Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: uphill battle to reconstruct images | show news

By LEANNE ITALIE, AP Entertainment Writer

After an explosive six-week libel trial followed by millions on social media and live television, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard face an uphill battle: trying to rebuild their image and their careers.

Depp already has a head start, with a jury verdict on Wednesday heavily favoring his narrative, that his ex-wife defamed him by accusing him of abusing her.

“Depp has a hill to climb. Heard has a mountain to climb,” said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis mitigation in Washington who is not involved in the case. “If Depp keeps his expectations proportionate and understands that he is unlikely to reach his previous heights, he can have a solid career if he takes things slow. After all, he was vindicated at court, not declared a saint.”

The challenge for Heard, Dezenhall said, is that, for better or worse, some believe she abused and perhaps even tainted a dignified movement, #MeToo.

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With a he said, she said lead in the lengthy trial, the verdict handed down in Fairfax County, Virginia, found that Depp had been defamed by three statements in a 2018 op-ed written by Heard, who identified himself as a abuse victim The jury awarded the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star more than $10 million. The jury also concluded that Heard was defamed by a Depp lawyer who accused her of creating a hoax around the abuse allegations. She received $2 million.

Since such cases are notoriously difficult to win, was the libel route the way to go? Some observers with experience of high-profile cases believe that Depp’s decision to sue, even though it meant dragging his and Heard’s personal lives through the mud, was a last desperate attempt to bolster his star power after his failed lawsuit. for libel in London against The Sun for describing him as a “wife beater”.

“I think the defamation case was a Hail Mary,” said David Glass, a Los Angeles family law attorney with a doctorate in psychology.

Married only 15 months, Depp sued Heard for $50 million over a Washington Post op-ed in which he called himself “a public figure representing domestic abuse.” It did not identify Depp by name and was published two years after he began making public accusations against him.

Heard countersued for $100 million, accusing the star of defaming her through false accusations from attorney Adam Waldman. Much of the final days of the trial focused on the aftermath of both claims, with Depp testifying: “I lost nothing short of everything” and Heard accusing him of trying to erase his ability to work.

“While I’m here today, I can’t have a career,” Heard testified at the end of the trial. “I hope to get my voice back. That’s all I want.”

But does a verdict of some sort have the power to reverse the courtroom accusations: of Depp as an aging physically and sexually abusive drunk and drug addict, and of Heard as deranged and able to fake allegedly man-inflicted bruises? with whom he said he stayed? of love?

Through it all, Depp’s fan base remains strong. Fans often camped out overnight for a chance to attend proceedings. But unlike rockers and stand-up comedians caught up in #MeToo moments who can still win through live shows, Depp and Heard need the crisis-averse studio machines to make big bucks.

Rehab is necessary for both, whether it’s dueling traditional formal interviews or another secret weapon in the arsenals of your PR teams.

Heard, who was in court for Wednesday’s verdict, plans to appeal. Depp, who was not in court, said that “the jury gave me my life back. I am truly honored.”

Danny Deraney, who has done crisis PR for some of Hollywood’s #MeToo accusers, said men in general are more likely than women to find a new job in the entertainment industry “when it comes to forgiving and when it comes to the things they have done.”

He added: “I think it’s going to be easier for Johnny. For Amber, whether she’s innocent or guilty or whatever, it’s going to be difficult. I don’t think her career is necessarily over. But I’m sure she’s going to take a hit because I think everyone is now going to see her as a difficult woman to work with, seeing her emotions the way they’ve been, whether they’re right or wrong. I think they’ll look at it and say, ‘Do we want this on our set?’”

Danielle Lindemann, an associate professor of sociology at Lehigh University who researches gender, sexuality and culture, said Depp’s ability to earn much had already been affected, either by his own self-destruction or by Heard’s accusations. .

“But I don’t think it’s ‘cancelled,'” said Lindemann, author of “True Story: What Reality Says About Us.”

The damage to his career is also likely to be far less severe in Asian and European markets, where his popularity remains strong. And it’s likely he’ll still land work on independent productions like the ones that helped him throughout his 38-year career.

Ever since the former couple began releasing accusations, Heard has faced intense backlash on social media. She said Depp campaigned to have her fired as an ambassador for L’Oreal and cut as the character Mera from an “Aquaman” sequel, though a production executive testified that she remains in the film due for release next year.

Mads Mikkelsen replaced Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in “Fantastic Beasts 3.” Depp’s future is also uncertain in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, something he attributed to Heard’s accusations. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has revealed that two more “Pirates” scripts are in development, but neither will feature Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, a role that earned the actor an Oscar nomination. His last appearance in the Disney-owned franchise was in 2017’s “Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

Dior has long used Depp to promote a men’s fragrance, Sauvage. The fashion house has kept quiet about the abuse allegations and still uses it in advertisements.

Attorney Brett Ward, a family law specialist in New York, said it could be years before he knows if Depp’s case will eventually lead to his return as an A-list actor.

“What if he doesn’t? I think he’s made a terrible mistake because most people aren’t going to remember his distinguished career in Hollywood. They’re going to remember this trial. He’s like OJ Simpson. People know him better than they do.” It happened in that trial of what they did for his football career.”

Dezenhall disagreed. He said the case that caught the world’s attention could simply be a landmark for individuals and corporations facing existential threats to their reputations and livelihoods. The old logic that suing for defamation was riskier than any benefit no longer necessarily applies, he said. They are too difficult to win because proving malice is too complicated, traditional thinking went. Why publicly recycle the negative when people are likely to forget it?

Today, he said, the stakes are high to avoid such libel court fights. He wrote on Substack: “If you’re already covered in crap that’s suspended online forever, what’s a little more crap if your life has been ruined?”

This story has been edited to correct Lindemann’s title.

Associated Press writers Alicia Rancilio and John Carucci contributed to this report.

Follow Leanne Italia on Twitter at

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