Why I won’t make a home movie with Johnny Depp

Some actors seem willing to appear in almost anything – and may even take a quiet pride in their ability to lift a so-so script or story line. If you have your doubts about this idea, you might seek out the prolific Michael Caine’s performance as ‘uncle Mathew’ in the 1984 film Blame it on Rio.

When performances like that are one of hundreds, it doesn’t matter so much. It’s why Derek Jacobi can say things like ‘iggle onk, they’re going to catch the Ninky Nonk’ on CBeebies In The Night Garden without getting typecast away from Shakespeare.

Johnny Depp’s not been like that, though. In a career tightly managed for quality of output, he’s chosen carefully – from Edward Scissorhands onwards, I would have challenged you to find a misstep.

Till now, that is. As a fan, I’m going to blame his dog-collection, but most people aren’t.

Last year he arrived in Australia by private jet, and as is now well known, with him and newish-wife Amber Heard were the patter of little feet – Yorkshire Terriers, Boo and Pistol.

As B’n’P weren’t declared, this put the actors on the wrong side of Australia’s import laws.

What followed was – how to put it nicely? – not very well curated.

There was Depp’s remark at the Venice Film Festival, directed at Australia’s deputy-PM: ‘I killed my dogs and ate them, under direct orders of some kind of, I don’t know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia.’

Not in his usual class, but worse was to come.

This week a home video surfaced online of Depp and Heard in which both talk to camera about the uniqueness of Australia and the need to ‘declare everything.’ While she looks like she might be relishing the experience, he seems distinctly uncomfortable and the whole thing has been panned by the critics.

It may be that it was part of the deal that saw an end to Depp and Heard’s legal probs. But this cringeworthy 30 seconds of incredibly badly lit film is now everywhere. The BBC website, Twitter, CNN – and it has been widely mocked.

And as he just has that smallish number of well-chosen films – no Blame it on Rio – this performance stands out a mile.

There’s a reputation lesson here, and as a fan I hope Depp learns it – he otherwise risks being portrayed as a chap living out a bit of a mid-life crisis. A case of the small dogs becoming a big problem.

Put simply, it’s a warning to anyone thinking of putting video content online – it could end up everywhere. Once your content is out there you can’t control how far it spreads, or how people react to it – like a bag of dropped icing sugar (if you’re curious, really only try this outside).

So, if you’re going to produce media as part of a marketing strategy (or if you’ve been illegally importing animals on private jets), it needs the same attention to detail – the same judgement – as any project you want to do.

The rest of us may not be stars (you know, ‘yet’), but a glance at the news shows the list of things we can be sure are private is fast-vanishing.

So aside from considering the old advice about avoiding work with animals and children, we should all (apart from Michael Caine, that is) be modelling ourselves on the pre-pooch-gate Depp and choose our performances with care.

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