Johnny Depp has gotten plenty of practice in the art of rising from the ashes.
In the past year, he's seen two highly anticipated films under-perform at the box office. And, on the personal side, he just went public with much-younger girlfriend Amber Heard after a buzzed-about breakup with his long-term partner, French actress Vanessa Paradis.
The 50-year-old actor's most recent disappointment is The Lone Ranger, which bombed big at the box office last weekend. So big, in fact, that The Hollywood Reporter estimates that it's set to lose $150 million for Disney, the studio behind the critically maligned film, which took a beating against record-setting animated flick Despicable Me 2.
"Outside of Jack Sparrow (from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), he's not a huge box-office draw," says Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. "Everybody knows that if you just look at his box-office record. He's probably offered just about every role out there still because his name does carry weight, but he chooses to go that road-less-traveled path."
The very thing that made him may become his undoing, though, says Brian Balthazar, editor of POPgoesTheWeek, a pop-culture blog.
"I do think there may be some audience fatigue in the type of character Johnny Depp plays. He played quirky Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, and then he was the quirky Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland,and he was quirky Willy Wonka inCharlie and the Chocolate Factory. He actually needs to play an ordinary guy. The public has seen him play a quirky, madcap character so many times."
Critics' distaste for Ranger repeatedly noted that Depp's Tonto was not far off from his twitchy, affected Jack Sparrow performance. Ranger, with a $225 million price tag and Depp's name attached, was expected to be a summer blockbuster yet pulled in a paltry $49 million over the July Fourth holiday weekend, making it one of the biggest flops of the year so far.
"It's not a good film. It's tired, it's lazy filmmaking, and he plays his oddball role well, but it's not enough to make up for everything else about it that is been-there-done-that," Bock says.
This latest cinematic failure is another entry on Depp's now-spotty résumé, which had gotten a golden boost a decade ago with the phenomenal success of the launch of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Back then, Depp was a leading-man-in-the-making hunk with a knack for playing eccentric characters in mostly under-the-radar movies such as Edward Scissorhands, Blow and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
But when Pirates became a global smash in 2003, Depp's profile rose, and he found himself firmly entrenched on the A-list. He followed the success of that box-office home run with three more progressively diluted Pirates sequels and a slew of collaborations with his longtime friend, director Tim Burton. (Since 2005, the pair have collaborated on five films with mixed success.)
"The strange thing about his career is, from the get-go, he's picked strange roles. It's almost like he doesn't want to be a star," Bock says.
Yet he is a bona fide star now, and the failure of The Lone Ranger has cast a deep shadow over the actor, whose last non-Pirates hit was 2010's Alice in Wonderland(directed by Burton). Last summer's Dark Shadows, also a Burton collaboration, fizzled, and before that, The Rum Diary, The Tourist and Public Enemies all came and went without much notice. (Save for The Tourist's much-mocked 2011 Golden Globe nominations for best comedy/musical and acting nods for Depp and co-star Angelina Jolie.)
"Most actors couldn't sustain having that many misfires, (but) Johnny Depp is a rare talent," Bock says. "Before Pirates, he had one film, Sleepy Hollow, that had made over $100 million. He was an unknown commodity until Jack Sparrow took him to new heights."
And, as if his career weren't worrisome enough, , Depp's love life unraveled last summer, too. June 2012 marked the the end of his 14-year relationship with Paradis, with whom he has two children.
"The last couple years have been a bit bumpy," he admitted to Rolling Stone in its July 4 issue. "At times, certainly unpleasant, but that's the nature of break-ups, I guess, especially when there are kiddies involved. ... Relationships are very difficult, especially in the racket that I'm in because you're constantly away or they're away and so it's hard. It wasn't easy on her. It wasn't easy on me. It wasn't easy on the kids. It doesn't stop the fact that you care for that person, and they're the mother of your kids, and you'll always know each other, and you're always going to be in each other's lives because of those kids."
He has, however, rebounded with his Rum Diary co-star Heard. The new couple stepped out publicly June 27 for the premiere of Ranger after months of buzz about their are-they-or-aren't-they relationship status. The pairing raised eyebrows, not only because of their 23-year age difference, but also because some fans felt Heard, who had been in a serious relationship with a woman when she met Depp on the Rum Diary set, precipitated his split from Paradis. Depp and Heard have yet to officially comment on their relationship.
Despite the drama and the movie missteps, Depp still has plenty to smile about. Consider, for instance, that he's positioned to rake in a salary close to $100 million for his role in Pirates 5.
"Johnny Depp will be fine," Bock says. "He has a big budget sci-fi film that he's shooting now (Transcendence) and he has Pirates 5, which is his safety net. It will probably make a billion dollars worldwide, like the last one, and that was probably part of the deal for getting The Lone Ranger green-lit. 'You do your big budget film and you give us Pirates 5.' I don't think he'll ever stop doing these oddball roles."