Johnny Depp was set to be paid $22.5 million for a sixth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, his talent manager testified.
But the movie was never made after Amber Heard’s claims in her 2018 Washington Post op-ed.
Depp is suing Heard for damages, claiming the op-ed ruined his reputation.
Johnny Depp lined up a massive payday for a sixth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie before an op-ed from Amber Heard describing herself as a victim of domestic violence led Disney to ax the project, Depp’s talent manager testified Monday.
The manager, Jack Whigham, said in Depp’s defamation trial against his ex-wife that Disney’s movie chief Sean Bailey and “Pirates of the Caribbean” producer Jerry Bruckheimer verbally sealed a deal in around 2016 to pay Depp $22.5 million for the sixth movie in the series.
But Depp never got to see those million. The sixth “Pirates” movie was never filmed, and Depp never got to reprise his role as Captain Jack Sparrow.
Depp sued Heard in Fairfax County court in Virginia, where Whigham tested remotely on Monday. Depp alleged that Heard’s op-ed, published in December 2018, defamed him. Heard didn’t use Depp’s name in the op-ed, which was written with ACLU lawyers, but Depp said it was a clear reference to their 2016 divorce amid Heard’s allegations of domestic abuse, which Depp has denied.
Whigham said the op-ed had a “catastrophic” effect on Depp’s career.
“With respect to Johnny, it was catastrophic, because it was a first-person account,” Whigham said. “It was not from a journalist, it was not from an observer, it was from someone saying, ‘This happened to me.'”
Shortly after the op-ed’s publication, Bailey told the Hollywood Reporter that Disney would not move forward with Depp in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. Warner Bros. also recast him in the “Harry Potter” spinoff movie franchise, “Fantastic Beasts,” replacing him with Mads Mikkelsen.
Whigham testedified that, since the fall of 2018, Depp has been relegated to roles in lower-paying independent movies and hasn’t filmed a movie since 2020.
It’s not clear if Depp was also set to receive back-end payment from a sixth “Pirates” movie, which would have given him additional money based on its box office success. Depp has reportedly made more than $300 million from the first five movies in the series, mostly due to back-end money.
On cross-examination with one of Heard’s lawyers on Monday, Whigham said that the $22.5 million fee he says he secured for Depp was only a verbal agreement with Disney and Bruckheimer, but was not written out in a contract. He also said that, by the fall of 2018, before Heard’s op-ed was published, Bailey was “noncommittal” about developing a sixth “Pirates” movie with Depp.
“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,” Whigham said. “And it became very clear in early 2019 that it was over.”
Whigham said he was ultimately unable to revive the project.
Depp testified earlier in the trial that he was frustrated he was not able to give the characters a “proper goodbye,” and that he was personally intimately involved in developing the Jack Sparrow character.
He also testedified that he no longer plans to return to the “Pirates” franchise. In 2020, Disney announced it planned to launch a spinoff movie starring Margot Robbie.
Depp is asking for $50 million in damages in his defamation suit against Heard, saying the op-ed ruined his career.
Heard has countersued, alleging Depp did physical abuse her on numerous occasions before and during their marriage, and is asking for $100 million in damages.
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