack comes about and lousy habits or human frailty or imperfections appear to the fore, it explodes the illusion.”

As the demo bought underway, Depp’s lawyers set about rebuilding his general public picture. Their first witness was his older sister, Christi Dembrowski, who runs his generation firm, Infinitum Nihil. She is her brother’s most faithful protector.

Recalling their days expanding up, she described Depp as a “very normal, pleased minimal boy.” She also sketched the relatives dynamics — an indignant mother who would defeat her children with a change and a timid father who tried using to keep the peace. The purpose was to describe Depp’s instinct to conceal from conflict.

But on cross-assessment, additional-troubling dynamics of the grown-up sibling relationship emerged. In February 2014, Dembrowski texted her brother: “Stop drinking, cease coke, halt pills.” But she struggled to admit his drug challenge on the stand.

“I wrote all those phrases,” she explained in court docket. “But I never know the context of people text.”

Dembrowski said that at the time, she believed that Heard was exaggerating about Depp’s drug and liquor use, and urged her not to obstacle him so considerably, indicating that “confrontation sadly doesn’t help.”

For her portion, Heard framed her 2018 op-ed as a lesson in ability. She alluded to Depp’s career as “a big enterprise,” likening it to the Titanic and stating that a good deal of people today had a vested fascination in patching up the holes.

A further witness for Depp, Isaac Baruch, told jurors that Depp invited him to live hire-no cost in a penthouse in downtown L.A. Depp wished Baruch, a childhood close friend, to be free to aim on his painting, and equipped him with $100,000 more than many many years in a “patronage” arrangement.

Depp and Read lived in a close by penthouse, and Baruch reported that he in no way witnessed violence among them. Right after the separation, Depp marketed the penthouses, forcing Baruch to shift to yet another of Depp’s houses. In a single information to Baruch, Depp lamented that “that c— ruined this sort of a f—ing cool lifetime we had for a whilst.”

On the stand, Baruch explained he thought that Heard was lying about the abuse but that he wasn’t indignant.

“I want this all to finish — her to go heal, him to go recover,” he mentioned. “So many people have been afflicted by this malicious lie that she started off, and she produced, and it’s absent out the door and about the environment. I just cannot even paint anymore.”

Monday’s testimony descended into ever more macabre terrain, as a nurse and health practitioner recounted in bloody detail the look for for Depp’s lacking fingertip pursuing a 2015 battle with Heard. Depp promises Listened to severed the top rated of his middle finger immediately after throwing a bottle at him Read counters that the actor probable lower his finger smashing a telephone.

In its early days, the demo has felt like sifting via the wreckage of a royal courtroom right after its ruler has been deposed. In the age of superheroes, Hollywood has found that it doesn’t want to cater as a lot to stars like Depp and Smith. Both of those arrived at their zenith all over the turn of the century, but in latest several years their box place of work powers waned.

“A film’s star was a massive aspect of the way that a film used to be determined,” claims Will Scheibel, affiliate professor of movie and display scientific tests at Syracuse College. “Now it appears to be like firms like Marvel or mental residence like ‘Star Wars’ or even directors like Christopher Nolan are how persons figure out what they want to see.”

Kenneth Proto

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