LOS ANGELES : Johnny Depp's loss in a libel battle in London maybe the final straw in a diminishing career as a major film star but much of the damage had already been done, Hollywood observers said on Monday.

Depp, 57, best known as the swaggering Jack Sparrow in the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, had sued a British tabloid that labelled him as a ''wife-beater'' during his tempestuous relationship with his ex-wife, actor Amber Heard.

He had told the court he was never violent towards her and his lawyers described the ruling as ''perverse, as it is bewildering,'' adding it would be ridiculous for him not to appeal.

Matthew Belloni, former editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, said the sordid details of the short lived marriage had been aired so often in years that the London verdict likely had little impact in the industry.

 ''There is a sense in Hollywood that Johnny Depp is a tainted brand and his dominance of the box office in the 2000s had come to an end,'' he explained.

Depp has often played offbeat characters and has an army of fans using social media hashtags like #JusticeForJohnnyDepp who reacted angrily to Verdict. But incidents like head butting and scrawling graffiti in blood that were recounted in the July trial were at odds with Depp’s family - friendly films like the Pirates and Fantastic Beasts franchises.

“ I think this is the final nail in the coffin of Johnny Depp’s brand,” said celebrity branding expert Jeetender Sehdev. “The verdict does not align with that image.” 

Disney, which has been working on a reboot of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, did not respond to queries about Depp's future. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer said in a May interview that it was unclear what the actor's role would be in a sixth film.

Depp's casting as villain Gellert Grindewald in Fantastic Beasts had already provoked controversy in 2017. But he is on board for a third appearance in the Warner Bros franchise, which began shooting last month.

Warner Bros did not respond to a request for comment. The superstar is also the face of fashion house  Dior's male fragrances. Dior did not respond to a request for a comment about its future relationship with the actor.

Belloni said that while Hollywood studios “are not clamoring to be in the Dell business anymore,” the actor’s career was far from over. “He’s always going to work if he wants to because he’s a talented actor and there will be smaller films that will cast him.

“If one of those becomes a major hit, he may be back,” he stated, recalling the comeback of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man eight years after serving a year in prison for drug possession.

Heard’s Hollywood profile is smaller. She is expected to start production in mid-2021 on Aquaman 2 but Sehdev said producers “would do well to increase her role in that.” “She should absolutely reap the benefits of her bravery. 

The sentiment is changing where we do believe victims and we recognize that there is darker side to Hollywood,” referring to the criminal sexual assault convictions of producer Harvey Weinstein and comedian Bill Cosby. [Reuters]


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