The fourth day of the fifth week of Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation suit against ex-wife Amber Heard in beautiful Fairfax County, Virginia got rolling with Bruce Witkin, Depp’s former best friend, addressing what counsel referred to as Depp’s “substance abuse.”
“Abuse is the wrong word, but yeah…” said Witkin, who has known Depp since 1982 and played in a band, the Hollywood Vampires, with him.
When asked how he would characterize Depp’s relationship with substances, Witkin paused. “Gettin’ high,” he finally said.
Witkin explained that he and Depp were bosom buddies until the actor cut him off four years ago for reasons that weren’t entirely clear to him. “We were as close as you could get,” he said. However, he felt Depp drifting around 2017, and finally the actor ended a decades-old friendship without ceremony: “He wrote me this weird text saying I stabbed him in the back.”
Depp had always had a “jealous streak,” Witkin noted. “When he was younger he was jealous of Nic Cage or Adam Ant… of course it was all in his head; it didn’t match reality.”
Over the course of his testimony, Witkin, perhaps inadvertently, offered up other morsels, such as, “Him and [Marilyn] Manson would hit it hard,” and claimed to have seen Depp doing cocaine with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry, who is also a founding member of the Hollywood Vampires.
Weighing in on the entirety of the Johnny v. Amber matter, Witkin concluded, “I think he needed [to clean up] and I think he needed therapy. Because it’s deep-rooted issues he was dealing with. It had nothing to do with Amber. That’s my opinion.”
Witkin also mentioned a time when Depp said “he needed to slow down on spending”—which became the theme for the morning’s other two witnesses, who spoke of the sorry state of Depp’s finances.
Tracy Jacobs, who was Depp’s talent agent before the glory days of 21 Jump Street and stayed with him for 34 years, first at ICM and then at UTA, called Depp “extraordinarily talented” and said that after she began working with him, “He became the biggest movie star in the world.”
Depp terminated her in 2016. Jacobs is unclear why. “I really don’t know,” she said. “My understanding is that he terminated everyone in his life.”
Depp was a “difficult client to represent,” Jacobs said, due to “his unprofessional behavior” that eventually made getting him work more difficult. She noted that the last ten years she spent representing him were particularly taxing.
Depp showed up late to set “on virtually every movie,” Jacobs said. “I would get yelled at… it made people reluctant to use him towards the end.” Also near the end of her representation, Depp used earpieces to have people feed him the lines he was unwilling or unable to memorize, she claimed.
Depp—who, according to a 2018 Rolling Stone profile, spent $30K a month on wine, owned 14 real estate properties, an $18 million yacht, and 45 luxury cars—needed to be bailed out with dough. Jacobs and UTA to “were able to help him out when he was in financial desperation,” she said, securing a loan for him through Bank of America.
Originally, Depp had simply come out and demanded that the agency give him $20 million, Jacobs testified, explaining that it was not exactly an advance on future earnings. His words were, according to Jacobs, “I want you to give me $20 million.” Depp justified this by saying “he’s made [UTA] a lot of money for us during his time at UTA.”
Jacobs summed up bluntly, “His star had dimmed” due to “people talking” about the lateness, the “substance abuse,” and finally, the bad PR from the “endless” lawsuits, of which the current proceedings are just one.
Depp not only partook in a fiery public divorce from Heard in 2016, settling for $7 million, but he also sued The Management Group in 2017, alleging mismanagement in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and brought a libel suit against British tabloid The Sun for calling him “wifebeater”—which he lost.
Joe Mandel, Depp’s former business manager at The Management Group who was terminated by Depp in 2016, and later sued by him, also took the stand.
Mandel had “constant” conversations with Depp about curbing his spending, Mandel testified, describing Depp’s financial situation as “dire” by 2015. As for his expenses? A sampling would include $300,000 a month on staff, $10K a day when he used security, thousands of dollars a month on prescription drugs, and “some, not much” to charity, according to Mandel.
“It was more his style to show up at an event or lend his name to something than to write a check,” he said.
While Depp has testified under oath that Mandel had not filed his taxes for 17 years, Mandel said this was untrue.
Heard is counter-suing Depp for $100 million, claiming he harmed her reputation by saying her claims of abuse are untrue.
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