after one explosive six-week defamation trial Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, followed by millions on social media and live TV, face an uphill battle trying to rebuild their image and careers.
Depp already has a head start, with a jury verdict on Wednesday largely favoring his narrative that his ex-wife defamed him by accusing him of abusing her.
“Depp has to climb a hill. Heard has a mountain to climb,” said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis mitigator in Washington who is not involved in the case. “If Depp keeps his expectations reasonable and understands that he is unlikely to reach his former heights, he can have a solid career if he takes things slowly. Eventually he was confirmed in court and not canonized.”
The challenge for Heard, Dezenhall said, is that some believe, rightly or wrongly, that she abused and perhaps even tarnished a worthy movement, #MeToo.
With a he said — she said edge of the lengthy process, the Fairfax County, Va., verdict found that Depp had been defamed by three statements in a 2018 comment by Heard, who identified himself as an abuse victim. The jury awarded the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star more than 10 million dollars. The jury also concluded that Heard was defamed by a lawyer for Depp, who accused her of fabricating a hoax related to the abuse allegations. She received $2 million.
Given that such cases are notoriously hard to win, was the libel route the right one? Some observers with experience in high-profile cases believe Depp’s decision to sue – although it meant dragging his and Heard’s personal lives through the mud – was a last-ditch effort to bolster his star power after his failed London defamation lawsuit against The Sun described him as a “woman beater”.
“I think the defamation case was a Hail Mary,” said David Glass, a family law attorney in Los Angeles with a PhD in psychology.
Married only 15 months Depp sued Heard for $50 million via the Washington Post op-ed, in which she described herself as “a public figure who advocates domestic violence.” She did not identify Depp by name and it was released two years after she began making public allegations against him.
Heard $100 million counterclaim Star accused of slandering her through attorney Adam Waldman’s hoax allegations Many of the waning days of the trial focused on the aftermath of both claims, with Depp testifying, “I lost nothing less than everything” and Heard accusing him of trying to erase her ability to work.
“Now that I’m standing here today, I can’t have a career,” Heard testified at the end of the trial. “I hope to get my vote back. That’s all I want.”
But does a verdict of any kind have the power to reverse the courtroom’s allegations: from Depp as a physically and sexually abusive aging drunk and drug addict and from Heard as unhinged and able to fake bruises allegedly inflicted by the man , which she said she stayed outside of love?
Despite it all, Depp’s fan base remains solid. Fans often camped overnight to attend the proceedings. But unlike rockers and stand-up comedians who get caught up in #MeToo moments and can still earn money from live shows, Depp and Heard need the crisis-shy studio machines to make big money.
Rehabilitation is necessary for both, whether it’s traditional sit-down interviews or some other secret weapon in their PR teams’ arsenals.
Heard, who was in the sentencing room Wednesday, plans to appeal. Depp, who was not in court, said: “The jury gave me my life back. I’m really humble.”
Danny Deraney, who has done crisis PR for some of Hollywood’s #MeToo accusers, said men are generally more likely than women to find new work in the entertainment industry “when it comes to forgiveness and when it comes to the things that… they have done.”
He added: “I think it’s going to be easier for Johnny. It’s getting hard for Amber to know if she’s innocent or guilty or whatever. I don’t think her career is necessarily over. But I’m sure there will be a good hit because I think everyone will now look at her as a difficult woman to work with and see her feelings for what they were, wrong or right. I think they’re going to look at that and say, ‘Do we want that on our set?'”
Danielle Lindemann, an assistant professor of sociology at Lehigh University who researches gender, sexuality and culture, said Depp’s ability to earn big has already been compromised, whether it’s from his own self-destruction or the aftermath of Heard’s allegations.
“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 much less in the Asian and European markets, where his popularity remains high. And he’ll likely still get work on indie productions like the ones that have helped him throughout his 38-year career.
Ever since the former couple began making allegations, Heard has faced intense backlash on social media. She said Depp has fueled campaigns to sack her as an ambassador for L’Oreal and cut her as Mera from an Aquaman sequel, though a production executive has said she’s staying in the film, which is due out 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, which he attributed to Heard’s allegations. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer has revealed two more ‘Pirates’ scripts are in development, but neither will be Depp’s capt. 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 Sauvage for men. The fashion house has remained silent on the abuse allegations and is still using it in ads.
Attorney Brett Ward, a family law specialist in New York, said it could be years before anyone knew whether Depp’s case would eventually lead to his return as an A-list actor.
“And if he doesn’t? I think he made a terrible mistake because most people won’t remember his quite remarkable Hollywood career. You will remember this process. It’s like OJ Simpson. People know him more for what happened in this process than they do for his football career.
Dezenhall disagreed. He said the case, which caught the world’s attention, might just be a beacon for people and businesses facing existential threats to their reputations and livelihoods. The old logic that defamation lawsuits are riskier than benefits no longer necessarily applies, he said. They’re too hard to win because it’s so hard to prove wicked, so the traditional way of thinking goes. Why publicly recycle the negative when people are likely to forget?
Today, he said, the stakes have become too high to avoid such disputes in court for defamation. He wrote on Substack, “If you’re already covered in dirt locked online forever, what’s a little more dirt when your life has been ruined?”
Associated Press writers Alicia Rancilio and John Carucci contributed to this story.
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https://www.local10.com/entertainment/2022/06/02/johnny-depp-and-amber-heard-uphill-battle-to-rebuild-images/ Hard struggle to rebuild images