Hollywood Insiders Say Verdict May Not Restore Johnny Depp's Movie Stardom: 'Nobody Truly Won'
MICHAEL REYNOLDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp's reputation in Hollywood might not recover completely despite the verdict in his favor following his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard, according to sources.
As one Hollywood insider tells PEOPLE of the 58-year-old Sweeney Todd actor, "I don't think he will ever be who he was. It was a waste of time and money and effort."
And while the source believes Depp will get hired again and is "liked," they reiterate, "But he will never be who he once was."
A Hollywood agent tells PEOPLE that, post-verdict, this "is a time to just move on and, if needed, to lick your wounds. Years of building up reputations have been torn down on both sides in a couple of weeks. Nobody truly won."
In the verdict, read Wednesday, Depp won all three defamation claims when it came to Heard's 2018 op-ed about coming forward with domestic-abuse claims, although she did not mention Depp by name in the article.
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Depp was awarded $15 million in damages following the verdict, but Heard, 36, will only have to pay $10.35 million due to a Virginia law capping punitive damages (the judge reduced the amount). The jurors sided with the Aquaman actress on one of her three countersuit claims of defamation, awarding her $2 million in damages.
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getty (2) Johnny Depp; Amber Heard
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"Yes, Mr. Depp can claim a moral victory, but let's not forget this was once a woman he loved that he dragged through the mud," the Hollywood agent adds of Wednesday's verdict from Fairfax, Virginia. "His career will flourish because this is the world that we live in, and Ms. Heard will need to regroup both personally and professionally and pick a career path that in some small way will give her momentum."
But still, "Depp will do well," the agent insists. "His fans are very loyal and vocal and all know he is far from perfect."
An industry insider tells PEOPLE that they believe Depp "will work again," adding, "I can see him starting with his music as a way back and then a role(s) that showcases the old Johnny acting choices in an independent movie before the big tentpole."
"I think the music industry is more welcoming and can be the transition back," the latter source says, "but I do feel someone will give him a chance. He is very likable and very talented. A studio will just have to gauge and see it worth the risk/value, but he also won public opinion. He gained a whole new fanbase through this, and yes, he will be back."
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Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations Co., tells PEOPLE that while Depp "hasn't exactly been on a box-office hot streak of late," with the defamation trial "now in his rearview mirror, I wouldn't be shocked to hear about a [Pirates of the Caribbean] revival."
"Pirates of the Caribbean has really been his salvation over the last two decades," Bock says. "While Depp has had a couple other box-office hits over that period — namely, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — his buried treasure has always been Captain Jack Sparrow."
"The [Pirates] franchise has been Disney's biggest bounty outside the [Marvel Cinematic Universe]," Bock continues. "I'm sure everyone involved would love to return to the high cinematic seas of skullduggery with Captain Jack Sparrow leading the brigade. It's the role Depp will forever be associated with, like Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, or Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto."
On the flip side, Bock tells PEOPLE he believes Heard, who is set to star in the upcoming sequel to Aquaman, "was never the main draw" of the original 2018 film and "barely a second fiddle."
"In the eye of public opinion — and in terms of the court-case proceedings — Heard didn't do herself any favors going forward," Bock claims. "I think it will be much more difficult for her to get work than Johnny in the near future, but that was always the case, as he was arguably one of the biggest cinema stars in the world for a spell and is still a pop-culture magnet."
"Productions live and die by the all-mighty dollar, and Depp has been known to clean up at the box office," Bock continues. "That will always leave the door open for him in Hollywood. I think casting Heard is going to be a lot more difficult in the coming months, as productions don't necessarily want the negative press or media circus that will inevitably follow her for a while."
STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Johnny Depp (center)
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Depp was not present when the verdict was read in court Wednesday, and has been performing onstage with Jeff Beck overseas since Sunday. He said in a statement that the "best is yet to come" for him after the verdict.
"Six years ago, my life, the life of my children, the lives of those closest to me, and also, the lives of the people who for many, many years have supported and believed in me were forever changed. All in the blink of an eye," he said. "False, very serious and criminal allegations were levied at me via the media, which triggered an endless barrage of hateful content, although no charges were ever brought against me. It had already traveled around the world twice within a nanosecond and it had a seismic impact on my life and my career. And six years later, the jury gave me my life back."
"I am truly humbled," Depp continued, in part. "My decision to pursue this case, knowing very well the height of the legal hurdles that I would be facing and the inevitable, worldwide spectacle into my life, was only made after considerable thought. From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome. Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that."
Heard said in her own statement following the verdict (which her lawyer Elaine Bredehoft said on Today Thursday her client plans to appeal), "The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. I'm heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence and sway of my ex-husband."
"I'm even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback," she added. "It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously."
"I believe Johnny's attorneys succeeded in getting the jury to overlook the key issue of Freedom of Speech and ignore evidence that was so conclusive that we won in the U.K.," Heard continued. "I'm sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American — to speak freely and openly."
The pair wed in February 2015 after meeting while making 2011's The Rum Diary. Heard then filed for divorce and a domestic violence restraining order in May 2016. Depp has maintained that he never abused his ex-wife.
Depp's win in the defamation trial comes 19 months after he lost his U.K. libel suit back in November 2020. He sued British tabloid The Sun for calling him a "wife-beater." Heard testified to back up the claims, and a London judge upheld the outlet's claims as being "substantially true." In March 2021, his attempt to overturn that decision was overruled.