Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Image Credit: AP

Johnny Depp’s agent testified Monday that his ex-wife’s 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Post describing herself as a victim of domestic abuse was ‘catastrophic’ to his career and coincided with the loss of a $23 million deal for a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ sequel.

Amber Heard’s lawyers pushed back aggressively against the agent’s assertion on cross-examination, suggesting that the article was inconsequential amid a stream of bad publicity for Depp brought on by his own bad behaviour.

Depp is suing Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court, saying her article defamed him when she described herself as ‘a public figure representing domestic abuse.’

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The article never mentions Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyers say he was defamed nevertheless because it’s a clear reference to abuse allegations Heard levied in 2016.

In testimony Monday, agent Jack Whigham said Depp was still able to work after the initial allegations made against him in 2016. He was paid $8 million for ‘City Of Lies,’ $10 million for ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ and $13.5 million for ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,’ all of which shot in 2017, albeit under contracts reached prior to the allegations made against him.

But he said The Washington Post piece was uniquely damaging to Depp’s career.

“It was a first-person account, extremely impactful,” Whigham said of the op-ed.

After that, he said Depp struggled to get any kind of work. He had to take a pay cut _ down to $3 million _ to do the independent film ‘Minimata,’ and a $22.5 million verbal deal he had with Disney for a sixth ‘Pirates’ film was scuttled, Whigham said.

On cross-examination, though, Heard’s lawyers asked whether the ‘Pirates’ deal had already gone south by the time Heard’s article was published. Whigham acknowledged he never had a written deal for Depp to appear in a sixth ‘Pirates’ film.” And while he said ‘Pirates’ producer Jerry Bruckheimer talked favourably throughout 2018 about Depp coming back to the franchise, Disney executives were noncommittal at best.

Johnny Depp stars in 'Pirates Of The Carribean' Image Credit: AP

By early 2019 _ weeks after Heard’s op-ed _ Whigham said it was clear that Depp’s role in any ‘Pirates’ film was scuttled and that producers were instead looking to move ahead with Margot Robbie in a lead role.

Heard’s lawyers have cited a variety of factors _ including reports of heavy drug and alcohol use, a lawsuit by a crew member in July 2018 who says he was punched on set by Depp, and a separate libel lawsuit Depp filed against a British newspaper in 2018 _ as things that damaged Depp’s image more than the Post article.

Heard is expected to testify later this week.