Johnny Depp’s career has reached DefCon 4.
The Oscar nominee’s latest film, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” drew a cacophony of catcalls en route to a franchise worst box office tally. His public split from wife Amber Heard devolved into allegations of spousal abuse.
His most recent movies include a parade of flops, including “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “Transcendence” and “Mortdecai.”
Things looked grim for the superstar, and that was before he rooted on a fellow actor to take out President Donald Trump. He has some high-profile gigs lined up, including his own “Dark Universe” feature based on The Invisible Man character.
He’s still in serious trouble from a marketing point of view. And marketing matters more than ever in this increasingly noisy age.
All isn’t lost for the mercurial star. He’s actually due for a career resurrection at the not so tender age of 54. It won’t be easy, though. It involves something too many celebrities are loathe to attempt, let alone achieve.
Here’s a five-point plan to make it happen.
Take a Knee
It’s dangerous for any actor to step away from the spotlight – even for a short spell. Pause your career and a half dozen actors snag roles ear-marked for you. What’s worse? Audiences are quick to forget their favorite stars. Look at the reaction to Renee Zellweger’s self-inflicted hiatus.
That’s all true. Yet an acting pause is exactly what Depp needs all the same. Reflect. Read a gaggle of scripts from emerging screenwriters. Re-watch the movies that made you fall in love with acting in the first place before the million-dollar checks started to clear. More importantly, make audiences miss your whimsical presence. It’s a risk, but it’s well worth it for Depp. He needs the break, and we need a break from him clogging up the news cycle.
Give ‘Til It Hurts
What better way to lose fans than to blow through stacks and stacks of cash? That’s what Depp allegedly did according to accounts from his former managers.
Audiences don’t mind seeing A-listers living large. They live vicariously through their exploits. Why else would they care who wore it best?
That’s different than hearing about a hopelessly spoiled actor facing money woes despite a net worth reported to be $650 million. What’s worse? Tales of a star recoiling at the thought of flying business class due to alleged paparazzi harrassment. That’s tacky and alienating.
Depp can undo some of that PR damage by donating to some very worthy charities. Will it look obvious what his goals are? Certainly. Make the checks big enough and folks won’t care. Give ‘til it hurts. Then give some more. You’ll change people’s lives and maybe impact your own. Perhaps the notion that you need to spend $30,000 a month on wine will seem a tad silly.
No More Jack Sparrow
Stop. It’s enough. Let another actor take a crack at the “Pirates” franchise if it must stay afloat. Someone has to draw a line in the sand on a role with absolutely nothing left to challenge the actor. Be that person.
Discover Your Inner Indie Artist
Before the “Pirates” franchise Depp toiled in the indie film mines. He made eclectic movies, and not all of them were worth his talents. He still scored with projects like “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and “The Brave.”
His mid-sized outings proved even better. Think “Finding Neverland” and “Donnie Brasco.” Why not go back to his roots? Find a Netflix original movie and give it everything you’ve got. Take a pay cut and make movies for yourself again, not your financial planner. Your fans may rediscover you all over again.
Try Normal on For Size
Depp can be a crazed Hatter, a sozzled pirate or an undead blood sucker. Could he play a frazzled Everyman caught in a bureaucratic nightmare? How about a divorced father finding love in the most unsuspecting place? Depp’s colorful cast of characters is as legendary as it is expected by now. Yawn. Why not try something … ordinary?
Playing a regular Joe might be the most subversive, and shocking, role he can take.