For years, Johnny Depp has claimed that Amber Heard’s domestic abuse allegations laid waste to his reputation and tanked his career, thus depriving him of tens of millions in income. Now, as Heard defends herself against Depp’s defamation claims in their highly publicized civil trial, a far different picture of Depp’s financial and film prospects continues to emerge. On May 19, Heard’s team showed jurors video testimony from several of Depp’s former business associates who said that his work had slowed before her abuse allegations. Testimony also claimed Depp’s reputation had frayed far in advance of his acrimonious split with Heard — and that his spending had spiraled out of control. Tracey Jacobs, Depp’s agent for 30 years, said “he became the biggest star in the world” during their time together. Jacobs said she took some credit for Depp’s meteoric rise. She called him an “extraordinarily talented” actor, while she had an incredible knack for finding perfect roles for him. Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, asked Jacobs why Depp wound up firing her in 2016. “I really don’t know,” she said. “All I know is he terminated essentially everyone in his life, so I was along for the ride, I guess.” Bredehoft showed Jacobs past statements from a Depp deposition where he appeared to believe their interests no longer aligned and that she just stuck around for the money.
Jacobs, whose testimony was via video deposition, said that Depp had become difficult in the later part of their time working together. “It became far more complicated in the last ten years of my representing him,” Jacobs said. Bredehoft asked why. “His unprofessional behavior,” Jacobs responded. Bredehoft pressed Jacobs to explain this behavior. “Showing up late to set, consistently, on virtually every movie. I would get yelled at. I never said to him, ‘You’re a difficult client.’ I never used those words, but I was very honest with him. I said, ‘You’ve got to stop doing this. This is hurting you.’ And it did,” Jacobs said. Bredehoft asked whether Depp changed his behavior after Jacobs cautioned him. “No,” Jacobs said. “Well, initially crews loved him because he was always so great, but crews don’t love sitting around for hours and hours and hours waiting for the star of the movie to show up.” He continued, “And it also got around town. I mean, people talk. It’s a small community, and made people reluctant to use him toward the end.”
Joel Mandel, Depp’s former business manager, said that Pirates of the Caribbean propelled him onto a different plane of financial success. Depp’s sudden windfall didn’t come cheap as it “meant a bigger life and more employees,” Mandel said in his testimony via video deposition. “Spending was very significant,” Mandel said, and by 2010, “spending levels had grown very, very, very large and required that level of incredibly high income to be maintained.” At this point in Depp’s career, however, he wasn’t pulling in the same money as he had in the wake of Pirates. The spending was unsustainable. Mandel was asked whether he had tried to slow Depp’s high-rolling habits. “Those conversations were constant,” he said. Depp’s full-time staff cost about $300,000 per month. When Depp had a private medical team, the price tag totaled some $100,000 per month. At some points in their time working together, Depp spent “thousands of dollars a month” on prescription drugs, Mandel said. Heard’s lawyers provided video testimony from his ex-friend, Bruce Witkin, this morning. He and Depp talked about the actor’s spending and how he needed to cut back and make “more movies.” Witkin also said that Depp could exhibit envy. “When he was younger, he was jealous of Nick Cage,” Witkin said, referring to Nicholas Cage who helped Depp get a big break by introducing him to his agent. Witkin also testified that he saw Depp do coke with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, his Hollywood Vampires bandmate. The testimony from Depp’s former business associates and ex-pal are all meant to bolster Heard’s contention that Depp’s undoing was on him, not the 2018 op-ed where she discussed domestic abuse — and did so without mentioning his name.