Shortly before Johnny Depp rested his civil case against ex-wife Amber Heard on the morning of May 3, Depp’s lawyers intensified their focus on tens of millions in booty allegedly lost when he was dropped from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. His team called forensic accountant Michael Spindler to testify about Depp’s earnings after Heard published an op-ed that he claims falsely portrayed him as an abuser. Spindler said he examined accounting records, court exhibits, and “various other documents,” as well as deposition testimony, to assess Depp’s earnings from December 18, 2018 (the op-ed’s run date), to October 31, 2020. “I concluded that Mr. Depp suffered lost earnings of approximately $40 million,” Spindler said.
Spindler broke down this sum into two main components. First, Depp was poised to earn $22.5 million from the sixth Pirates installment, also known as Pirates 6 to the court. Second, Spindler calculated that Depp’s potential earnings from non-franchise flicks and endorsements could have totaled $17.5 million. That figure was based on Depp’s earnings in 2017, which reflected a typical financial year before the op-ed. (While the piece came out in late 2018, Spindler said it still wouldn’t have been a typical year as Depp had taken time off and toured with his band, Hollywood Vampires, rather than focus on his acting career.) On cross-examination, Heard’s lawyers tried to convey that Depp’s income had been on the decline prior to the op-ed.
Much of Spindler’s analysis related to testimony from Depp’s agent, Jack Whigham. On May 2, Whigham testified that Depp had a $22.5 million deal with Disney for Pirates 6. In early 2019, however, “it became clear they were going in a different direction” with regard to casting Depp. Whigham said the op-ed was “catastrophic” for Depp’s career, and that he didn’t have any studio film work until October 2020. ”After the op-ed, it was impossible to get him a studio film, which is what we normally would have focused on in this time period,” Whigham said. That same day, Richard Marks, a veteran entertainment lawyer, testified that Heard’s op-ed had a “devastating” impact on Depp’s standing in Hollywood.
While this financial discussion might seem a bit in the weeds, it’s incredibly important for the trial. Depp claims that Heard’s allegedly defamatory op-ed tanked his career. Depp needs to show financial loss if he wants to prove this. Depp is suing Heard for $50 million. Heard is pursuing a $100 million counterclaim against Depp.