An Agent and Business Leader Recount the Rise and Fall of Johnny Depp


DISCLAIMER: This story contains details about domestic abuse.

Three people who were once close to Johnny Depp on Thursday traced the actor’s rise and fall from ‘the biggest movie star in the world’ to a man who struggled with drugs, money and the ability to show up on time on film sets.

Testifying at the request of lawyers representing Depp’s ex-wife, Amber Heard was a longtime agent, former business executive and friend of Depp for nearly four decades.

Tracey Jacobs, who was the actor’s agent for about 30 years, said Depp “showed up late to consistently shoot on pretty much every movie” during their final years together.

“I was very honest with him and said, ‘You have to stop doing this – it hurts you,'” Jacobs said in a previously taped deposition that was played in court on Thursday. “And it did.”

The testimony served to push back Depp’s libel suit against Heard. Depp claims a 2018 opinion piece Heard wrote in the Washington Post unfairly portrayed him as a domestic abuser and cost him a lucrative Hollywood career that included the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise.

Heard’s attorneys argue that Depp’s professional loss was the result of his own bad behavior.

Depp says he never hit Heard and was abused by her. Lawyers for Heard say Depp physically and sexually assaulted her, and his denials of abuse lack credibility because he drank and used drugs frequently to the point of passing out.

Jacobs said Depp was an extraordinary talent who became “the biggest movie star in the world”. But his behavior in the years leading up to his 2016 dismissal became increasingly unprofessional, while his drug and alcohol use increased, Jacobs said.

“And it went around town as well,” Jacobs said. “I mean, people talk, it’s a small community. And that made people reluctant to use it.”

Success changed Depp’s lifestyle

Actor Johnny Depp appears in the courtroom during a break on May 17. (Brendan Smialowski/Associated Press)

Joel Mandel, Depp’s former business manager, testified in a previously recorded deposition that the Pirates of the Caribbean the films had “catapulted him into a whole new level of success”.

“That meant more employees,” Mandel said. “It meant buying additional property. It meant a bigger and more expensive life.”

Things started to change around 2010, and it “became clear over time that there were problems with alcohol and drugs,” Mandel said. “And that translated into more erratic behavior, more stressful behavior, more times when it was difficult to engage in the kinds of conversations I needed to do my job.”

At one point, Depp was spending about $100,000 a month on a doctor and staff to help him get sober, Mandel said. At another, he was spending $300,000 a month on full-time staff, he said. And he said there were also times when Depp was spending thousands of dollars a month on prescription drugs.

“Spending levels had increased very, very, very significantly and required maintaining this incredibly high level of income,” Mandel said. “And when he fell, the disconnection became untenable.”

Mandel said he became extremely worried about Depp’s finances in 2015, but Depp responded to those concerns angrily. He said the actor fired him in 2016.

Depp could be jealous in his relationships: former friend

Actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp watch the jury arrive in the courtroom on May 17. (Brendan Smialowski/Associated Press)

Bruce Witkin, a musician friend of Depp’s for nearly 40 years, testified in a previously recorded deposition that Depp could become jealous in his romantic relationships.

This jealousy was demonstrated with Heard when she was making a movie “or doing something that he couldn’t be there to see what was going on,” Witkin said. “I think he would get upset.”

Witkin said he once saw bruises on Heard’s arm while he and Depp were working on a documentary about Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. And he saw Depp with a “big lip” once. But Witkin said he had never seen Depp or Heard physically abuse each other.

Witkin said he tried to help Depp with his drug addiction and connected him with a therapist.

“He was like, ‘It’ll be fine. It’ll be fine,'” Witkin said, recalling a conversation. “Well, you’re not well.”

Depp’s sister, Christi Dembrowski, has always been concerned about his well-being, both in terms of substance abuse and in general, Witkin said.

“Everybody, I think, deep down was, but … salaried people won’t say much. They’ll try but they don’t want to lose their jobs,” Witkin said. “I’m not saying they all fall into that category. But it’s a weird thing around people like him. Everybody wants something.”

Witkin said his friendship with Depp began to dissolve towards the end of 2017, when the actor began to drift away.

“He wrote me this weird text saying I stabbed him in the back and said bad things to him,” Witkin said. “And I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And he wouldn’t explain it. And I’ve hardly seen him since 2018.”


Support is available for anyone who has been abused or assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through the Canadian Association for the Elimination of Violence Database. The Canadian Women’s Foundation Help signal is a silent one-handed gesture to use during a video call to indicate that you are at risk of violence in the home. If you are in immediate danger or fear for your safety or the safety of those around you, please call 911.