Why Johnny Depp Was the Unlikely Star of the American Film Market

With his 'Waiting for the Barbarians' and 'Minamata' ­at the market, the star has drawn comparisons to another major name whose projects have become a common sighting at the event: Nicolas Cage.
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Johnny Depp has drawn comparisons to Nic Cage with two projects making the rounds at AFM.

Johnny Depp may be best known as the swashbuckling star of a multibillion-dollar Disney franchise, but after several movie misfires, wild overspending, bizarre behavior and a controversial ending to his marriage to Amber Heard, Depp's career is in a new place. That place? AFM in Santa Monica. 

The actor has two new projects jostling for attention on the Westside: Minamata, in which he’s set to play photojournalist W. Eugene Smith; and Waiting for the Barbarians, currently shooting in Morocco and also starring Mark Rylance and Robert Pattinson. While it’s not quite the same heavy presence that fading ‘80s stars have for years enjoyed at the market, this dual launch from a former Hollywood heavyweight has been enough to draw comparisons to another major name whose projects have become a common sight at the Loews hotel.

“Could Johnny Depp be the new Nic Cage?” mused one veteran buyer to The Hollywood Reporter, who suggested that the actor’s rumored departure from Pirates of the Caribbean may have provided some financial motivation. He also recently settled a blockbuster $25 million suit in July with his former business managers over an alleged misappropriation of funds.

On the heels of that, Depp sat for two magazine cover profiles, first with Rolling Stone (“The Trouble With Johnny Depp”) and then British GQ, both of which raised questions about his unconventional lifestyle, which often sees him, when he’s not working, sequestered away at one of his properties, staying up late into the night and chain smoking.

That said, there is another upcoming box office behemoth that could ensure Depp doesn’t end up an AFM regular, the latest Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Depp has a juicy role as the titular villainous dark wizard and, added the buyer, is “actually very, very good.”

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.