Longtime entertainment attorney Richard Edward Marks was called to the stand Monday in Johnny Depp’s defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard and said the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor became radioactive because companies want “added value not negativity” from talent.
Marks, who said he has nearly 50 years of experience and has negotiated numerous deals, was hired by Depp’s legal team to look at the impact Heard’s 2018 Washington Post op-ed had on her ex-husband’s “life and reputation.”
“My general opinion is the op-ed damaged Mr. Depp, created a cancel situation if you will, harmed his reputation and his ability to get work in the Hollywood industry,” Marks told a Fairfax, Virginia, courtroom.
The Los Angeles-based attorney said he read a “voluminous” amount of files, transcripts from depositions, and news articles to familiarize himself with the case. He noted that companies and studios consider a performer’s reputation, legal activity and criminal record before closing a deal.
“You wouldn’t want to hire an actor who has negativity following them. You wouldn’t want to pay to bring your brand down,” Marks said. “That’s very important, especially in the last five years with the #MeToo Movement. You wouldn’t want negativity hiring an actor who had been ‘canceled.’”
Marks said his previous clients included George Lucas, Sylvester Stallone, Eddie Murphy, and he helped negotiate the deal for Robin Williams to voice the role of Genie in “Aladdin.” He noted that studios are there to make money and the actor’s job is to help them achieve that goal.
“They want actors who have reputations that will bring eyeballs to the screen, bodies in the seats. They’re looking for added value not negativity,” he explained.
He said there’s been a shift in society to where a victim gets the benefit of the doubt, and mentioned convicted movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey who was erased from the film “All the Money in the World” amid sexual assault allegations.
“Right now the pinnacle of negativity is being accused of domestic abuse, sexual abuse – violence. What we’ve seen is almost immediately terminations and cancellations for the investors, people that create that product to move away from that negativity,” he said.
In cross-examination, Heard’s attorney asked Marks if it was Depp’s bad behavior or allegedly arriving drunk at a movie premiere that caused him to lose work, instead of the op-ed column.
“They’ll put up with divas and drugs to make money, but now we’ve drawn a line in Hollywood at domestic and sexual abuse,” Marks replied.
Earlier in the day, talent manager Jack Whigham said the impact of the Washington Post op-ed Heard wrote was “catastrophic” for the actor’s career.
Whigham spoke remotely via video from Los Angeles, and said in 2017 Depp had a very busy filming schedule. That year the actor worked on “City of Lies,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald,” and independent film “The Professor,” earning a total of $35 million.
Whigham, who described himself as an attorney and manager, said he also negotiated Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” 6 deal in 2017, which totaled $22.5 million. But in 2019, it became clear that Disney had decided to “go in a different direction.”
In 2018, Depp filmed “Waiting for the Barbarians” for $1 million, he said. In 2019, Whigham negotiated a $3 million deal for Depp to film “Minimata.” Whigham told the court the movie was supposed to start filming in January. “It was very, very difficult to keep Minimata together. The financing became shaky, the budget had to come down. Johnny’s fee came down in order to save the movie.”
When asked what made Heard’s op-ed different from other articles written about Depp, Whigham told the court it “was a first-person account coming from the victim.”
“After the op-ed it was impossible to get him a studio film,” Whigham said.
Last week Depp’s former CAA agent Christian Carino told the court the actor’s various legal disputes had become a “distraction,” making him unemployable.
In another development Monday, Depp’s bodyguard told the court the actor and Heard began arguing regularly after returning from a trip to Australia. “Every other night,” Travis McGivern said about the couple’s disputes.
“It was typically Mr. Depp trying to get out of there … trying to convince Ms. Heard to let us leave,” McGivern said. He told the court Heard would often call Depp names, “f—ing dead-beat dad, f—ing washed up, f—ing c—. You name it, she spewed it.”
McGivern also recalled a fight between the couple in which he said Heard threw a Red Bull and hit Depp in the back, spit at him and punched him. “I heard and saw a closed fist contact with Mr. Depp in the left side of his face,” McGivern said.
In retaliation, Depp went into Heard’s closet and knocked down every clothing and shoe rack and threw at least one down the stairs, according to McGivern’s testimony.
Heard is expected to take the stand this week.