by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent
By now the “Disso Queen,” the nickname of Johnny Depp’s attorney Laura Wasser, has squared off against Amber Heard’s superhero-named legal eagle Samantha Spector in what looks to be A Divorce to Remember. But before allegations fly from both corners, the red carpet is where the first signs of trouble manifest. This is where being on the press line becomes an artform in reading star body language. When Depp appeared to collect a major life achievement award from Leonard Maltin in February, he was solo on the red carpet. Questions about Amber Heard’s whereabouts went unanswered, kind of down to mumbles. In fact, one could say Depp, 52, went from Trouble With Paradis, meaning long-time love Vanessa Paradis, 43, to Trouble in Paradise, meaning the current fracas with dishy Drive Angry star Amber Heard, who turned 30 in April. Angelina Jolie is reported to have been opposed to Heard from the beginning, especially the lack of pre-nup, so it’s no surprise that Depp has now retained Jolie’s former divorce lawyer Laura Wasser. “Dissolution” is the California word for divorce, hence this Disso Queen and opposing counsel Spector (both from Loyola Law School) have their battle to come on June 17, the next court date.
After Beds, Bets Are Being Made…
My money is on Wasser, because who couldn’t love a divorce attorney who went on the record with Interview Magazine in 2012 as quoting Samuel Johnson. As in, “My personal feelings on marriage? Samuel Johnson once said second marriages — although I could probably say this about any marriage — are about the triumph of hope over experience. I think that’s true. I don’t know that human beings were meant to mate for life or be monogamous.”
Clearly Johnny Depp, JD to his friends, is in good hands. But those moments on the red carpet just stick in the memory, how the Black Mass star seemed reluctant to walk the press line, then makes direct eye contact and even collects a bouquet (huge security risk) from an elderly reporter across the velvet rope. This woman, in retrospect, may have reminded him of his ailing mother. For an A-Lister and franchise fronter, Jack Sparrow lost his persona for a moment and let you in, an unusual event for a movie star.
Right then it reminded of Josh Brolin, similar red carpet behavior before the story broke of his divorce from Diane Lane. Son of well-liked actor James Brolin and step-son of Barbra Streisand, who adores Diane Lane, Brolin walked the red carpet for the 2009 WGA Awards for then-nominated movie Milk and exhibited the same Depp-like behavior, guarded and too available at the same time. Diane Lane was noticeably absent from the red carpet. When asked about her, Josh Brolin evaded the issue deftly. Next time he is in the news, reports and photographs show that Brolin went off the rails briefly, in an eerie parallel to Johnny Depp’s current scenario, without the allegations of abuse, fortunately. In a relatively happy ending, Brolin is now engaged to his assistant, make that ex-assistant, Kathryn Boyd. And Diane Lane is the bigger star, so she wins.
All’s Fair in Love & Divorce
While the circumstances of Depp and Brolin’s relationships and marriage breakdown are very different, the red flags on the red carpet were the same. Oddly enough, when the news is good, as in the case of Jamie Kennedy, the red carpet behavior is the same. Kennedy was dating Jennifer Love Hewitt, but the news wasn’t broken yet. On the red carpet, Jennifer Love Hewitt was right behind him, as then co-star, but the proximity was too close. The next day Ryan Seacrest’s KISS-FM radio show broke the story about the dating, which ended within a year back in 2010.
But the big takeaway, besides the hiding in plain sight, was Jamie Kennedy’s admission in the aftermath about dating his more-famous ex: “People weren’t rooting for a good relationship,” he told Perez Hilton. “That was really hard to deal with. You see snarky headlines and eventually you just have to stop reading stuff.”
Looking Crass, Not Looking Glass?
Right now, and leading up to June 17, there is more bile than snark flying around in the Depp vs. Heard headlines. Disney is suffering bad box office for Depp-starrer Alice Through the Looking Glass; industry insiders, via The Hollywood Reporter for example, are doing a fair amount of hand-wringing, blaming Johnny Depp’s personal life (read: bad press) for the tanking BO. However, the real reflection staring back at Disney from the broken box office looking glass? The blank faces of movie-goers who are just done with recyquels (new word coined here!). Heard faces similar problems with the alleged ‘negative feedback’ coming back from her association and roles in Warner Bros’ DC Universe with an appearance in The Justice League and as a main player for the Aquaman franchise, in which she is inked to play Mera.
What Katie Did
Too bad Amber Heard didn’t read the fine print from the previous high-profile marriage meltdown, Tom Cruise vs. Katie Holmes. There should literally be a name for what happened to her, let’s call it The Katie Holmes Syndrome: meaning marrying a superstar will eclipse your career as the wife, and bury your career as the superstar’s ex. Both women gave up prime real estate in their 20’s for these mega-marriages. Holmes was already 28, but a repeat love-interest shoo-in for the Batman franchise. Which she skipped, then had to watch Maggie Gyllenhaal take over in what would become one of the biggest grossers of all time.
Consider also Michelle Williams’ career after Batman’s Heath Ledger faded. Williams was eclipsed by the bigger star and under a black cloud after The Joker‘s shock death, which literally sucked the life out of her career too. Heard was a huge sensation as evil-slaying hot mess Piper from sexy-psycho road movie Drive Angry with Nicolas Cage in 2011. She was 25 then, and already under Depp’s shadow. Instead of amping her career, the Johnny Depp association practically took her off the market in Hollywood. The moral of the story here is, to avoid Katie Holmes Syndrome, don’t marry the superstar if you want a career. Or simply hitch your wagon to a Star Waggon with your eyes wide open, shall we say. Whatever the outcome, the first cracks, as mentioned, will happen on the carpet because Super Couples are literally attached at the hip for press junkets. You will be asked about your spouse, it’s a rule. Luckily, unlike TomKat and Brangelina, Depp and Heard never had a compound press moniker.
Always A Minor Hitch
Maybe it’s time for the studios to have a watcher on the red carpet to monitor tell-tale signs of personal upheavals. Or better yet, somewhere Depp’s Mortdecai co-star Gwyneth Paltrow is chuckling harder than Vanessa Paradis is said to be doing, because now the idea of “Conscious Uncoupling,” or a blood-less friendly divorce, seems like a welcome alternative. Ironically, Paltrow had to come forward to say that her marketing mind at goop, her online web lifestyle portal, had just used the term in a headline not even in the body copy of her divorce announcement. In fact, the real originator of the concept of Conscious Uncoupling, Pepper Potts had to admit, was psychologist Katherine Woodward Thomas. Woodward Thomas famously told The Telegraph, a UK newspaper, that “Gwyneth wasn’t aware I existed.” The Conscious Uncoupling creator also said something at that time so telling that it applies to Depp vs. Heard, and likely to every celebrity divorce: “the grief of lost love is intensified by the sense of public shame and failure; of having your union judged and belittled.” It all starts to show when they’re called on the carpet, the dread carpet.
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