Johnny Depp: A childhood icon who fell from grace
Published on November 7, 2020 at 11.59
As a kid growing up in Dubai in the late ‘80s watching Johnny Depp’s baby-faced cop Tom Hansen bring adolescent criminals to book in the popular series 21 Jump Street, he became my first celebrity crush from Hollywood, one whose posters I had plastered on my wall, one who I fervently hoped I would catch a glimpse of someday - I day-dreamed about all the things I’d say. One of my friends with a penchant for the ridiculous even wrote a funny poem about the two of us, back in ninth grade.
As time went by and Depp went from television to act in quirky roles on the big screen - my regard for him only grew stronger, blossoming beyond the teenage infatuation into something more of respect, for the parts he pursued in an industry that so quickly puts a young actor into the ‘pretty boy’ bracket. But Depp was too clever to be boxed in, and with lovable turns as a shear-handed visitor to a small town (Edward Scissorhands) to an eccentric young man who models himself after silent comedian Buster Keaton (Benny & Joon) he established himself as someone who refused to go down the beaten track in Hollywood.
Depp’s liking for the outlandish, offbeat only flourished with age, as he took on what is arguably his most famous role yet, that of swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series - a character reportedly modelled on musician Keith Richards from Rolling Stones and Looney Tunes cartoon character Pepe Le Pew. Depp as Jack Sparrow was a superhit with fans - and he played the character in five films over 15 years since The Curse of the Black Pearl in 2003. According to some unconfirmed reports, Disney no longer wants him back in future releases from the franchise, even in a cameo or small role.
In May 2016, Depp was hit by the most damning allegations of his career, that of domestic violence. Wife Amber Heard, an actress who he met on the sets of The Rum Diary in 2011, approached a Los Angeles court seeking a restraining order against him. She alleged that he had violently attacked her, a charge he vehemently denied. Their marriage was over soon after this development. Depp decided to take on UK tabloid The Sun and publishing behemoth News Group, suing them for libel for an article published in 2018 that labelled him a wife-beater. In witness statements, two of his exes, Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis, showed support for Depp, claiming he was never abusive towards them. Disturbing details of the Depp-Heard marriage were laid bare in the trial and ultimately, Judge Mr Justice Nicol said the Sun had proved what was in the article to be "substantially true”, and last week, Depp lost the case.
On Friday, news emerged that he would no longer be appearing in Fantastic Beasts 3. He played Gellert Grindelwald in two films. Depp put out a statement on Instagram about his decision to quit the role, thanking his supporters. He wrote, “The surreal judgement of the court in the U.K. will not change my fight to tell the truth and I confirm that I plan to appeal,” he concluded. “My resolve remains strong and I intend to prove that the allegations against me are false. My life and career will not be defined by this moment in time.” Will this ruling cost Depp his career in Hollywood? It’s sad to watch a childhood icon fall from grace, and so drastically.