Franchise enthusiasts, exhausted parents, and stoned teenagers got a whole lot more than they bargained for at Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean ride last month. To celebrate the ride’s 50th anniversary, its three full-time animatronic Jack Sparrows were joined by their human counterpart, Johnny Depp, who made an unannounced appearance in full Pirates of the Caribbean garb. Snapchats and Instagrams from unsuspecting amusement park-goers showed the 53-year-old in eyeliner and sea salt-dreads, reciting classic lines from the beloved film franchise. Depp’s well-timed appearance was deliberate, building hype for the upcoming fifth Pirates installment and deflecting attention away from a series of less-than-flattering news bulletins about the actor’s finances. Given Depp’s exponentially growing toxicity and disastrously depleted bank account, making minimum wage at the happiest place on earth may very well be his next full-time gig.
In fact, the soon-to-be-released Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales appears to be a sinking ship—and not the spectacular, CGI kind that pulls in billions at the box office. If the fifth Pirates film is the too-big-to-fail Titanic then, Johnny Depp is the iceberg. So how did the actor go from one of Hollywood’s highest-paid male leads to his own worst enemy? According to The Hollywood Reporter,“Studio execs worry that Depp's personal peccadilloes could impact the marketing of their $230 million-budget tentpole and future of a $3.7 billion box-office franchise.”
Depp’s public image is fighting a losing, multi-fronted battle. His ex-wife Amber Heard divorced him, citing a pattern of emotional and physical abuse. His former managers at The Management Group have outed the actor’s reckless spending habits, even going so far as to call Depp “a habitual liar who denies responsibility for his own outrageous conduct.” Additionally, according to new reports, Depp is an on-set terror, not to mention a diva and a half. To put it in terms even a diehard Pirates fan can understand, it’s the PR equivalent of when you’re getting attacked by a rival pirate, your crew is abandoning you, your girlfriend just left and your parrot is dead. Also, the ship is on fire.
There’s reckless spending, and then there’s commissioning a $3 million, custom-built cannon to spread the ashes of Hunter Thompson over Aspen, Colorado. Likewise, there are Hollywood douchebags, and then there’s Johnny Depp. While countless entertainment industry insiders and TMZ employees may have been unmoved by Amber Heard’s accusations against the star, even the most dedicated domestic abuse-denier can admit that Johnny Depp is probably not a great guy. The latest evidence comes from the set of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, where Depp apparently waged a futile war against his inner demons and his perpetual tardiness.
The filming of Dead Men Tell No Tales appears to have coincided with the dissolution of Depp and Heard’s marriage, to predictably disastrous effect. According to a Hollywood Reporter piece,“Sources close to the production report tales of excessive drinking, physical fights with [Amber] Heard and constant lateness on set, which often left hundreds of extras waiting for hours at a time. Time and again, Bruckheimer, an assistant director and a flotilla of Disney executives led by production chief Sean Bailey were forced to huddle and debate how to handle their star’s tardiness.” Depp’s schedule was so erratic that a production assistant was tasked with the mind-numbing job of lurking outside of Depp’s home and informing the set when the star woke up and turned on his lights. Take heart, USC freshmen—one day, you too could live the dream of loitering outside a movie star’s home in an unmarked car, waiting for signs of life. The Hollywood Reporter adds that they even had “a special code term, like ‘the eagle has landed.’ Johnny had no idea this was going on.”
And while dead men can’t talk, on-set sources are a whole different story. One anonymous insider confessed, "Everyone was an innocent bystander watching this train wreck.” Disney production chief Sean Bailey corroborated the scheduling complaints, explaining, “There were certainly days when our plans were challenged,” but added, “No one should underestimate Johnny's passion and commitment to this character and franchise.”
While Depp still has fans in high places at Disney—fans who will likely change course if Dead Men Tell No Tales is a flop—his ex-managers paint a darker picture of the former heartthrob. Back when Depp and Heard were finalizing their divorce, the actor filed a $25 million suit against his handlers at TMG, claiming negligence and fraud. According to the lawsuit, TMG “actively concealed the true state of Mr. Depp’s finances while driving him deeper and deeper into financial distress.”
Naturally, those managers told a different story, countering with a cross-complaint that chronicles Depp’s “irresponsible and profligate spending” in minute detail. According to the counter-suit, the star’s ill-advised expenditures—roughly $2 million a month—included 14 residences, at least 45 luxury vehicles, 70 collective guitars, not to mention up to $30,000 per month on fine wines. Depp also allegedly maintained a staff of over 40 employees, and “refused to fly by any means other than private plane.” In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Depp insisted that “it’s my money,” adding, “If I want to buy 15,000 cotton balls a day, it's my thing." Meanwhile, the actor’s estranged business managers argue that “the arithmetic is straightforward: Depp spent more than he brought in, notwithstanding repeated warnings by TMG.”
Ever since Depp sued TMG in January, the increasingly bitter court battle has led to reams of newly released gossip. According to an amended complaint from TMG, Depp even had the audacity to hire a sound engineer that he “kept on yearly retainer so that he no longer had to memorize his lines.” Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time that Depp has been outed for his expensive habit—in 2008, Kirsten Dunst told Vulture that, “Johnny Depp has music playing in his ear when he acts…He has an earbud. That’s why he’s so great.” Either Depp made a shift from songs to scripts, or he hasn’t done his own memorization in quite some time. Recently released documents also reveal that TMG is calling for Depp to receive a mental health evaluation, insisting, “It appears that Depp may suffer from a compulsive spending disorder.” Meanwhile, as Depp contemplates destitution and a fresh diagnosis, Amber Heard and a very financially solvent Elon Musk are now Instagram official.