The XX Factor

Serious Journalistic Investigation of Johnny Depp Neglects to Mention Those Pesky Abuse Allegations

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard arrive at a court in the Gold Coast on April 18, 2016.

Patrick Hamilton/AFP/Getty Images

Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Legend of the Immortal Disney Franchise swashbuckles into theaters on May 26, and the Hollywood Reporter is out with a timely investigation of star Johnny Depp’s disastrous financial life. The piece is bursting with the kind of succulent details that make for top-shelf celebrity schadenfreude. A fancy jewelry store once plied him with champagne and sold him a diamond cuff for $400,000! At one point Depp was spending $30,000 a month on wine! When his managers warned him in 2008 that it wasn’t a good time to buy more property, he wrote back “WE MUST BUY THIS HOUSE!!!” As of 2012, the actor was spending $2 million a month.

The piece is 4,000 words long and took two reporters to produce. It has room for juicy anecdotes, legal analysis, and the kind of writerly leg-stretching that produces paragraphs like this:

With his consent in place, [Depp advisors] Bloom and Mandel said their goodbyes, stepped out of the house and breathed a sigh of relief. The city stretched before them. The bright light that had bathed it when they arrived was fading and would soon give way to night.

What it does not have room for, strangely, is any mention of the fact that Depp was accused in the recent past of physically assaulting his wife, actress Amber Heard. Almost exactly a year ago, Heard filed for a restraining order against Depp and accused him of physically and verbally abusing her during their relationship. When she filed for divorce, she showed up in court with facial injuries that she said Depp had caused during a recent fight in which he hit her with his iPhone. “Johnny has a long-held and widely-acknowledged public and private history of drug and alcohol abuse,” Heard stated in her court filing. “He has a short fuse. He is often paranoid and his temper is extremely scary for me as it has proven many times to be physically dangerous and/or life-threatening to me.” Three months after filing for divorce, Heard dropped the abuse allegations, and the couple settled their divorce for $7 million. Heard said in their joint statement that she would be donating the payment to charity.

To be sure, there are clues throughout the piece that Depp may have problems with anger, violence, and substance abuse. The reporters mention his “personal peccadilloes,” his “demons,” and “allegations of conflict between him and Heard.” They quote an anonymous source who says that as his financial woes deepened, he was often angry and would scream at his staff. And the pattern of his spending suggests a man with little self-control. His 14 properties, worth between $50 and $60 million, include a “village-like compound” near Saint-Tropez, and a Bahamanian atoll he has “affectionally” called “Fuck Off Island.”

The piece zeroes in on problems on the set of the latest Pirates movie, which was filmed in Australia during the first months of Depp and Heard’s short-lived marriage. “Sources close to the production report tales of excessive drinking, physical fights with Heard and constant lateness on set,” the Reporter says. Sources later told Entertainment Tonight that a serious hand injury he sustained in Australia was caused by Depp punching a wall in anger during a fight with Heard. The Reporter nods to those allegations, but gives the last word to producer Jerry Bruckheimer, hustling hard to polish the reputation of his movie’s lead actor. “We don’t really know,” Bruckheimer says. “He got it caught in a car door, or he got it caught in a sliding door. I’ve heard a couple of versions.” As for his lateness, one source jokes, “He’s not a morning person.”

The Reporter piece was produced without Depp’s cooperation, and its central questions were financial and legal, not personal. But Depp’s abuse allegations and his divorce are financial, legal, and personal—the trifecta! And the fact that this is not a flattering puff profile makes their omission of all the more mystifying. One might think that in a detailed story about Depp’s precarious finances, a recent $7 million divorce settlement might be worth mentioning. “I believe we are on to something that will change how Hollywood business is done in the future,” Depp’s lawyer says, referring to a lawsuit against the star’s former managers. In treating abuse allegations as tabloid rumors too tawdry to mention, however, the piece itself is business as usual.