Will 'wife-beater' libel loss be the end of Johnny Depp's career?

Johnny Depp lost the case against The Sun's publishers News Group Newspapers (NGN). Credit: PA

Hollywood actor Johnny Depp lost his libel case against The Sun newspaper for an article that labelled him a "wife beater".

Depp's bid to sue the tabloid's publisher, over an article claiming he attacked his ex-wife Amber Heard during their relationship, was dismissed after the judge ruled that it was "substantially true".

Depp's lawyers have said he intends to appeal against the ruling - but what impact could the case have on his career?

PR guru Mark Borkowski said the case was "one of the biggest showbiz fails for a long time" making him something "darker than just a pantomime villain".

"He had to win this," Mr Borkowski said. "Even if he had won there would still be questions. But now he’s lost he hasn’t even got a Pyrrhic victory.

“He has just switched the volume on (his) lifestyle. And this makes Amber Heard a martyr and it makes him something much darker than just a pantomime villain.”

Mr Borkowski said that the outcome of the case could affect his "brand".

He added: "His brand had a sort of edge and that edge now has turned to something that is really ugly and abusive.

“The question is: how the hell does he re-establish himself? Because he’s been involved with some of the biggest franchises going.

“In this new woke world, the culture wars, you do not want to be involved with a story (that) will not go away.

"This is like an indelible stain on his character."

He said that the case "created so much interest", adding: “He has not got rid of a substantial slur that, before the case, less people knew about.”

Mr Borkowski said Depp's firm fan-base might save his career. Credit: PA

However, he questioned whether the outcome of the case will significantly impact his film career.

"Nothing is impossible," he said. "Write no obituaries for his career.”

Mr Borkowski added: “All those fans, those dedicated fans across the world and those who turned up at the High Court every day, do not underestimate how much they will do.

“They will not accept this judgment. When you’ve got a hard, firm base, you can start rebuilding.”

However, a leading reputation management lawyer said it will be "immensely damaging" to his career.

Mark Stephens, a partner at Howard Kennedy and expert in reputation management, who was not involved in the case, told the PA news agency: "I thought this was an ill-advised action anyway, and it’s just proven to be that."

He said: "This is something which could have been dealt with quietly out of the public spotlight."

The blockbuster court case, which was the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century, saw Depp and Heard share deeply personal details about their tempestuous relationship, while the Pirates of the Caribbean actor answered questions about his drink and drug use.

Mr Stephens said: "People at the break-up of a relationship never show themselves off to the best advantage but this was obviously a toxic relationship and it was obviously something which would have been better for both parties not to have had it unpicked in public.

"I think it is something he could have chalked up to his bad boy image and moved on but he has drawn attention to two things – one, his demons and his monster, which effectively the judge finds is when he abused Amber Heard, and also the amount of drugs that he’s taking.

"So one of the challenges on the drugs is that although he’s not got a conviction, there are many countries of the world which do not let people who are users of drugs into the country. He will find great difficulty in getting visas for Singapore or Malaysia or countries of that kind."

Lawyers for Depp suggested Heard was making the allegations to blackmail the Hollywood star. Credit: PA

In his ruling, Mr Justice Nicol found 12 of the 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence against Ms Heard did occur and dismissed claims that she had made the allegations as an "insurance policy" and was a "gold-digger".

Mr Stephens added: "Obviously, there are serious findings of fact against Johnny Depp, that the judge believes that he was a wife beater, that he was a habitual user of drugs and alcohol and obviously one hopes that he gets the help that he obviously needs.

"But I think that the way this case was run is a matter of enormous consternation because Amber Heard was tried against all of the tropes that he used against women, she was alleged to have had affairs, as if that in some way warranted abuse.

"She was said to be a gold digger even though she has already had her settlement from Depp and given all the money to charity because she thought it was dirty money.

"She was accused of making an elaborate hoax which has been said to be false. So I think the way in which she was secondarily abused in the courtroom is an issue which will be studied for years to come."

Asked if there is a way Mr Depp might be able to recover his career and showbiz image, he said: "I think the only way he recovers is by admitting the problems that he obviously has and getting treatment, then I think Hollywood and the public will forgive him."

But he said it was very difficult to see how children’s authors like JK Rowling or children’s entertainment companies like Disney could continue to work with him.

"I said right at the beginning that is what he was gambling with and he didn’t need to do it, this is another example of self-destruction."