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What's Next For Johnny Depp's Career Isn't A Secret After Bombshell Verdict

The big court battle of 2022 has reached its conclusion, as the verdict of the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard lawsuits ended with the jury ruling for Depp on three counts of defamation to the tune of €15 million in compensatory and punitive damages. One competing claim of defamation went for Heard, with $2 million of compensatory damages awarded. The simple arithmetic of the situation would indicate that — in the eyes of the law, at least — Depp has emerged as the big winner. However, the case didn't do any favors for either of the participants and their public images. Pretty much everyone else lost, too, as the public discourse around the case skewed heavily toward meme-filled misogyny (as noted by Rolling Stone and The Guardian).

Some might be wondering what happens to Depp now, including the man himself. After all, the actor has noted that the domestic violence allegations have caused considerable harm to his career, to the point that Disney — the entertainment juggernaut behind his successful "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise — distanced itself from him (via Variety). He was also famously forced to quit his role as Gellert Grinderwald in the "Fantastic Beasts" franchise. 

"Once that happened, I lost then," Depp stated about Heard's 2018 allegations against him during his cross-examination. "No matter the outcome of this trial, I'll carry that for the rest of my days ... I'm suing her over defamation and the various falsities that she used to bring my life to an end."

Depp might feel that his career is done, but history indicates otherwise. After all, Hollywood loves nothing more than a dramatic comeback story, and while the last few years may have marked the nadir for his reputation, there's reason to believe that he's gearing up for a grand return ... whether he realizes it or not.

The data support Johnny Depp's comeback

According to crisis management expert Eric Rose, both Depp and Heard emerged from the court battle looking significantly worse for wear, reputation wise (per Associated Press). "From a reputation-management perspective, there can be no winners," he explained. "They've bloodied each other up. It becomes more difficult now for studios to hire either actor because you're potentially alienating a large segment of your audience who may not like the fact that you have retained either Johnny or Amber for a specific project because feelings are so strong now."  

This may prove to be true in the immediate future, but as the Los Angeles Times notes, there's plenty of rebound potential for Depp in particular. Though he has claimed that Heard's allegations alone lost him tens of millions of dollars, his career was also on the wane before the trial, and he'd accrued a reputation as an unprofessional worker. However, he still remains a far more established and historically lucrative star than Heard, and as anyone who's paid attention to the trial has no doubt discovered, his fans are very, very vocal. They also want to see him in many, many films to come. In fact, according to a survey by Spotted Media, over 86% of people think that Depp should continue his film career ... while almost two-thirds would happily see Heard's come to an end. 

"I think the results show pretty clearly that Johnny Depp is extremely hireable and that it would be a risk to a production company to hire Amber Heard because of the precipitous drop in appeal that she has had since the beginning of the trial," Janet Comenos of Spotted Media explained, describing the findings.  

Signs are already pointing toward a career resurrection

At the moment, Depp might not be the global darling that he was at the height of his career. Still, as has been abundantly clear during the trial, he has plenty of committed fans. Per the BBC, many of them were waiting for the ruling outside the court, and immediately started chanting his name as the verdict came in. The previous night, the actor appeared onstage with Jeff Beck at London's Royal Albert Hall, and received a standing ovation. 

This was even before the verdict came down in his favor, remember. Is there any chance these people won't be watching his next movie once the dust settles, making it a success that leads to other, even more successful roles? If the Spotted Media data is any indication, and if Depp is able to keep things professional, it seems that he has a genuine chance to become Hollywood's next big comeback kid (unless Will Smith gets there first). 

Per The Times (via CNN), even Depp's return to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise isn't entirely ruled out, assuming that the actor himself would be willing to return. When producer Jerry Bruckheimer was asked about Depp's potential return as Jack Sparrow in May, Bruckheimer simply said, "Not at this point. The future is yet to be decided." 

Those words are a pretty accurate description of Depp's situation in Hollywood right now, but if you look at the disgraced actors who came before him, it's pretty easy to hazard a guess about his future career trajectory. 

Depp's comeback would be one of many

It's easy to forget now, but Robert Downey Jr. spent a long time as a virtually unhireable pariah before his gradual career reemergence and rise to the Marvel Cinematic Universe mountaintop. His "Iron Man 2" adversary, Mickey Rourke, also had it rough before "The Wrestler" briefly made him a household name again. Per Variety, Mel Gibson's various well-documented racist and homophobic remarks and allegations of physical abuse didn't stop his 2016 war movie "Hacksaw Ridge" from getting six Academy Award nominations, including Best Director. Oh, and speaking of controversial directors, Roman Polanski has been facing extremely unsavory assault accusations since 1977, a mere 26 years before he got an Oscar for Best Director (via IMDb). 

Sure, there's the occasional genuinely shunned Kevin Spacey, but in general, this is the kind of stuff the movie industry has historically been able to overlook. Depp's reputation might be in shambles right now, and the people who continue to support Heard are unlikely to approve any project he's part of any time soon. However, in the long run and as far as the industry is concerned, the court still ruled in Depp's favor. In other words, the man has receipts — unlike many others who nevertheless managed to stage a successful comeback.

Since Depp is still a considerably bigger name than most Hollywood hotshots after their fall from grace, it seems that he has a pretty good chance at bouncing back. As for Amber Heard, things might be trickier. Just ask "Stranger Things" star Winona Ryder, who remained in career limbo for years and years for reasons that had a lot more to do with the way the Hollywood machine operates than they had with that shoplifting case in 2001 (per Forbes).