Fantastic Beasts' is just the start. Johnny Depp's career is over, experts say

In a 129-page ruling last week, Judge Andrew Nicol of the High Court in London dismissed the former "Pirates of the Caribbean" star's libel claim against the UK newspaper The Sun over a 2018 article that referred to Depp as a "wife-beater" in connection to domestic-abuse allegations leveled by his ex-wife Amber Heard. The judge found that the article was "substantially true."

Fantastic Beasts' is just the start. Johnny Depp's career is over, experts say
Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp's career is over. At least, that's what experts are saying.

In a 129-page ruling last week, Judge Andrew Nicol of the High Court in London dismissed the former "Pirates of the Caribbean" star's libel claim against the UK newspaper The Sun over a 2018 article that referred to Depp as a "wife-beater" in connection to domestic-abuse allegations leveled by his ex-wife Amber Heard. The judge found that the article was "substantially true."

During the high-profile trial — a 16-day blockbuster — Depp and Heard's turbulent 15-month marriage was picked apart with excruciating detail, and the excesses of Depp's toxic, drug-fueled lifestyle were laid bare.

Depp's career was on a downward trend before any allegations of domestic abuse

Depp first found fame on the hit '80s TV show "21 Jump Street." He ascended to Hollywood stardom with Tim Burton's cult-favorite film "Edward Scissorhands" in 1990, starring alongside Winona Ryder, a future partner.

Over the next few decades, he won acclaim for his roles as misunderstood, brooding loners and anti-heroes in films such as "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," "Donnie Brasco," and "Sleepy Hollow."

Since 2003, Depp has been perhaps best known as the mischievous Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's popular "Pirates of the Caribbean" film franchise. Depp was nominated for an Oscar in 2004 for his work on the first film, "The Curse of the Black Pearl," and by 2015, with the fifth installment of the series, Depp was estimated to be earning about $55 million per film. The "Pirates" films, thanks to Depp, were a jewel in Disney's box-office playbook; the five movies made a combined $4.5 billion worldwide.

But over the past few years, Depp has failed to reach similar box-office heights. New offerings such as "Transcendence," "The Lone Ranger," and "Dark Shadows" — directed by Burton, a longtime collaborator — tanked among critics and disappointed at the box office, signaling that the public had grown tired of his gothic shtick.

While Depp's films have earned more than $4 billion domestically over the decades, experts said he might have reached the end of his road.

"I predict his career may never recover," Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, told Insider. "Disney has lost interest in Depp for its 'Pirates of the Caribbean' franchise, and I can't imagine any other major studio wanting to work with him. He's going to be the next Harvey Weinstein."

Days after the libel trial, Depp said he had been "asked to resign by Warner Bros." from the "Fantastic Beasts" series.

Stacy Jones, the CEO of Hollywood Branded, a pop-culture influencer and branded content marketing agency in Los Angeles, told Insider that while Warner Bros. appeared to move quickly in distancing itself from Depp after the trial, the plan to ditch the actor "was in fact a very well-orchestrated plan, built over time with the lead-in to the trial."

At first, it seemed the Potterverse would stand by its man and shrug off the serious allegations as another celebrity tabloid rift. In an interview with the "Harry Potter" fan site The Leaky Cauldron in late 2016, shortly after Heard's allegations became public, David Yates, the "Fantastic Beasts" director, defended Depp. "In this business, it's a weird old business," he said. "You're brilliant one week, people are saying odd things the next, you go up and down. But no one takes away your pure talent."

In a statement posted on her personal blog in 2017, the "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling said: "The filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies."

But now that the extent of Depp's abusive behavior is a matter of public record, he's untouchable. If a brand, filmmaker, or producer employs a celebrity whose name is associated with allegations of abuse, it's often regarded as a sign of acceptance or endorsement. And as the industry suffers during the COVID-19 pandemic, many studios would rather make a safe bet.

"The reality is Warner Bros. had no choice in the matter to bid farewell to Depp," Jones said. "'Fantastic Beasts' is a family film, and physical abuse alongside drug and alcohol abuse are nonstarters for consideration, even when the role being played is that of a bad guy."