Depp Vs Heard: what can we learn?

Where did all this begin? In April 2018, The Sun newspaper published a column by their executive editor Dan Wootton, entitled “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”. The offending words that piqued Depp’s litigious interest were the accusations in the headline of domestic abuse towards his ex-wife, the actress Amber Heard.

A bona fide Hollywood A-lister, Johnny Depp sued News Group Newspapers (NGN, publishers of The Sun) over the column, beginning a mammoth legal libel battle that culminated at the beginning of November with the Judge deciding that Ms Heard and the Sun newspaper were on the right side of the law. Now after all this has been played out in the courts and splashed across newspaper headlines on both sides of the Atlantic, Depp could still appeal the judgement in the UK and is gearing up for another case in Virginia over an opinion piece Heard penned for the Washington Post on domestic violence. Flanked by lawyers, out of the flames, comes a more embittered approach it seems, a man willing and able to fight on two fronts: in court and in the press.

He is in complete denial, don’t sue a newspaper.

This whole affair is going to be incredibly damaging to Depp’s glittering acting career and is a prime example of self-destructive action. Depp has drawn attention not only to his poor treatment of Ms Heard, but to his problems with drink and drugs too. It shows he cannot step back and look at the wider implications of this action and he has suffered from some poor advice or good advice that has fallen on deaf ears. The fact that he would want to play this out in open court shows this and it would have been far better for Depp to deal with this behind closed doors, rather than having the entire case picked apart in the courts and the public eye. He is in complete denial, don’t sue a newspaper, this ruling upholds that British libel laws are not there to curtail free speech but help preserve the media’s right to publish stories of global interest.

It would be a very brave executive to want to align their brand with him from now on.

Depp is obviously an extremely high-profile actor with some lucrative brand deals, but all of this is going to be impacted by the ruling. Any entertainment company or brand needs to be extremely cautious with who they align themselves with and so will have to think twice about working with someone now convicted of such serious crimes. His reputation is now in negative equity after this devastating ruling.

Showbusiness is notoriously unpredictable and there have been countless examples of high-profile figures continuing to have successful careers after being proven guilty of offenses in court. However, domestic abuse is another kettle of fish – it’s going to be hard for Depp to come out of this unscathed.

The only way Depp can make some form of recovery is to admit his problems with drink and drugs along with his wrongdoings towards Ms Heard and show the public he is committed to getting treatment. This can’t just be in the form of a one-off statement either – Depp needs to show commitment to his recovery if he’s going to stand a chance of keeping the public on his side.

Obviously, this is a real success for The Sun newspaper and for Amber Heard. It shows amazing strength of courage and determination to take this action all the way and there could still be more to come. By securing this judgement, both have won in the court of law, ultimately emboldening their profiles in the court of public opinion.

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