For the past year, I have struggled to stomach the presence of Johnny Depp.
This started with his split from Amber Heard. When they settled their divorce outside of court, many aspects of the couple’s parting remained private, but a number of others did not. The video of him, drinking and appearing to throw a bottle in his kitchen is on the internet, as is a photograph of a mirror, stained with the name of a man Depp thought his wife was having an affair with. Heard said that the words on it are written in paint and blood, which had leaked from Depp’s hand shortly after he accidentally chopped off a chunk of his finger off (Depp claimed he injured the finger during a filming). In a joint statement, the couple labelled their marriage “at times volatile, but always bound by love”. Heard then donated her entire £7million settlement to charity, giving half to an organisation that works to prevent domestic violence.
The months I spent covering this – writing news stories, a piece on the media’s portrayal of Heard and another on the settlement money – left me with a dislike for Depp, but one that I could put aside when necessary (mainly when I wanted to watch Sweeney Todd or Edward Scissorhands again).
I rolled my eyes when he was announced as the special guest for Glastonbury’s all-new Cinemageddon area and skipped ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’ when his role in it was revealed, but knew that others still held highly favourable opinions of him and respected their decisions.
Then on Thursday, I watched as fans clamoured for a glimpse of the star at the Murder On The Orient Express premiere, shouting his name and cheering him on. When Depp appeared on the big screen, the people inside the Royal Albert Hall whooped and clapped and suddenly, the indifference I’d just about managed to just muster up before was gone. Things are different now.
For the past month, the entertainment industry has played host to an unprecedented amount of sexual harassment and abuse allegations, beginning with those against Harvey Weinstein. It’s being described as a “watershed moment” for improving the treatment of women in the industry and time will hopefully confirm that this is the case.
But the revelations that have been made in the last month could also have a ripple effect that we did not initially expect. (It’s hard to know what to call it all, but I refuse to say “scandal” or “controversy” and hasten to label the accounts “incidents”)
For me, it appears that I can no longer find excuses to separate a man’s reported actions from his “art”. It’s too much of an ask when my average working day now includes hours of reading and writing about crimes powerful men in Hollywood have allegedly committed against women (and in some cases, other men).
Let me clear: Depp and Weinstein are miles apart. The two are not linked and this is not a comparison of their alleged actions. While still unacceptable, incidents that result in your estranged wife requesting a temporary restraining order are not the same as the alleged harassment of over 50 women (Weinstein has denied all claims of nonconsensual sex). But as we deal with the fallout from the latter, I’m finding it harder and harder to look past the former.
Depp isn’t just ‘getting by’ in the industry. The quality of his movies may have flatlined but when it comes to earnings, he’s going from strength to strength. ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ continues to be one of Disney’s most financially successful franchises and Depp will also take the lead in the forthcoming ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’ films. He occasionally performs with his band, Hollywood Vampires, and fronts a Christian Dior fragrance campaign.
Only time will tell on this, but I wonder what would happen if an actor went through a similar split now, or in a few months time. Would we question them more? Perhaps the actor’s famous friends would hesitate before publicly defending him so fervently. Maybe the video would be remembered for longer and the woman’s words taken more seriously than Heard’s ever were.
The line in the sand has been drawn though, decreeing that Weinstein – who takes the role of a beached whale in this analogy – be left to wilt on the shore as Captain Jack Sparrow sails past untroubled. I’m not saying Depp should face the same consequences as the ones the producer is and, given that his divorce played out pre-Weinstein, it’s unlikely he’ll face anything other than continued adulation from legions of fans in the years to come. But in this post-Weinstein Hollywood, I’m finding the celebration of Depp increasingly more difficult to bear.