Private islands in the Bahamas, multiple penthouses, gargantuan monthly wine bills, blackout-inducing cocaine binges, drug rehab, trashed location homes and a fortune allegedly syphoned off by business managers – Johnny’s Depp’s Hollywood existence was laid bare during his libel battle with the Sun and ex-wife Amber Heard.
That the 57-year-old actor embraced a rock’n’roll, hedonistic lifestyle was never in doubt during the four-week case. As Dr David Kipper, the medic who oversaw Depp’s detoxification regime, complained in notes read out at the trial, Depp “romanticised the drug culture”.
Depp based his Pirates of the Caribbean character, Captain Jack Sparrow, on the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards; the actor is filming a documentary about Richards and his life of excess.
He also played Hunter S Thompson in the drug-soaked adventure Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and first met Heard on the set of the author’s Rum Diary. When Thompson died, Depp paid for his ashes to be fired out of a cannon.
Depp was one of the biggest box office stars of his generation, with leading roles in Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Pirates of the Caribbean and other hits helping to earn him a fortune.
But at the time his marriage with Heard was splintering, the court heard Depp learned he had lost $650m (£500m) to business managers whom he accused of stealing – leaving him with a $100m tax bill.
For much of their brief married life, the couple lived in the Eastern Columbia art deco building in Los Angeles where Depp owned a complex of five penthouses in one wing. Depp and Heard lived in one penthouse, and another was used to store clothes.
Friends and in-laws were able to stay rent-free in neighbouring apartments. And there was a “guard shack” on the floor for security staff to protect them.
Isaac Baruch, an artist and long-time confidant who lived rent-free in one penthouse, described Depp as an “Ubermensch”, adding: “He’s generous to everybody. He’s true and honest. He’s a good guy. He does the right thing.”
The court heard from an array of loyal staff. Ben King, his occasional butler, testified that he sometimes saw Depp smoking cannabis around the house but insisted he was “always polite”.
Depp admitted spending more than $30,000 (£24,000) a month on wine before he went into rehab. Apart from the five penthouses, he retained his main home, in a Gothic mansion, in West Hollywood, and other houses. Neither his $22 million yacht, or his village in France, however, featured in the trial.
The itinerant lifestyle of a movie star included his own island in the Bahamas and flights on private jets. Depp is reported to have paid $3.6m for the 45-acre tropical hideaway of Little Halls Pond Cay in the Bahamas in 2004.
He held the celebrations after his marriage to Heard there in 2015. Two smaller islets off the archipelago are named after his two children, Lily-Rose, 15, and Jack, 12. It was also the scene of his first abortive attempt at detoxification, to get off Roxicodone, a prescribed narcotic pain-relief drug to which he had become addicted.
While Depp, who was born in Kentucky, had described himself as a “southern gentleman who had respect for women”, the court heard, his expletive-laden speech and black humour suggested a coarser approach to life.
He swapped what he said were black humour jokes with the actor Paul Bettany about “burning” and “drowning” Heard and defiling her corpse. His nicknames for other Hollywood stars included “pumpkin head” for Leonardo DiCaprio and “potato head” for Channing Tatum.
Depp’s drug and alcohol binges were a regular feature of his life. The trial saw several photos of the actor said to show him passed out on the floor.
Sasha Wass QC, representing News Group Newspapers (NGN), which owns the Sun, asked him: “Do you have a problem remembering some of the things you were doing because of your excessive consumption of alcohol?”
He replied: “For someone who was pretty self-destructive during my life, I have been pretty lucky that my brain is still functioning.” Pressed again, Depp admitted on one occasion that he may have blacked out.
He consistently denied ever being violent, whether under the influence of MDMA, cocaine, magic mushrooms or alcohol. In one text, requesting re-supply, Depp referred to ecstasy as “happy pills” and cocaine as “whitey stuff”– taken during what he described as a “Peruvian period”.
Heard implied his vast wealth and loyal staff cushioned him from normal life, culminating in Depp losing touch with reality. No one dared complain, she suggested, when he was characteristically late at a recording studio.
During the trial, Depp made the astonishing admission that he had not read all of his own witness statement. “I didn’t put them together, my attorneys wrote them,” he told the court.
Arriving at LA airport to fly to Australia, Heard recalled she had got on “his plane, with his staff, for his flight” operated by “his crew … Johnny’s the boss”.
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