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What happened to Gilbert Grape?

How Johnny Depp became a pirate parody

March 13, 2019

9:48 AM

13 March 2019

9:48 AM

Young Amber Heard met elderly Johnny Depp on the set of The Rum Diary (2011), a Hunter S. Thompson adaptation about a man trying to save his soul. Like the Depp-Heard marriage, the movie had a weak narrative, too much drinking, and generally poorly reviews. It lasted a lot longer than it should have done, too.

Heard filed for divorce in May 2016, but you wouldn’t know it. Three years on, the marriage remains click-worthy. Days after filing, Heard accused Depp of being verbally and physically abusive throughout their relationship. Depp denied the allegations, and has now asked for $50 million in damages.

Now, People magazine reports that Depp has suddenly remembered he has a stash of three-year-old evidence, including ‘87 newly obtained surveillance camera videos’. He also has a photograph of his bruised face, apparently taken in April 2016, the morning after Heard allegedly became ‘aggressive and violent, punching him twice in the face’. The helpless actor says he was reading in bed at the time; perhaps A Pirate’s Guide to Divorcing a Fellow Narcissist.

In December 2017, Heard told Allure magazine that she doesn’t believe in defining sexual orientation, but identifies simply as ‘human’. No doubt Jack Sparrow’s parrot breathed a sigh of relief at the news. They’re movie stars, after all. They may pretend to be gods while behaving like devils, but they won’t stoop to be like mortals, even when they’re rolling in the dirt. If we peered into our neighbor’s garden and saw this sort of thing going on, we would call the police. Depp didn’t even take the photo himself. He is still just about rich enough for an employee to record his #HeToo victimhood. His people say that Heard has orchestrated an ‘elaborate hoax’ to ‘advance her career’. Hers say his claims are ‘groundless’. The end of their marriage wasn’t primarily about abuse, but the perception of abuse.

As an actor, Johnny Depp repeatedly befriends exciting, characterful people and then files them away for future use. From Tim Burton to Bruce Robinson, and finally to Keith Richards, Depp seduces and is seduced by the wacky-haired father figures. The other great romance his life is Olde Worlde England, a passion that started with Kate Moss, passed through Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), went on too long with Depp’s Mad Hatter turn in Alice in Wonderland (2010), and paid off in the five Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Captain Jack Sparrow is a tribute to R&B buccaneer Keith Richards, played with lustful glee by this rolling stone who gathered Moss. But the character bled over into reality. Depp’s physique became bloated by Jack Daniels and narcotics, his once-beautiful form cruelly disfigured by watch chains, leather necklaces and faux-gypsy rings. Has Depp turned up to tell us he’s just lost $350 million, or to read the tea leaves?

The Pirates franchise has netted Disney $4.5 billion. Four and a half is also the number of years remaining to this Peter Pan of Piracy until he turns 60, the age which, in his beloved London, would make him eligible for a free bus pass. There’s no fool like an old fool, and Depp already had the old man act down. In 2015, he wasted no time in racing the 28-year old Heard down the aisle, silver bangles a-jangling. He refused to take the advice of his ‘horrified’ sister, Christi, and get a pre-nup before he got a room. Instead, Depp declared he was going to tame Heard, who had recently emerged from a five-year relationship with a woman. ‘I like who I like,’ she said as she prepared to repel boarders. ‘I don’t identify as anything.’ She was free, but then she turned out to be very expensive indeed.

Two self-obsessives, both alike in their lack of dignity, have created an artful reality drama with toxic, story-driven content. The actors give their most believable performances in years, but they’re hijacking the real-life scripts of real people. Trained to enjoy the spectacle, we break out the popcorn. Because the 87 surveillance cameras never lie, right?

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