Inside Johnny Depp's dramatic transformation

Is there something seriously wrong with Johnny Depp? It's a question that's had the internet abuzz since photos from his summer 2018 tour with the Hollywood Vampires turned up online showing the A-lister looking noticeably frailer than usual. 

The tribute band was formed in 2015 by Depp, Alice Cooper, and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry with the purpose of honoring the music of rock stars who died from excess during the heavy days of the 1970s. The name is derived from a drinking club that Cooper used to attend back in the day. "I'd never done a covers record so I said, 'I'd like to do one in honor of all our dead drunk friends, the guys that we used to drink with that are now gone,'" Cooper told Rolling Stone. The nature of the band's formation led many to assume that heavy drinking (something Depp is allegedly no stranger to) on tour had left the actor looking worse for wear, but could it be more than that? 

Let's take a look at the potential reasons behind Depp's dramatic transformation.

Is drug abuse involved?

Depp is currently being sued by a pair of former bodyguards who allege they went through hell during an "intolerable" two years in his service. Eugene Arreola (a former officer with the Los Angeles Police Department who looked after Depp's family for more than a decade) and Miguel Sanchez claim they were not paid for countless hours of overtime and deprived of breaks while working for Depp between April 2016 and January 2018. During that time, the guards reportedly witnessed the Pirates of the Caribbean star "engaging in illegal activity."

"[They] found themselves in situations that required more than what a bodyguard would be expected to do," the lawsuit claims (via the Daily Mail). "'Often times [they] were forced to protect Depp from himself and his vices while in public, becoming caretakers for him. An incident at a local nightclub involved [them] alerting Depp of illegal substances visible on his face and person while preventing onlookers from noticing his condition." Not exactly the kind of thing you add to your LinkedIn profile.

He may be shirking his duties as a parent

Bodyguards Arreola and Sanchez described life on Depp's Hollywood Hills compound as "toxic" in their lawsuit, alleging that it had become a "dangerous" place to work. They claim to have witnessed some truly shocking behavior during their shifts, including an incident in which another member of Depp's security team accidentally shot himself, reported the Daily Mail.

"Sanchez, whose primary detail was the protection of Depp's children, was more often than not the primary caretaker for Depp's minor child who lived off of Depp's compound in a separate home alone," the lawsuit alleges. "Worse yet, Sanchez was told to give into every whim of Depp's children and worried he would lose his job if he did not comply with their demands."

Are financial woes taking a toll?

As one of the industry's highest-paid actors, Depp was used to a high-rolling lifestyle, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, his spending reached "crisis point" in 2012, with monthly bills reaching $2 million. When his accountant and business manager, Joel Mandel, brought this to Depp's attention, he was allegedly fired.

"Without a fire sale, Depp would never be able to meet his obligations," THR reported. "Not the payments on his portfolio of real estate around the world. Not the impulse purchases such as the three Leonor Fini paintings he had bought from a Manhattan gallery … Not the $3.6 million he paid annually for his 40-person staff. Not the $350,000 he laid out each month to maintain his 156-foot yacht. And not the hundreds of thousands of dollars he paid to sustain his ex-partner, Vanessa Paradis, and their children, Lily-Rose and Jack."

Depp launched a $25 million lawsuit in 2017 against Mandel and his TMG group for negligence and fraud, claiming they pocketed millions in contingent fees without his consent. TMG counter-sued, claiming "Depp, and Depp alone, is fully responsible for any financial turmoil he finds himself in today."

Did Captain Jack enjoy too much rum in Australia?

As part of its investigation into Depp's downward spiral, The Hollywood Reporter followed up on stories of his alleged erratic behavior on the set of 2017's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. The A-lister found himself under intense scrutiny from the Australian media while filming the fifth Pirates movie down under, with reports of excessive drinking and physical fights with his now ex-wife Amber Heard making headlines. "You've got to understand the kind of pressure Johnny was under in Australia," producer Jerry Bruckheimer said of the situation. "At times helicopters would follow him home."

Not everyone was as understanding as Bruckheimer. Depp apparently made a habit of turning up late to set, often keeping hundreds of extras waiting in the Aussie heat. One source claimed Disney even employed a sentinel who would alert the crew the moment Depp stirred. "When he got up, he'd turn on the light, and the moment the light went on they'd call the line producer, who would then call the directors [Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg]," the insider told THR. "They even had a special code term, like 'The eagle has landed.' Johnny had no idea this was going on."

He allegedly attacked a crew member

Depp's alleged behavior on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales was not an isolated incident, at least according to Page Six sources. He supposedly made a fool of himself in May 2018 while filming LAbyrinth, a crime thriller in which he plays real life cop Russell Poole, the man tasked with finding the killers of late rapper Biggie Smalls. Insiders claim Depp wrestled directing duties away from helmer Brad Furman during one particular scene, which led to an embarrassing altercation with a veteran location manager.

When the permit on a downtown Los Angeles street being used for filming expired, the location manager reportedly informed Furman, who said: "Tell that to Johnny Depp!" When the staffer did just that, Depp (who had allegedly been "smoking and drinking" all day) punched the messenger in the ribs. The location manager was fine, but sources claim an inebriated Depp was dragged away kicking and screaming, "I'll give you $100,000 to punch me right now."

This seems like a good time to reinforce that while dead men tell no tales, tabloids certainly do, so take this one with a grain of salt.

Fans are deeply concerned about his health

Photos of Johnny Depp looking gaunt, pale and extremely unwell are deeply concerning to fans of the Oscar-nominated actor and musician. The snaps in question were taken on the Russian leg of the Hollywood Vampires' tour, during which Depp posed with make-up artists at the Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace in St. ­Petersburg (via the Independent). Depp's admirers took to social media to voice their concern over the images.

"He's on his way out if he doesn't get help soon," one person commented after seeing the photos. Another said that this Depp was "not the Edward Scissorhands I had such a crush on." Others even suggested the actor might be fighting a terminal illness. "He looks like a cancer patient! I hope he doesn't have it!" one concerned follower posted (via SFGate). "Is that really him? Sad."

Could this be for a movie role?

While some Depp fans are fearing the worst, others have been quick to point out that his shocking appearance could be connected to his role in Richard Says Goodbye, which stars Depp as a college professor whose life is turned upside down when he receives a devastating diagnosis from his doctor. According to Variety, Depp's character "decides to throw all pretense and conventions to the wind and live his life as boldly and freely as possible with a biting sense of humor, a reckless streak and a touch of madness." 

"He had to lose weight because his character was diagnosed with a terminal illness," one Twitter user theorized (via The Sun). "As this movie is still in post-production maybe that's the reason for him [being] so thin. So he is not sick!"

Depp's slender figure could also be connected to the remake of classic '30s horror flick The Invisible Man. Depp is slated to play the titular character in the Dark Universe feature, though production has yet to get underway. 

He dropped weight for a role before

Depp is known for being something of a chameleon when it comes to his movie roles, often appearing completely different from one part to the next. He embraced male pattern baldness when he took on the part of notorious Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in 2015's Black Mass, and he's well known for his aesthetic transformations into Captain Jack Sparrow and the Mad Hatter. But all that was the wizardry of talented make-up pro Joel Harlow

When Depp agreed to play vampire Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, he did all the heavy lifting — or in this case: losing — himself. Before shooting on the 2012 film began, British tabloid The Sun reported on Depp's dramatic weight loss. "Johnny is aiming to get down to 10 stone [about 140 pounds] so he looks as gaunt as possible, and he's got to put up with this diet from hell for another couple of months before shooting starts." The tabloid claimed Depp ate nothing but pineapples and strawberries and drank a lot of green tea in preparation for the project. Could he be on a similar diet now?

His split from Amber Heard hit him hard

Depp's health seems to have been suffering ever since his nasty split from Amber Heard. The Daily Mail noticed that he was starting to look noticeably thinner long before the alarming pictures from his Hollywood Vampires tour emerged, pointing out his skinnier frame back in 2016. According to the British paper, Depp cut a "drawn figure" as he emerged from an Italian restaurant with his kids in June of that year, not long after his divorce from Heard was announced.

"Johnny has been an emotional mess," a source told People at the time. "The concerts and the tour are good for him. He doesn't want to let his fans down. It's the best distraction. His team is keeping a close eye on him. He has been drinking, but hasn't been out of control." 

After a 2016 show in Denmark, an insider told People that Depp "spent the night drinking with the bar staff and the local customers until 4 a.m."

The domestic abuse backlash

According to Aquaman actress Amber Heard, Johnny Depp was violent toward her on several occasions during their volatile 15-month marriage. Depp called the claims "salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation, and lies," but his former management company backed up Heard's version of events. TMG alleged Depp had "gotten physical" with his wife at times, reported the Independent

Heard's friend, Io Tillett Wright, said the same in a haunting piece she penned for Refinery29"The reports of violence started with a kick on a private plane, then it was shoves and the occasional punch, until finally, in December, she described an all-out assault and she woke up with her pillow covered in blood," claimed Wright, who called 911 on Depp. "I know this because I went to their house. I saw the pillow with my own eyes. I saw the busted lip and the clumps of hair on the floor." 

Depp reportedly fled to the Bahamas to escape the media spotlight when the domestic abuse allegations first broke, and he's allegedly struggled to come to terms with the divorce and the backlash since.

The Crimes of Grindelwald

There was a time when Johnny Depp was universally adored by his peers and fans alike. The actor won a special place in the hearts of many when he visited children's hospitals in full Captain Jack Sparrow costume, and he's put his name to numerous charitable causes over the years. The abuse that Amber Heard reportedly suffered at his hands has done great damage to his reputation, however, and despite the pair releasing a joint statement that claimed their relationship was "intensely passionate and at times volatile but always bound by love," there's one particular fanbase that will not forgive him.

Fans have been lobbying Warner Bros. and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling to recast the role of Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, though both Rowling and the studio have stood by Depp. "The filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies," Rowling said. Depp has remained silent on the issue, but the backlash from the Potter community certainly can't be helping him recover from what has arguably been the most difficult period of his career to date.