Johnny Depp‘s longtime agent testified on Thursday that his star power declined over the course of years due to his erratic behaviour, and that at one point he asked his agency to give him US$20 million (approx. $28.3 million) because he needed money.
Tracey Jacobs, a top agent at United Talent Agency, represented Depp for 30 years until he fired her – and his his longtime lawyer and management firm – in 2016. Jacobs appeared by video deposition on the 19th day of Depp’s defamation trial against his ex-wife, Amber Heard, whom he accuses of destroying his career with false allegations of domestic violence.
Jacobs testified that over the last 10 years of her representation of him, Depp would habitually show up late to set. He ultimately got a reputation that made it harder to get jobs for him, she said.
“Initially crews loved him,” she said. “He was always so great with the crew. But crews don’t love sitting around for hours and hours and hours waiting for the star to show up.”
Jacobs said that sometimes she would get yelled at, and that she tried to impress on her client that he was hurting his career. In addition, she noted an increased use of alcohol and drugs. At one time, she said that Depp had been “the biggest star in the world,” but that was no longer true by the time he fired her in October 2016.
“His star had dimmed due to it getting harder to get him jobs,” Jacobs said.
“People were talking. The question was out there about his behaviour.”
Heard’s lawyers also called Joel Mandel, Depp’s former business manager, to testify about his out-of-control spending. Also appearing by video, Mandel testified that Depp began to lead a “bigger” and “more expensive life” after the runaway success of Pirates of the Caribbean in 2003. But in later years, Depp’s income waned as several other films did not do as well.
“The spending levels had grown very, very, very large,” Mandel said. “It required that level of incredibly high income to be maintained. When it dropped off, the disconnect became untenable.”
In 2015, Mandel warned Depp that he was in “dire” financial condition, and urged him to cut back on his spending and sell his French chateau. Though Depp seemed at times to get the message, Mandel said that ultimately there was little follow-through. Depp fired Mandel in March 2016, and later sued him. Mandel’s company countersued, alleging that Depp was responsible for his financial problems and documenting numerous lavish expenditures. That litigation was settled in 2018.
In her testimony, Jacobs said that Depp came to UTA and asked them to give him US$20 million. He had a meeting with UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer and Chairman Jim Berkus, in which they declined to do that.
“They said we’re not in a position to give our clients that kind of money,” Jacobs testified. “We’re not a bank.”
Depp did not specify why he needed the money, but did say that he had made a lot of money for the agency over the years, she testified. She said the agency ultimately helped him get a loan from Bank of America.
Jacobs also indicated that Depp’s image has been harmed by the series of lawsuits he has filed.
“These lawsuits don’t help,” she said. “It’s endless.”
Heard’s lawyers also played a deposition from actor Ellen Barkin, who recounted having a brief sexual relationship with Depp in the 1990s. Barkin recalled an incident in which Depp threw a wine bottle in her direction in a hotel room in Las Vegas. She said that Depp was often angry and controlling.
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“He’s just a jealous man – controlling,” she said. “‘Where are you going? Who are you going with? What did you do last night?'”
Tina Newman, a Disney production executive, also gave testimony on the company’s behalf. She was asked about a series of emails in which Disney executives shared news articles related to Depp’s financial tailspin. On one of them, a Disney executive wrote simply “sad.”
However, Newman said that executives had not sent around Heard’s Washington Post op-ed, in which she called herself a “public figure representing domestic abuse,” or referred to it in any messages. Depp alleges in his lawsuit that Disney fired him from the sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film – which has not been made – because of the op-ed. Newman said she was unaware of anyone at Disney saying that Depp would not appear in the film because of the op-ed.
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