Sunday, May 19, 2024
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An acting masterclass from Johnny Depp


JOHNNY Depp has a taste for suing those who annoy him.  Management company, former lawyers, media, and now, despite losing last time in the UK, he is again suing his ex-wife Amber Heard in the hope that a Virginia court will get it right.   

The Hollywood superstar can take comfort in the many stories casting his nemesis ex as an attention-seeking, psychotic liar. The mainstream media is awash with supporters of Poor Johnny (Nasty Amber). ‘Why did no one believe Johnny Depp?’ asks a Spectator article.  

So in the spirit of ‘good for the goose, good for the gander’, let’s have a look at Johnny. 

His public image is a cool outsider, a type beloved in Hollywood. In a world where Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen describe themselves as ‘renegades’ and a real prince is a rebel, Johnny is middle of the road on the Cool Outsider spectrum. 

He gets to play loveable characters, which is confusing for us because we think we know him, and confusing for him, as he thinks we love him. Be it Edward Scissorhands or a drunken pirate, his characters are routinely a) Hot and b) Right Level offbeat. In real life Johnny has had some drug and alcohol issues, which his fans (the ones who don’t live with an alcoholic) feel makes him relatable in the way of Robert Downey Jr, another star on the Cool Outsider spectrum.

The public are fascinated by celebrity and hence fascinated by Johnny. If court testimony is anything to go on, Johnny is also fascinated by Johnny. He’s unrushed and affectionate telling stories about Johnny, relaying something he said or he did, smiling fondly at the memory.

Credit where it’s due. Boy, can he act! HIs ‘perplexed man having his patience tried’ role was superb. He seemed unprepared and his asides were not obviously spiteful. He made Amber’s career. He was unsparingly generous with the hangers-on she brought into his life.   He was heroic. He dropped the topless scene (which she was so up for). He then lingers over the story of how they met when he found that she shared his interest in jazz. ‘It was unusual.’ He lets it sink in, no words needed, we just know. Oh God in heaven, he was set up by that tart!   

And Johnny’s range! You want some comic timing? ‘Yes sir, you read that very well,’ he repeats, the Southern gent politeness followed by his barely perceptible smile and nod, revealing his ‘secret’ contempt just perfectly. His jokes about alcohol hit the spot for his audience and he even throws in a Viper Room/River Phoenix reference but keeps it tasteful (he avoided being ‘bitten by that heroin snake’).   

But true Johnny reveals himself more in the moments when he’s not being clever and can’t prepare. Goodness, he’s used to be listened to. Goodness, he’s boring. Goodness, he’s name-droppy. The films he recalls were all successes, despite there being a few financial turkeys in the same time period but not mentioned. Then Johnny’s mask slips, annoyed, arrogant, and there’s no doubt he’s getting riled at the lawyer across the court who seems genuinely untroubled by celebrity. You get to see the Johnny who doesn’t like being in charge and not being venerated. 

Johnny is a great actor but he is not an outsider. He’s a rich and powerful man using money to shut up his ex-wife.   

And if this court battle was a film, it’s the defence lawyer who’d be the cool outsider that Johnny would play.  

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Gail MacDonald
Gail MacDonald
Gail MacDonald is a professional psychologist and writer. Views expressed here are her own.

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