Johnny Depp’s agent testified on Monday that Depp was to receive $22.5 million to star in the sixth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, but Disney decided to go “in a different direction” after Amber Heard published an op-ed reviving her domestic abuse allegations.
Jack Whigham, who represented Depp at Creative Artists Agency and later at Range Media Partners, testified that the December 2018 piece in the Washington Post had a “catastrophic” impact on Depp’s career.
“After the op-ed it was impossible to get him a studio film,” Whigham testified.
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million, alleging that she destroyed his career with false allegations of domestic violence. The trial in Fairfax, Va., entered its fourth week on Monday, as Depp’s team continued to call witnesses to support his claims.
Heard’s side has yet to begin offering evidence, and she is expected to tell her own side of the story later in the trial.
Depp’s attorneys are seeking to prove that it was the op-ed that damaged Depp’s employment prospects and not Heard’s prior abuse allegations in 2016, which concluded in a divorce settlement.
Whigham testified Monday that he started working with Depp in October 2016 and that Depp worked steadily in 2017. He said Depp earned $8 million for “City of Lies,” $10 million for “Murder on the Orient Express” and $13.5 million for “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” — all of which were shot in 2017.
In the fall of 2018, he made $1 million for “Waiting for the Barbarians,” an independent film, and he was set to receive $3 million for “Minamata,” another independent film, to shoot in early 2019.
Whigham testified that the op-ed brought Depp’s career success to a halt.
“It was a first person account coming from the victim,” he said. “It became a death-knell catastrophic thing for Mr. Depp in the Hollywood community.”
After it was published, he said, the financing on “Minamata” became shaky, and Depp had to give up some of his compensation to salvage the project.
In early 2019, Whigham said he learned that Depp would not star in the sixth “Pirates” film.
“It became clear they were going in a different direction,” he said.
On cross-examination, Heard’s attorney Elaine Bredehoft pointed out that Depp never had a contract for $22.5 million for the film — and in fact, the number was never committed to writing. Bredehoft also pointed to prior testimony suggesting that Disney was not likely to cast Depp in the film as early as the fall of 2018.