CNN spoke with six entertainment industry experts for this story, some of whom spoke on background to protect professional relationships.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect before he took the stand and if anything, I believe this has done nothing but help his public image,” the source said.
Another top Hollywood publicist, who hasn’t worked with either Depp or Heard, said neither of their images have fared well.
“Both are highly dysfunctional. Money is toxic and greed destroys. No one wins here,” this publicist said.
A ‘forgiving’ industry
Naturally, there are hurdles for both actors to overcome once their legal battle ends.
Depp and Heard met in 2009 on the set of their film “The Rum Diary” and were married from 2015-2016 before divorcing.
Entertainment agent Darryl Marshak thinks film studios might — at least, initially — be hesitant to engage with the actors entangled in a controversy that has played out so publicly.
“Robert Downey Jr. won an Academy Award and then aired his personal business out in the world and people kind of recoiled,” said Marshak, who has previously represented stars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Hilary Swank. “I think Hollywood is a strange place. When you air your dirty laundry in front of the machine, the executives, all the people that make the parts move, they sort of recoil from a hot flame.”
Depp claims a 2018 op-ed by Heard in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse” defamed him. He has starred in two films since the op-ed, which did not mention him by name, “Waiting for the Barbarians” and “Minamata,” both independent films.
Marshak said he believes Depp’s “unbelievable talent” will help him return to movie screens.
“Hollywood is also forgiving and as it moves forward and this thing stops airing and Johnny is able to move fluidly back into the business. I think he’ll reemerge again,” he said. “Hollywood is a fickle place.”
The courtroom performance by the legal teams for Depp and Heard — a live-streamed trial watched by millions — may also shape industry perspective on the two stars.
Ruisi believes Depp’s representatives have been more effective.
“Mr. Depp’s legal and strategic communications team have done an incredible job in delivering a consistent message in the courtroom and throughout the media, which I believe has helped corral the support from his fan base.”
“It can be scary — and for victims, re-traumatizing — for women to empathize with an abuse survivor. If violence really *is* everywhere and if it *feels* like it can happen to anyone, then a lot of women will start to worry that they will be next,” she wrote. “So is it surprising that a lot of women are coming to Depp’s defense? No. Not at all.”
For two working actors, the question once court is adjourned is will producers send them scripts as reliably as onlookers have been sending tweets?
Franchise futures in peril?
The crux of both Heard and Depp’s lawsuits rests in claims that their careers — specifically their futures in respective film franchises — have been adversely affected.
During the past several weeks of testimony, Depp’s team has tried to prove that Depp, who portrayed Jack Sparrow in five films, was dropped from a potential sixth film in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise due to Heard’s op-ed.
The producer said that the creative team is “developing two ‘Pirates’ scripts” — one that would potentially have Margot Robbie as the lead and “one without” Robbie.
The last film was 2017’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”
And when an attorney for Heard pressed Carino on other issues Depp may have had while working on previous “Pirates” films, he dismissed them.
“I’m aware of him being tardy but he’s been tardy on everything his entire life,” Carino said. “I think it’s troublesome to everybody, but everyone has learned how to produce a film to deal with it.”
Other witnesses saw his behavior as more detrimental.
“His star had dimmed due to it getting harder to get him jobs given the reputation that he’d acquired due to his lateness and other things,” Jacobs testified. “People were talking and the question was out there about his behavior.”
A Hollywood director, who hasn’t worked with Depp but has met him, told CNN that he doesn’t think Depp will ever helm another major franchise.
“I believe that Johnny Depp will be able to be cast in various independent films because he still has significant name value and there’s an audience for him, however the studios will be more cautious because of insurance reasons and because of the potential to stop protection and they would be more concerned about public backlash as opposed to smaller independent companies,” he said.
When it comes to Heard, the director believes the attention around the trial hasn’t helped her image.
Currently, there’s a petition to have Heard dropped from the upcoming “Aquaman” sequel, which has already been filmed and is in post-production. (CNN and Warner Bros. are both part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)
He also said the studio never planned to portray Heard as a co-lead in the second film and that Heard’s role was not reduced in the forthcoming film, titled “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.”
“His testimony, whether true or an act, has caused a resurgence of fans who missed him,” he said. “For his reputation and career, studios see he still has a fan base,” he said.
As for Heard, whose career was less established than Depp’s when their relationship and troubling accusations began, that’s harder to say, according to sources.
Almost a decade ago, before the drama with Depp came to light, Heard told Vanity Fair she was up for the ebbs and flows of an acting career.
“Absolutely,” Heard responded. “I love very much the struggle that you’re constantly…you’re constantly put in a state of fight or flight. It’s a constant struggle. So I don’t know if I could have it any other way.”
CNN’s Sonia Moghe contributed to this report.