With the coronavirus pandemic bringing film production to a shuddering halt, a restless Hollywood had been desperate for something to watch.
Though even if it had been business as usual this summer, it is likely all eyes would still have been on the jaw-dropping blockbuster taking place 5,500 miles away at London’s High Court.
Johnny Depp’s showdown with ex-wife Amber Heard rivals any Hollywood drama, with its allegations of drugs, violence and A-list affairs providing a seemingly endless stream of lurid headlines.
The extraordinary proceedings inside the Royal Courts of Justice have pulled back the curtain and provided an almost unprecedented glimpse into the life of one of the world’s top film stars.
Tinseltown has been titillated by each claim and counter claim, with the Hollywood press reporting breathlessly on each day of the trial.
Sandro Monetti, an award-winning entertainment journalist and leading Hollywood expert, believes the splendid setting of London’s High Court has captured the imagination of an American audience.
“The visuals are very interesting,” he told the PA news agency. “This isn’t two good looking Hollywood stars fighting it out in Beverly Hills courthouse, something we’ve seen many times before.
“The London setting makes it exotic, as does the tradition and history of the court room. And so they say in real estate, location, location, location is everything, it also has something to play in celebrity court showdowns.
“It makes it more exotic, glamorous and unusual to the American audience, for sure.”
Depp is an A-list star whose films have grossed more than 10 billion dollars at the global box office. He is loved by fans for roles in movies such as Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and perhaps most famously, as the buccaneering Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney’s hugely successful Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise.
Due to his worldwide fame, 57-year-old Depp’s life was frequently subject to intense media attention.
Monetti said the fact the lurid claims are being aired in the grand setting of an English court, and not just on the pages of a downmarket tabloid, has also added to the allure in Hollywood and raised further doubts over Depp’s decision to sue.
He added: “I think the legal action has backfired in many ways. Win or lose the case, I think Johnny is damaged in his career. And I don’t think Amber Heard has come out of it smelling of roses either, but you must remember it was Johnny Depp who brought the case.”
Evan Nierman is the founder and CEO of leading crisis PR firm Red Banyan and also questioned the wisdom of Depp going to court, saying: “I’m not sure the juice is worth the squeeze.”
He told PA: “I’m not sure putting himself through the wringer like this accomplishes his goal. If his goal was really to clear his name and protect his brand and his image, I don’t think he’s done himself any favours by taking it to the High Court.”
However, Nierman predicts Depp could still enjoy a profitable Hollywood career long after the case is closed – though 34-year-old Heard may struggle.
He said: “People have known Johnny Depp and thought that he’s a wild man for a long time.
“Whereas now, our introduction on a grand scale to Amber Heard doesn’t paint a particularly pretty picture. So I think it’s actually likely to have more damage to her career than his, because he’s already on the tail end of a great run.”