If you’re a Disney fan — or just someone that reads the news — then you have probably heard that Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp is currently in the midst of a $50 million defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard. In 2018, The Washington Post published an OpEd that Heard signed her name to — but let someone else actually write — where she called herself a domestic abuse survivor. She never named Depp by name, but said that the abuse occurred in 2016 when the two were married.
According to Depp, the OpEd caused major studios to stop working with him. WarnerBros dropped him and recast his role as Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Depp is also claiming that Heard’s accusations caused him to lose out on a more than $22 million paycheck from Disney for his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean 6.
Depp’s talent manager, Jack Whigham, said during his court testimony that he had verbally agreed to the amount of $22.5 million for Depp to appear in the 6th Pirates of the Caribbean film. Whigham said that the deal was made with both the film’s producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney’s movie chief Sean Bailey. Things were in the works for the movie, but the Heard’s OpEd came out and everything fell apart.
Whigham said the following during his testimony:
“With respect to Johnny, it was catastrophic, because it was a first-person account. It was not from a journalist, it was not from an observer, it was from someone saying, ‘This happened to me.’
“It was trending badly in the late fall on behalf of Disney, but Jerry Bruckheimer and I were lobbying to make it happen. So we had hope. And it became very clear in early 2019 that it was over.”
Since the OpEd’s publication, Whigham said that Depp has struggled to get big studios to work with him. In order to keep working, he has had to take smaller roles in more independent films. He has not made a movie since 2020.
Since dropping Depp from the Pirates franchise, Disney has announced that there will be spinoff films that are set to star Margot Robbie. Depp has said that, even if he proved his case and Disney asked him back, he would not play the famed buccaneer again.
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million for defamation of character. Heard claims that the abuse did happen, and she is countersuing for $100 million. Depp’s side is still presenting its case, which includes playing recordings where Heard admits to repeatedly physically assaulting Depp. A makeup brand that Heard claims she used to cover up the bruises from Depp’s abuse also said that she is lying because the brand she says she used didn’t exist during their marriage.