Johnny Depp: loveable loner tarnished by lurid claims

London (AFP) –


Johnny Depp made his name and fortune playing off-beat characters from Willy Wonka to Captain Jack Sparrow, all the while beating an increasingly destructive off-screen path like his hero Marlon Brando.

Pouring out his own pain and eccentricities into his roles, Depp earned a reputation as a versatile star and teen heartthrob through sensitive performances in early films such as "Edward Scissorhands" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape".

He cemented his status as Hollywood's talismanic maverick with blockbuster hits including the "Pirates of the Caribbean" saga.

But his bitter London court libel battle over newspaper claims that he beat his ex-wife Amber Heard laid bare the 57-year-old's turbulent private life involving rows, drink and drugs.

Born June 9, 1963 in Owensboro, Kentucky, Depp set out trying to be a musician as a teenager 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 into 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.

He brought a similar sense of whimsy to his Oscar-nominated role as "Peter Pan" creator J.M. Barrie in 2004's "Finding Neverland," in which he tries to create fantasy worlds for four boys and their widowed mother to find refuge in.

- Oscars nearly-man -

Depp also portrayed his hero, the renegade 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.

But he has also taken on heavier roles in dramas like 2001's "Blow," in which he portrayed a big-time drug dealer and 1997's "Donnie Brasco", where he plays an undercover detective who infiltrates the mob.

In recent years, Depp has emerged as the star of Disney's billion-dollar blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean", as the rum-swilling sea dog Captain Jack Sparrow in all five films.

The role earned comparisons to another of his heroes, Rolling Stones hard-living guitarist Keith Richards.

He has been nominated three times for an Oscar, including his leading role in 2007's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street", but has yet to win one.

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

He is estimated to be worth around $200 million, earning $20 million per film, according to CelebrityNetWorth.Com, and lives between homes in France, Los Angeles and an island he owns in the Bahamas.

But he told London's High Court he had made $650 million thanks to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise and then lost it, claiming his former business managers stole it.

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

- Over-indulgence -

Depp has dated a string of high-profile celebrities including Hollywood actress Winona Ryder and the British supermodel Kate Moss.

He was with the mother of his two children, the French singer and actress Vanessa Paradis, for 14 years.

Before settling down with Paradis and into fatherhood, Depp displayed an infamous wild streak that once again emerged after their break up in 2012.

The actor's over-indulgence, echoing the middle-aged decline of screen icon Brando whom Depp "worshipped", was revealed in painful detail in the London court.

He married Heard in 2015, but their relationship quickly fell apart amid accusations of drunkenness, substance abuse and physical assault. They split in 2016 and divorced in 2017.

Depp admitted taking drugs but denied he was ever violent towards his wife or any other woman.

"I find it simply inconceivable and it would never happen," he said in a witness statement.

Depp is due next year to reprise his role as Gellert Grindelwald, a dark wizard who once shared a close relationship with Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter film series.

But his casting has come under fire after Heard's accusations.