Johnny Depp: once-loveable loner hit by lurid claims

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp became a global megastar playing off-beat characters from Willy Wonka to Captain Jack Sparrow, until his destructive off-screen lifestyle threatened to permanently derail his career.

Pouring his own eccentricities into his roles, Depp earned a reputation as both heartthrob and indie darling through sensitive performances in films such as ‘Edward Scissorhands’ and ‘What's Eating Gilbert Grape’.

He stepped into another level of fame fronting Disney's billion-dollar ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise as the rum-swilling sea dog Captain Jack Sparrow -- partly inspired by one of his many heroes, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards.

But his bitter legal battles with ex-wife Amber Heard laid bare a turbulent private life involving rows, drink and drugs that turned him into a toxic figure in Hollywood, from which his career is still recovering.

Young Johnny Depp

From music to stardom

Born 9 June, 1963 in Owensboro, Kentucky, Depp set out trying to be a musician, and sold ballpoint pens before dabbling in acting.

He made his big-screen debut in the cult Wes Craven thriller ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ in 1984.

From there, he launched a successful television career as a baby-faced undercover police officer in the popular series ‘21 Jump Street’.

In 1990, he played ‘Edward Scissorhands’, a shear-fingered creature with a heart of gold who brings a bit of magic and joy to a small town with fanciful topiaries and cutting-edge hairdos.

It was one of several collaborations with director Tim Burton that also included ‘Ed Wood’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Johnny Depp as his famous movie character 'Jac Sparrow'

Depp portrayed another renegade hero, journalist and drug aficionado Hunter S Thompson, in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’.

It was on set of one of Thompson's lesser-known works, ‘The Rum Diary’ that he met and starred opposite Heard in 2011.

He has also taken on heavier roles, such as an undercover detective who infiltrates the mob in 1997's much-loved ‘Donnie Brasco’.

Depp has been nominated three times for an Oscar, including for his role as ‘Peter Pan’ creator JM Barrie in 2004's ‘Finding Neverland’ and 2007's ‘Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street’.

He has also frequently returned to his first love of music, collaborating with Oasis, Alice Cooper and Aerosmith's Joe Perry.

Johnny Depp

Messy private life

Depp dated a string of celebrities including actress Winona Ryder and supermodel Kate Moss, and was with the mother of his two children, French singer and actress Vanessa Paradis, for 14 years.

But his lifestyle and finances were a mess.

He once claimed he spent more than $30,000 a month on wine alone, and spent lavishly on art and property.

He told a London court in 2020 that business managers stole the $650 million he made from ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

His marriage to Heard in 2015 was short-lived. They split the following year and divorced in 2017.

In 2020, he tried to sue The Sun newspaper for libel after they called him a ‘wife beater’, admitting he took drugs but denying any violence -- but he lost the case.

Actor Johnny Depp and his wife Amber Heard attend the red carpet event for the movie "Black Mass" at the 72nd Venice Film Festival in northern Italy 4 September, 2015.

Their marriage was raked over in even more lurid detail during a defamation trial in the United States two years later, and this time Depp was successful.

"The jury gave me my life back," said a jubilant Depp.

But the trial was a lightning rod for opposing sides of the #MeToo debate and Depp remains a toxic figure for many, particularly in the United States.

The tumult cost him his prime role in Harry Potter spin-off franchise ‘Fantastic Beasts’.

But his trial victory appears to have allowed a return.

He plays King Louis XV in ‘Jeanne du Barry’, which opens the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, and sees him speak French throughout.

Just a few days earlier, it was reported he had been given a record $20 million to remain the face of Dior fragrance.

He is also set to direct Al Pacino in a biopic of artist Amedeo Modigliani later this year.

Johnny Depp as King Louis XV in ‘Jeanne du Barry’.