His grunge looks and bad-boy behaviour all added to the mystique of Johnny Depp, until it didn’t anymore and it all fell apart.
From the moment Johnny Depp stepped onto the 1980s Hollywood scene he was the soft-grunge heart-throb of angsty tween dreams.
He was an enigmatic bundle of tousled hair, chiselled bone structure, and a nonchalant – borderline resentful – disposition for the world and industry that made him seem so cool.
Depp was the antithesis of the golden Pitt and DiCaprio types, at once somehow above Hollywood and yet completely Hollywood.
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He was an original, an artist who turned down star-making roles to play weirdos and outcasts, but had a unique beauty that not only found him in a number of 90s power couplings, but also a two-time People Magazine ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ in the early 2000s.
He was passionate and intense, he trashed hotel rooms and trailers, threatened paparazzi, drank and smoked and took drugs. No matter how much trouble he got in, it only added to the Johnny Depp mystique.
But Depp has fallen far from grace since then, but when did his downfall begin?
Has it always been this way?
Depp’s life has always been somewhat turbulent, which he has spoken openly about in interviews and court appearances.
He has detailed the “relatively violent upbringing” he and his three siblings faced at the hands of his “cruel” and “unpredictable” mother, who would hurl all kinds of objects and nasty insults at them, leaving them “shell-shocked” and constantly on-guard.
In a 1994 People Magazine feature, Depp revealed he started smoking at age 12, lost his virginity around age 13, and “did every kind of drug there was by 14”, before he dropped out of high school to play music at age 16.
Depp has been trashing trailers from the Jump (Street)
Depp was launched into teen hearts when he starred as baby-faced cop Tom Hanson in 21 Jump Street, a 1987 TV series that was later turned into a movie franchise.
Despite giving him his first big break, and paying him $45,000 per episode, Depp hated everything about the “borderline Fascist” production – “cops in school … Christ!” he later mused – and his rise to sex symbol status.
Depp eventually left 21 Jump Street in 1990 to film more creative roles ¬that tried (but perhaps failed) to harpoon any attempts to pigeon hole him as a hollow pin-up boy.
Depp the “intense” romantic
Depp formed half of some of Hollywood’s most beautiful and iconic celebrity couplings of his era.
He has been married twice, and engaged three times, and most of his exes have spoken in varying degrees of fondness about their romances with the actor, often describing them as “intense”.
Among his legendary romances was a proposal to Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey within two weeks of their first meeting in 1989, a “Winona Forever” tattoo for fiancee Winona Ryder (ironically, which changed to “Wino Forever” after their relationship ended), a brief tryst with actress Ellen Barkin (who reportedly still holds a “grudge” against Depp), and a tumultuous romance with model Kate Moss.
The Kate Moss years: screaming matches, trashed hotels
In their first year of dating, Depp was arrested for causing almost $10,000 worth of damage to the presidential suite of The Mark Hotel in New York after an alleged fight.
The couple faced public scrutiny in 1995 when Neighbours star Jason Donovan suffered a cocaine-induced seizure during Moss’ 21st birthday party, which was hosted by Depp at his club The Viper Room.
Over the course their relationship the couple became renowned for their “screaming matches” yet, Moss admitted to Vanity Fair in 2012, that she spent “years and years” crying when the relationship ended in 1997.
The two reportedly remain close, and the model appeared at the first defamation trial to dispel a rumour that Depp pushed her down a flight of stairs when they were together – “he never pushed me, kicked me or threw me down any stairs, no,” she told the court.
The Viper Room and drug scandals that poisoned Depp’s reputation
In 1993, Depp became a part-owner of The Viper Room, a nightclub and live music bar located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. It was pitched as a haven for party-going celebrities, but just months after opening it became embroiled in scandal.
On Halloween night that year, actor River Phoenix died at the venue from a drug overdose – an incident that rocked Hollywood and Depp personally.
Years after the incident Depp told Playboy he shouldn’t be blamed for River’s death just because “it happened to be at my club”.
“Later I came to terms with the fact that it had nothing to do with the club. He was here a very short time. It had nothing to do with anything, really, except that what he ingested was bad, and now there is nothing we can do,” he said, according to the New York Post.
But Neighbours star Jason Donovan said finding drugs at The Viper Room was “as easy as ringing for room service”, according to MamaMia, after he suffered a cocaine-induced seizure in 1995.
Depp arrested for assault (again)
In 1999, while at a restaurant with then-new-girlfriend Vanessa Paradis, Depp was arrested for threatening paparazzi with a wooden plank outside a London restaurant. He was released with a caution.
It was the second time Depp was arrested after a 1989 incident with a hotel security guard in Vancouver.
His hard-fought redemption arc fell apart in a flash
For the 14 years Depp dated Paradis, he worked to redeem his past missteps and cement himself as a family-friendly actor. He landed a number of kids flicks: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, a number of animated roles, and, most notably Pirates of the Caribbean; and spoke openly about their children.
But then the wheels started to come off as early as 2014 when an out-of-sorts Depp appeared at an awards show in 2014, sparking concern among fans.
Then, from the moment Heard filed for divorce in 2016, Depp’s reputation and career took a nosedive.
Over the next six years Depp was his with a number of lawsuits – for assaulting a crew member in 2017, and another for not paying his bodyguards – and revealed as an on-set trainwreck for being drunk, late, and fighting while filming Pirates in 2015.
He has fought relentless defamation trials to clear his name yet, in doing so, has revealed even more sordid and graphic details about his failed marriage with Heard, drug use, and uncovering demeaning text messages and more abuse allegations by both parties.
Frankly, it’s hard to see how – now that he’s been dropped from popular franchises – the former box office grunge golden goose can recover even a semblance of his former glory, even after he sensationally won his trial against Heard.
Not when the debaucherous persona he crafted and may have once passed as funny, possibly charming, or a central part of the Johnny Depp mystique was his very undoing.
Originally published as How a life of scandal sent Johnny Depp from heart-throb to total trainwreck