British GQ interview

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British GQ interview

Unread postby Sweeney Todd » Tue Oct 02, 2018 4:00 pm



Johnny Depp will not be buried

Hollywood divorce: where acrimony meets alimony somewhere on the highest, most exposed precipice. And when those disputes are embittered further by costly lawsuits against once-trusted advisors and accusations of domestic violence, the truth – as presented by either side – will take the fall. We don’t know the truth. But following an invitation to spend time with the face of one multibillion-dollar franchise and a whole rogue’s gallery of tender, oddball tales at the French village he once bought to share with another former partner, we now know his version of it. Aggrieved, aggressive and vulnerable, by turns it’s all these things. He spoke, we listened and here is the truth Johnny Depp wants you to hear

BY JONATHAN HEAF

51 minutes ago

The death metal begins at 2.43pm. It’s loud. And it is coming from inside the church. The noise is a proud, ungovernable fury, like a prize bull being dragged to the slaughterhouse by its copper nose ring. The idyllic quiet of the southern French countryside, the soft rub of the cigales and the warm breeze rolling off the Mediterranean is torn down the spine by wailing, demonic vocals and pedal distortion. Everyone outside, some drinking small glasses of pastis de Marseille in the 37C heat, turn to look at the church door and then at one another.

Despite the rupture, the shattered tranquillity, it is a positive sign for those who want an audience with our host. The man rumoured to be sleeping inside the small, single-storey chapel – its original confessional area transformed into a closet, its cloister now used as an artist’s studio with large, unfinished canvases leaning against the perimeter – must surely be awake. No one could sleep through what sounds like Satan’s own alarm bell.

Two weeks ago there was an invitation, confirmed late yesterday, to come to Johnny Depp’s villa and talk openly and without caveats. If you rise at 5am in North London, get the first Nice-bound British Airways flight out of Heathrow around 7.45am and then take a taxi for an hour due east along the scorched yellow coast, past Cannes, past Fréjus and not quite to Saint-Tropez, you will find yourself in the rural town of Le Hameau De Gassin, hemmed in by rows of young, short vines, forming tracks like nature’s braids, their bruise-coloured fruit just beginning to swell and sag with new weight.

Depp’s complex of around seven or eight small stone abodes sits above this quiet, unremarkable old town, with a view that stretches out over the rippling Ligurian Sea. On a clear day you can walk out to one of the several high, rocky outcrops on the estate, squint and see the island of Corsica and, beyond that, waters rich with fables and myth, where scholars believe Homer’s Odysseus ordered his crew to tie him to his own mast to hear for himself the song of the Sirens.

Squint harder and you might catch Italy’s west coast twinkling, with Pisa, Genoa and, beyond that, the beauty and corruption of Florence. Earlier, I arrived at the compound’s gates, passing director Tim Burton and his family, who were off out on a boat trip with various children, sun-kissed and grinning. Burton has been staying with Depp these past weeks, enjoying the baked, private utopia.

Having been buzzed in, a golf cart driven by a native named Daniele takes me up to the main set of buildings. Daniele – a man in his late sixties with an impressive whipped-cream moustache and a long, ivory ponytail who, it must be noted, looks astonishingly like Asterix from René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s famous French comics – is the man from whom Depp bought the land and original 19th-century houses 20 years ago. It was purchased by Depp and Vanessa Paradis, his then partner, as a sanctuary, a place to escape with children, to play freely away from the full beams of Los Angeles and Paris.

When the estate was listed on the market in 2015 for $63 million – a warning shot of the actor’s financial problems – many of the news reports described the property as being a “village-like compound”. As our tyres crunch their way up the wide gravel path towards the collection of stone buildings, it’s easy to see why.

There is a modest main house with weathered blue shutters, almost entirely covered in rippling, bright-green foliage. There’s a hidden pool, a gazebo, a stone terrace with wooden shade and a jumble of around four or five bedrooms and bathrooms. The slanted, near-flat roof is terracotta tiled, while on the lower flank a heavy wooden door leads into a cave à vin, now converted into a cosy – if you find crypts cosy. The space is peppered with candle drippings and cowhide throws.

From here we turn hard right, pulling inside what feels like the estate’s main courtyard, or village square, a place where the road widens and comes to a natural point of congregation, a patch of gravel with a small tree at its centre. 
In front of us, 30 feet away, is the church, silent, with its door locked, while to our left is what appears to be a quintessential French café, a building that was originally intended to be a garage. The café’s brown fabric awning has a name across it in an art-nouveau period type, “Chez Marceline”, which refers to Marceline Lenoir, Paradis’ long-standing acting agent.

At a polished wooden table outside the café, two men are sitting sipping Evian. Their names are John Evans and Daniel Rolle and they are expecting us. Evans’ and Rolle’s looks are route-one Mayfair hedgie on an off-site: crisp, pale-blue shirts (tucked in), narrow but not-too-skinny indigo jeans, a woven belt at the hips and a vintage Rolex on the wrist. It’s clean, tasteful and quietly refined, rather than anything ostentatious or flash.

Evans and Rolle have been the point men in regard to today’s logistics. They work for a London-based company called Hawthorn, a public-relations firm that, among other things, specialises in dealing with crisis management for companies and high-net-worth individuals.

One of Hawthorn’s partner companies in the US has been consulting on the sale of The Weinstein Company, but it’s worth mentioning that Evans himself advised against such a move, despite the “ludicrous fee” offered. Firms such as Hawthorn don’t do minor skirmishes or call editors seeking corrections in the entertainment pages; they are a firm who exceptionally wealthy clients call if there’s no one else to call. They are the Harvey Keitels of this world: wolf men, fixers, public-image adjustment specialists, polymath corporate strategists.

Ben Elliot, nephew of the Duchess Of Cornwall, is a cofounder and partner of Hawthorn. He also set up Quintessentially, the concierge service for the wealthy elite – think heli-skiing off Everest’s Hillary Step or a balcony suite with a view of the Monaco Grand Prix. It was Elliot who made initial contact to ask whether GQ would be interested in meeting and talking to Depp.

Despite Depp being someone who has long underscored his disdain for the media – someone who once chased the paparazzi with a plank of wood outside a London restaurant for photographing his children – we were informed that he wanted to talk.

It’s about two months after the publication of a widely read Rolling Stone interview, entitled “The Trouble With Johnny Depp”. It is an article that Depp will talk about later, addressing it as he does most topics, with a sort of vengeful nonchalance. This is a man, I will come to understand, who will happily spill his guts all over the table, yet remain flippant about cause and effect. This “coolness”, one suspects, is his armour. The actor refers to the Rolling Stone article as “a sham”. In fact, he goes much further. “I was shafted. The guy [journalist Stephen Rodrick] walked in with absolutely one intention. And I could see it and I thought maybe I could help him understand, you know?

“I trusted Jann Wenner [cofounder and publisher of Rolling Stone], as I knew him through Hunter [S Thompson, the late writer and a mentor of Depp]. I trusted what the magazine stood for, or what it used to stand for. I wanted Jann to see if he could write, to see if a piece could be written... to put things in perspective. That’s all, just to put things in perspective.”

Perspective can be a treacherous thing. It can be hoodwinked. It can be manipulated. Perspective, after all, is inherently subjective. Yet Depp was right to be belligerent. Anyone who didn’t know any better would have read that Rolling Stone profile – together with a steadily accumulating digital silo of cuttings and clickbait about the star’s life of late, his financial woes, his savage and hostile divorce from American actor Amber Heard, accusations of domestic violence that he is challenging in a defamation case in the UK, and that videotape – and come away with a pretty bleak picture of the 55-year-old.

The article stated Depp was near to broke: having made $650m on films that netted around $3.6 billion, yet “almost all of it is gone”. Up until a few weeks ago, Depp was suing his longtime business partner Joel Mandel and Mandel’s brother Robert (and their firm, The Management Group [TMG]) for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, forgery and theft.

The suit claimed that as his tax filers, TMG had failed to pay Depp’s taxes on time for all 16 years of their representation, costing Depp more than $8.3m in penalties. Depp’s suit also pointed at TMG’s conflicts of interests, their alleged wrongful investment of the star’s money in companies with which they had a relationship and their enabling of Depp’s immediate family members to spend his fortune without proper authority or knowledge. TMG counterclaimed against Depp for breach of contract and fraud, saying that it was the actor who was responsible for any financial turmoil in which he found himself. Last summer, the Wall Street Journal and others reported that Depp’s former business managers were to come under investigation by the American IRS, Department Of Justice and Securities And Exchange Commission for bank fraud and money laundering.

By the time I reach Depp in his French villa, the litigation has reached a settlement and, later this month, in August, he will win the first stage of a separate case against his longtime lawyer Jake Bloom, over $30m paid to Depp’s former attorneys Bloom Hergott by his former business managers without any contract. The latter appears to be a vindication of sorts for Depp. “Hollywood jolted,” reported one industry headline.

Sitting with the Hawthorn executives in Chez Marceline, waiting for Depp to emerge from his quaint, nondenominational lair, there is also continued talk of stories emerging about Heard and the pair’s acrimonious split. Heard filed for divorce in May 2016, only 15 months after the couple got married in February 2015. Court records filed by Heard cited “irreconcilable differences”, with a temporary restraining order granted against Depp, who Heard accused of domestic violence. A much-circulated leaked video claimed to show Depp “throwing a wine glass” at Heard and the 32-year-old’s lawyers previously claimed that Depp “violently attacked” her. Heard herself was arrested for domestic violence against a previous partner in 2009. Heard denied the accusation and no charges were brought.

The claims then go from the disturbing to the downright bizarre. Although the couple’s divorce settlement was reached in August 2016 – with Depp paying a reported $7m and the restraining order lifted – even this morning, on my way to Depp’s compound, the most peculiar story yet emerged from their volatile relationship, that Heard allegedly defecated in the star’s bed after a particularly nasty row in April 2016. Heard has come out with a statement last night claiming the incident was far from a dirty protest on her part, but rather blamed the deposit on her dog, a 4lb teacup Yorkie called Boo, who suffers bowel problems.

As I hear the satanic noise blare out from Depp’s church in France, it makes one wonder: who, or what, am I about to encounter today, at his home, inside his sanctuary? An actor who is crippled by fame, money and excess? A relic of an old Hollywood star system that is broken and growing old disgracefully? Someone who simply doesn’t fit into the brave new era, an era when scandal and stories can no longer be hidden away or buried under an avalanche of enforced NDAs?

Or is Johnny Depp simply a man who has been wronged and harbours a genuine desire to set out to protect his name and his past work so that he can begin to bring himself back from what has been a period of his life he’d sooner forget? 
Does he seek vengeance against an industry – and certain individuals – that he says took advantage of his naivety?
Is this a man who still believes in trying to be the outsider, an artist who desperately wants to be free of responsibility, something that might be mistaken for isolation and eccentricity but is actually something closer to a belief in romantic rebellion?

“It’s time. He’s ready.”

As I’m led towards the church where the demonic wall of noise has finally been silenced, I realise, perhaps for the first time, that I have no idea who or what will appear, blinking into the hot white light. It feels like stepping inside the eye of everything that tornadoes around this one man and his astonishing life. As the church door opens and I hear a cough, I wonder: where does the myth of Johnny Depp end and the truth of who Johnny Depp really is begin?

“Are you a John or a Jonathan?”

“I’m Jonathan,” I say. “You must be Johnny.”

“Johnny, John... I’m a John. Is it Jon-a-than or Jon-a-thon? I’m John Christopher Depp II. I have a number after my name which makes me sound... I don’t know, grander than I should be.” Immediately there’s that smile, one that hovers between charm and mischief, heroic and villainous. His eyes will remain behind an enormous pair of reflective aviator shades for the next four hours. “Shall we go and sit in the sun, talk, get heatstroke, vomit and die?” A pause. And then the head goes right back with the laugh. “Maybe later.

Come on, Jonathan, there’s a really cool little spot I want to show you...” 
Depp has emerged from his slumber looking if not healthy then certainly healthier than I expected. Friends I had spoken to about my assignment voiced concerns over Depp’s mental and physical state – most with little to no actual factual insight, it should be said – many referring to an image taken of the star recently while on tour round Europe with his band, Hollywood Vampires.

The photograph, taken by a fan, showed Depp gaunt, pallid and in need of some sleep – or at least a large green juice and once round the block on a SoulCycle. Not only that, but, perhaps even more disturbingly, his usual battered fedora had been replaced with a baseball cap, a baseball cap with the word “fugly” emblazoned on it. Johnny Depp? In a baseball cap?

Today, however, Depp’s skin is clear and absent of bloat or puffiness. It must be added, however, that his clothes are less intact. He is wearing a baseball cap and his shirt in particular appears to have had its arms pulled off, as if it was once the property of an irate Bruce Banner pre-anger management classes. In fact, the shirt is like nothing I have ever seen before: part dress shirt, but with a mandarin collar, yet no sleeves. Over his shirt is a pinstripe blue waistcoat and around his neck are various chains, trinkets and talismans.

On the end of one necklace is a silver “gonzo fist”, the icon characterised by two thumbs and four fingers holding a peyote button originally used by Hunter S Thompson’s 1970 campaign for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado. Through Thompson’s prolific life and writing style, the fist has become a symbol of gonzo journalism as a whole. For Depp it is both a memento of his late friend, someone he once lived with in a basement in Owl Farm, Thompson’s base camp in Aspen, Colorado, and a reminder of how one should work and live, with a strong sense of the individual and unhinged from corporate or fiscal systems. As Depp so often says, “Beat the system from the inside out.”

The jeans are baggy and a patchwork of blues, holes that have been mended and stitched innumerable times. Depp’s trouser-wearing history has always been, well, patchy, to say the least, always looking like he’s just come from break-up sex with a werewolf. He was once taking a child to a birthday party in Los Angeles when he realised his jeans had a hole the size of a hubcap across the rear-end. Rather than change, which would have been the sensible thing, he grabbed a roll of silver gaffer tape and fashioned his own filler.

Depp’s belt is something else. It’s worn brown leather, but the buckle is attached to the side rather than the front. It’s unusual, I note, as we walk towards a huge stone table where we will sit and talk in the shade for the afternoon. “This? Well, it’s no Texas Belt Buckle. You know what Texas Belt Buckle is?” I have to confess I do not. “Well, a Texas Belt Buckle is where you have to pull your scrotum up over the top of your jeans without undoing them. All the way up and over. Oh, the horror of it all... You have to bring your c**k back around and stick it through... Your c**k has to go around the bend in a sort of semi fruit basket and then, well, then you’re f***ed. You pull your testicles out over the top and leave them just resting there. That’s a Texas Belt Buckle. Then, of course, there’s a Dirty Sanchez, which is something else entirely. ‘Dirty Sanchez’, which I managed to sneak into Pirates...”

For those in the dark about what a Dirty Sanchez might be, all you need to know is that it’s a term that originated in the spit’n’grind of the LA porn industry, something that could occur when certain protruding members are stuck into certain orifices and then into certain other holes. I’ll let your imagination run dark, but let’s just say it’s unfathomably gross and a term for an obscene sex act that couldn’t be less suitable for inclusion in a $300m Disney film about a pirate, itself based on a family-friendly theme park ride in Florida.

“Yeah, I [said] it in Pirates and they never caught it when it went out to the theatres,” Depp chuckles as we take our seats opposite one another. “They caught it when it went to DVD. I did it because I wanted to see who would be the one at Disney to find it...” As to why Depp wanted to find out who would be the person to red flag such a thing is unclear, although the fact he is still proud to have got the obscene term included in that first blockbuster – albeit as a mumbled, near incoherent entry – and past corporate eyeballs (and ears) is not insignificant.

It serves to illustrate what has been, and what still is, at Depp’s moral core, a conflict that boils and foams beneath the actor’s surface: the tussle of being true to his artistic sensibilities while also being a willing participant in and figurehead of a billion-dollar franchise. It is the age-old problem faced by many successful creatives, that of art vs commerce.

Jack Sparrow was for Johnny Depp what Iron Man would eventually become for Robert Downey Jr: a global hit that pivoted the actor – or at least his image – from that of a young, somewhat surly indie misfit who had already illustrated a distaste for being a teenage pin-up (via 21 Jump Street), wore oversized vintage leather jackets and smoked Marlboro Reds while smooching wild fashion cats such as Kate Moss, into a global megastar with his own merchandise line, including a 25cm-high pirate figurine with removable cutlass and leather booties.

It was the moment the man who played Ed Wood turned into Mickey Mouse, albeit Mickey Mouse with a fondness for a bottle of Château Calon Ségur (2014). “I was freaked out by it,” he admits when he realised where acting was going to take him, rather than music, which had always been his main creative outlet. “I mean, at the beginning I genuinely didn’t give a f*** about acting. But I began to enjoy it. I enjoyed creating those characters up there, being in the trenches and sparring with collaborators, actors, directors... The trouble with working with these big studios is they can get uncomfortable about certain creative decisions you make. That happened with Pirates. My view is if the studio isn’t worried then I’m not doing my job properly.”

Did Disney try to alter his Piratesperformance? “Disney hated me. [They were] thinking of every way they could to get rid of me, to fire me. ‘Oh, we’re going to have to subtitle him.’ ‘We don’t understand Captain Jack Sparrow. What’s wrong with him?’ ‘What’s wrong with his arms?’ ‘Is he drunk?’ ‘Is he mentally f***ing stupefied?’ ‘Is he gay?’”

I ask Depp directly: did Disney ask if Jack Sparrow was being played as openly homosexual in Pirates? “They asked me, ‘Is he gay?’ and I answered the question over the phone. It was a lady called Nina Jacobson from Disney at the time [Jacobson is herself gay, it should be noted, and has long campaigned for greater diversity within the all-male club of old Hollywood boardrooms] and she asked me a couple of questions and then said, ‘What is it, Johnny? Is he gay?’ My tendency, of course, is to be irreverent so I said, ‘Nina, didn’t you know all my characters are gay?’ That was a pretty abrupt end to the conversation. And I just continued shaping Jack the way I believed was best.”

Was Depp angry at Disney for its lack of vision? Its lack of trust? “No. I told them, ‘Look, you don’t like what I’m doing, fire me. You hired me to do a job and play the character and this is what I want to do.’ This is the work. I mean, hadn’t they seen any of the work I’d done previously? You might want to take a look at that before you hire a motherf***r, you know?”

Did he feel vindicated once it was clear his treatment for Jack was going to work, when audiences fell in love with him? “I knew I was right. Even the very first time when they came back to me saying, ‘No, no, what is this?’ it felt right. Even when the other actors were looking at me like I was an absolute menace, I stayed with it. I mean, the older actors were probably thinking, ‘Jesus Christ, he’s wrecked.’ Because I would tear up the script on set. I’d go rogue. I’d fly for a little bit to see where things went. And not everyone appreciates this way of working. Oliver Stone didn’t appreciate it when I changed all the lines he wrote for me in Platoon and that’s no doubt probably why most of my stuff ended up on the cutting-room floor.”

Depp and I are sitting under what can only be described as a tent or canopy of green vines. We are about 150 metres from the main house. Inside the tent is a huge, monolithic stone table and benches that resemble something dragged from the palaeolithic age, pockmarked and grooved from years of wear and deterioration. Depp bought it when they acquired the house. “I did a film with Roman Polanski [The Ninth Gate] in Paris with Vanessa. We were supposed to stay two months and we ended up staying ten years.”
As we talk, Depp keeps his cap and his shades on. Occasionally he seems a little sleepy, stifling a yawn, although after a while he shakes off the sleep and is engaging, coherent and certain. He twists and moves rarely, maybe tucking his legs to one side or sitting cross-legged like a sort of skater/war vet/yogi. Otherwise, he is entirely still. He takes care with his answers, speaking at a steady pace, unafraid to be patient and wait until the right word arrives from his consciousness and escape into the ether.

A man, maybe a housekeeper, brings us refreshments in one of those light-blue plastic laundry baskets: sweet, bottle-green tea, Coca-Cola, water. No alcohol. Later I ask Depp if he believes he has a problem with alcohol: “Do I like a drink? Yes. Do I need a drink? No.” The only visible vice is the rolling tobacco that he smokes in liquorice papers; he’ll roll one up every 20 minutes or so and often not light it immediately. He lets it hang from his mouth, the paper sticking to his lower lip as he talks and answers questions. He has all the tobacco warnings, all the images of blackened lungs, scribbled out by an assistant. His fingers are cluttered with rings and his arms are full of black ink.

The tattoos have been much discussed: the “Wino Forever” on the upper right biceps being perhaps the most infamous, an alteration of what originally was “Winona Forever”, which Depp got when he was dating Winona Ryder, the pair having worked together on Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands in 1990. A more recent tattoo read “Slim” in a gothic font, a letter on each of the proximal phalanges (the finger bones closest to the palm of the hand). Slim was the name Depp used to call his ex-wife Amber Heard. After the divorce he had it amended to “Scum” and more recently “Scam”.

There’s something about the torment of the past few years that, intentionally or not, shakes such spiky subjects – his break-up, his reputation, his financial problems – to the surface. Quite simply, they are in the air. I can feel it. Depp can feel it. And without even being nudged, the topics fall onto the table and demand to be picked at.

Depp, one can tell, feels he has suffered, sounding at times like a wounded animal who has healed and is now ready to bite back. He is also, although he may deny it, angry – angry about a lot of things – and he’s vengeful and absolutely, categorically certain of his position and his standing.

“The last three or four years has felt like a perverse situation that was inflicted on me. It hurts.” How did the actor take the claims about his long-term managers eviscerating his trust, their relationship, in that way?

“It is crass to speak about money but, I mean, when I found out the Pirates 5film had just been finished, right before the business manager started to go, ‘Oh, you’ve got to sell the house in France! Oh, my god! s**t’s hitting the fan!’ Now, my front fee – I am even embarrassed to say it – for Pirates 5 alone was £35m. And then I went on my honeymoon after that film and while I was on honeymoon that’s when I got the call from the guy and I was like, ‘What? I don’t understand? How could this be?’”

TMG claimed that they did what they could to handle Depp’s finances responsibly and repeatedly warned him that he was overspending, but he has a different perspective. “My belief was that I needed to not envelop myself in the notion of money, how much I was making, how much was there. I just knew that I was making enough money in salary and back-end that everything should be tickety-boo. Nothing should have gone as sideways as it did. And when I found out, that is when the war began. It was from every angle. The judge, you know, called them on all the petty personal allegations and said you are trying to decapitate this man in a public forum. That is not what you do.”

Depp has a theory, however, about a wider conspiracy being fuelled by the troubles surrounding his finances and deteriorating marriage, a theory that points to the Hollywood industry itself, “this vile f***ing circus”, as the actor calls it. “But did it stop all the power mongers in Hollywood who were interested in shutting me up? Big money was being thrown about. People suing me at every opportunity. I mean, it’s all so obvious. Listen, I know I was never going to be Cinderella – I know this and accept it. But it felt like within a very, very short period of time that suddenly this version – for lack of a better word – of Cinderella had been immediately turned into the beast. He’s Quasimodo.

“I could feel people look at me differently, because of the accusations towards you. And then people start putting things in magazines: ‘He’s insane. He needs to take a sanity test...’ You know, ludicrous stuff. But the only thing that I could do was know what I still know. Ultimately, the truth will come out in all of this and I will be standing on the right side of the roaring rapids. I hope other people will be too. I know the truth and if I had to walk away from all of it today, the job, the career, all of it, and go toodle-oo, then fine.

“I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone, because I’ve never been in competition with anyone. I don’t buy into that s**t. I’m not interested in receiving any spray-painted action figures. You know, maybe whatever this thing is, whatever I leave behind, you know, my legacy to my kids or the people, I haven’t watched 98 per cent of that s**t. It may be completely insane. It may be crap. It may be interesting. I don’t f***ing know what it is. But what I do know is that I did something, and I tried something different, for a period of years. Did it work? Who the f*** knows? But I did it and I’m fine to stop.

“I love the process of creating a character. I love the safety of, you know, being that character. I mean, there was great safety in being as open as you could possibly make yourself on Edward Scissorhands and to try to see things, mundane, normal things, as beautiful and new, you know? Captain Jack was a different animal, Ed Wood, a different animal, Mad Hatter [from Alice In Wonderland], Willy Wonka [Charlie And The Chocolate Factory]...

“Yet there’s a common thread going through all these characters. There’s a filament that connects them. Even though they’re all very different, they’re all very much the same, because it all has to come out of some sort of truth, you know? And the truth is they’re all f***ing misfits. They’re all misfits and they’re all misunderstood. And judged in a condescending manner, in a bad way.”

The message is loud and clear as to what Depp believes went down with his long-term management and business partners. I wonder: does he worry about his reputation, his legacy, not least in regards to women? Is he concerned that so much of what has been put out in the press, so much of the scandal, has caused an irreversible erosion of his good name? Or does he simply not worry because, as he says, he never wanted to be put on some pedestal or claim to be a role model, a Cinderella figure?

“Do you know... I’ll tell you...” The following pause is long. Depp and I sit in silence. The question hovers over us. Then, he seems to simply decide to talk.

“It’s not about being a role model. No, it’s not that at all. The tape that came out...” He stops and chuckles and repeats his words, “The tape that came out, or the tape that someone made, that miraculously appeared on YouTube, taken from someone’s phone. That was not Downtown [LA, where he lived with Amber Heard]. She [Heard] wanted to make like it was recent. It was an older video and [what happened in it] had to do with finding out that I had lost hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The video in question, blurry, clandestine, shows Depp filling a large beaker with red wine and then grabbing Heard’s phone after seeing she is recording. The video was “leaked” or released by showbiz gossip channel TMZ in the States, although compared to Heard’s other allegations against Depp the video content seems unexceptional or certainly the least disturbing.

Although the pair have now settled out of court, what Heard alleges to have happened in April 2016 still reverberates throughout my meeting with Depp. Heard alleged that on Saturday 21 May, Depp attacked his wife and threw an iPhone at her face. Heard phoned the police, who found “no evidence of any crime”. However, Heard claims to have taken a selfie later that day showing bruising around her right eye and cheek. The following Wednesday she filed for divorce. Depp is currently suing the Sun for alleging in a headline, since altered, that he is a wife beater.

I feel like I have to broach the subject with Depp. Does the actor consider himself a violent man? An aggressive man? Can he lose his temper or is he prone to if intoxicated? “The thing that hurt me is being presented as something that you’re really as far away from as you could possibly get, you know?

“Then there was that time when the paparazzi were trying to take a photograph of Vanessa and she’s pregnant with Lily-Rose and I was not going to let them make a circus out of it. So I did what I had to do. Got her in the car, they didn’t get the picture, and I said, ‘Take a f***ing picture because then I’ll stove your f***ing head in. You’ve got your cameras out. First one click. Let’s go.’ And that’s just the truth. I would’ve. I’ve even said before, if a paparazzo gets a shot, they’re far away and they get a shot of me and my kid, whatever, that’s their thing. But if I catch you, I will eat your nose. I will eat your nose, chew it up and swallow it in front of you and then you’ll f***ing think about it next time. I f***ing mean it. But to...”

Depp goes quiet again. It seems like he needs to take stock every so often, to recharge, to get back into a specific lane or mood every time the conversation veers into talking about the volatile relationship with Heard and the results of its breakdown. “To harm someone you love? As a kind of bully? No, it didn’t, it couldn’t even sound like me. So, initially, I just kept my mouth shut, you know? I knew it was going to stick on me and it would get weirder. Keep going, you know? Go nuts. I ain’t going to get into a pissing contest with someone about it. Spit out what you need to spit out and, you know, my attorneys will take care of the rest. I never went out and spoke about the s**t.

“But of course I care what my family and my kids think. I mean, you realise right away, essentially, that what is being done is the commencement of what they hope is to be your funeral.” Depp is still talking at a measured pace, in his low, cool tones, but his words are just a little clipped at the ends. His vowels just a little firmer.

“And worse than that, to take away future earnings that are for my kids, you know? I do this s**t for my kids, man. How could someone, anyone, come out with something like that against someone, when there’s no truth to it whatsoever? I’m sure it wasn’t easy for my 14-year-old boy to go to school, you know what I mean? With people going, ‘Hey, look at this magazine, man. What, your dad beats up chicks or something?’ Why did he have to go through that? Why did my daughter have to go through that?” I tell Depp I can see how that would anger him. “She didn’t...” Depp is often all too aware that some of the intricacies of his and Heard’s relationship need to be put in the third person. This is why, at times, he will start off using a subjective pronoun but switch to something more objective, swapping a “she” for “that person”.

“Why didn’t that person speak to the police?” continues Depp. “I mean, they spoke to the police, but the police saw nothing and they offered her an emergency medical technician. She said no. Police see nothing on her. Police see nothing broken in the place, no marks, and then they offer her an EMT to have a look at her and she says no and I don’t know if it was the next day or a couple of days later, but then there was a bruise. There was a red mark and then there was a brown bruise.”

A day after the alleged phone-throwing took place, Heard was seen at a party, specifically Amanda de Cadenet’s 44th birthday party. De Cadenet posted a picture of herself, with Heard smiling brightly on her right and model Amber Valletta to her left. Heard is tagged in the photo; her hair is brushed over her left eye and cheek. At some point, however, the image was deleted. Depp is emphatic about his version of events. “She was at a party the next day. Her eye wasn’t closed. She had her hair over her eye, but you could see the eye wasn’t shut. Twenty-five feet away from her, how the f*** am I going to hit her? Which, by the way, is the last thing I would’ve done. I might look stupid, but I ain’t f***ing stupid.”

To suggest that a woman, a man or anyone might have made up such a serious allegation is a tremendously dangerous and damaging thing to do. If we as a global community are striving for equality and acceptance to run through every part of our lives, through all races, cultures and genders, then we need to believe those who stand up and claim to have been subjected to physical or verbal abuse.
Let me be clear: this is not a piece of investigative reporting. It is merely a snapshot, a chance to sit down and talk to a person of immense interest and talent, who has, it must be noted, brought joy to millions of film lovers all over the world, ever since he moved from Kentucky to LA and a friend, Nicolas Cage, told him he should go and see his acting agent.

This isn’t a piece claiming to know with any authority about what happened between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in May 2016 or at any other time between the pair in private. All I wanted to do was come to Depp and ask him to give his side of the story, which up until now has not been properly heard. Before we met, it was agreed with his advisors at Hawthorn that both parties would go into this meeting with one simple aim: to record what happens candidly. From my side, this is what I saw and this is the conversation we had.

“We probably shouldn’t be talking about this,” continues Depp, “but I am worried. I worry about the people that bought it and I worry about her. It’s just not right. I will never stop fighting. I’ll never stop. They’d have to f***ing shoot me. An episode like this takes time to get over. It’s a mourning for someone you thought was...”

Again, a pause and quiet. All I can hear is the blood rushing about my skull, nitroed by adrenaline and the swirling white nicotine clouds.

The love of his life?

“Well, something. I did marry her somehow.”

Is he single now?

“Yeah,” he says, chuckling and sounding somewhat relieved.

Does that feel good?

“Yeah.”

Does he think about wanting to find love ever again?

“No.”

I need to take a leak. Depp tells me I can use his bathroom and that I’ll find it back at the church. He gives me a set of instructions and directions, although with the electricity of the conversation we have just had still pinging about in my hot skull I nod and smile but when I actually arrive at the church I realise that I wasn’t really paying attention. I walk in through the main door and that’s when I realise I am standing slap bang in the middle of Johnny Depp’s bedroom. Alone. With a full bladder.

Actually, I am not quite in his bedroom yet. I am in a small kitchenette. There’s a sink and a box of tissues on a small table and beyond that a door that leads to the bedroom. I can see it’s the bedroom because I can see the huge four-poster bed against the far wall. I venture further in, thinking that there must be an en suite somewhere and now I really am in the middle of Johnny Depp’s bedroom, inside his church, which he had built in the compound he bought with his ex-partner 20 years ago. It makes one’s head spin to be alone in someone’s private space. It’s so intimate, like climbing inside their head or diary and riffling through their thoughts without telling them you’re doing so.

I take a quick scan of the room. There’s a jumble of family photographs, a guitar on a stand and clothes strewn about like a teenager just home from school. Down the far end, towards the main church door, which is blocked, two sofas face one another. On the sofa closest to me, down the right-hand side is the most intriguing object of all: a black vintage typewriter with round, silver keys. 
To the left of the machine is a pile of notes and typed pages. I had heard a rumour that Depp was writing a memoir, a book of his life, and had been doing so for the past few years. It’s a book about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his junkie, desperately violent late mother; about how, in anger, he used to take a baseball bat from the garage as a kid and just spend an hour wailing it against a palm tree in their yard; a book about the work, the films that never made it; about his relationships, his friendships; about when Allen Ginsberg called the actor as he was dying; about Bob Dylan, his friend; about Edward Scissorhands; about the industry, the circus; about the corruption, the excess and the sordid beautiful truth about it all.

There’s a page spooled into the machine already. There are a handful of sentences typed, the black ink speckled and smudged on the grained, ivory paper. What is written is private. It’s also eloquent. It reads like someone trying to write vividly, someone desperate to get it out, get it down, so he might hold it up and scream, “Look! This is what happened!” This feels like snooping. I make a swift exit and go back to the bathroom in the café. Eventually I wander back to Depp, the smoke signals from his cigarette indicating he is still where I left him.

“You know, on the road with the band, it’s impossible to bring oil paints,” explains Depp. “Mineral spirit stinks up the f***ing place, you know? So I’ve just been doing watercolours and odd drawings. I’ve also been doing a lot of writing. I kind of started a book, a couple of months before I broke up with Amber.”

Fiction? Memoir? A play?

“I’ve written around 300 pages. I have about 300 more pages more to go. I am halfway. They are more memories. And some of the beauty and the knowledge that I’ve been able to glean or sponge off of some of these magic f***ing people I know, from Brando to Hunter to Patti Smith to Dylan to Ginsberg. I have been so lucky to have met all these folk. I don’t have cards or make notes really. No structure is blocked out. I have reminders. I’ll make a list of reminders.”

Of events he wants to remember?

“Yes, but it’s not written in any kind of linear form. It should be more like the unplanned telling of a story around the campfire.”
I ask Depp if he finds it hard writing about some of the more painful memories.

“Sure. I mean my childhood was dark. My mum wouldn’t edit. There was no editing. She would say what she meant, what she felt, in that instant. No matter how wrong it might have been even, or how hideously evil it was in the moment, she didn’t edit. It came out: bleurgh! She was out of her mind, obviously, and she didn’t know what the f*** she was doing. She got four kids and she hated the world. Was there f*** loads of verbal abuse? Yeah, man. Was there f*** loads of physical abuse? Yes. And never-ending, to the point that pain, physical pain, was just a given. But the last four, five years that I was involved, let’s say... Well, that was quite a dark time too.

“I mean, you can write about those things and what’s interesting is you write about those things early on and once you’ve had a few years away from that chapter you go back and reread what you’ve done so far. And then you realise that you do feel the same way you did, but you’re so far beyond it. It puts everything else into perspective. Because at a certain point one must be able to say, ‘What the f*** else can any of you do now? What else can any of you do to hurt me?’”

The patter has changed. He is still calm, still warm, but the emotions are right here on the table with us, right in our faces. Maybe it’s just Depp’s natural charisma, but the intensity of the conversation feels like lifting weights. Not because it’s difficult to talk or that it isn’t natural, but simply because of the rawness, the emotional density of the topics. We sit in silence. Depp doesn’t move, not a single muscle flinches. It’s like he’s looked into the Gorgon Medusa’s eyes to see for himself life’s savage reality.

The cigarette hangs unlit, like a stogie to be chewed on or soaked with spit. “What was it that Dylan Thomas said, ‘To begin at the beginning,’ right? And Ernest Hemingway, ‘All you have to do is write one true sentence’ – one of the hardest things in the world to do. And [Allen Ginsberg’s] ‘First thought, best thought.’”

Depp has taken his writing lessons from brilliant yet often difficult men. He has strung them together like bunting: to begin at the beginning, all you have to do is write one true sentence: first thought, best thought... Much like Ginsberg, Depp has that ability to perform, to unspool himself and all his kinks. A drive into Depp’s memories, one suspects, would be like trying to control a car on a winding mountain road with its brakes cut, thrilling yet perilous.

“And Hunter. Hunter! He was right in the centre of every story. And all those stories were true. I have all the tapes and the napkins. Hunter wanted me to buy his archives, but I’m its custodian. They belong to Hunter’s grandson, Will. I think we are going to take it on the road, to show people, to show people the reality, the madness and the goddamn beauty of it all.”

For the first time, Depp takes off his shades. He rubs his eyes, which aren’t bloodshot or kohl-lined, but are clear, backlit and luminous. “I want the truth. That’s really my biggest obsession in the world. It’s just the f***ing truth.”

Yet to live on impulses, to put down all the raw facts unedited as they come out, well, that’s a powerful type of storytelling. As Hunter himself warned of such precision reporting: “Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity.”

The truth has no time for perspective. Or rather, truth is not about perspective as a point of view. But to see the whole truth? The whole story? Now, that sort of perspective will allow you to get the entire picture: the correct height, depth and position of all the facts in relation to one another, something that is absolute.

There is no doubt Depp is seeking the truth. That is his mission. One day, maybe he will find the right words, in a conversation or in a book, and when he does they will be simple.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is out on 16 November.

The print version of this story includes errors by inaccurately attributing a quote to Johnny Depp, as well as certain factual inaccuracies. GQ apologises and has amended the online version accordingly.

:sweeneydepp: Never forget. Never forgive. :sweeneydepp:

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Unread postby justintime » Tue Oct 02, 2018 6:50 pm

Thank you, Sweeney Todd. Thank you, Johnny. Have to read it again . . . and again. Lots of very familiar anecdotes that somehow don’t seem quite so familiar anymore. And the rest - well, I’m glad Johnny’s sadness and vulnerability are couched firmly in a justifiable anger, finally allowing him to get the truth out. I wish he didn’t have to be so careful about how he does that. Glad he’s pushing the boundaries at last. Glad he’s resolved to never quit. Glad he’s had Tim with him these past weeks. Thrilled to my very core he is writing, writing his memoir. Glad he is alive and well and still very much with us. Love and respect him always.
"Stay low." ~ JD
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Unread postby SnoopyDances » Tue Oct 02, 2018 7:54 pm

:thanks!: Sweeney!

I'm wondering if JK Rowling and the FB producers had anything to do with it. The writer describes some pretty heavy hitters in damage control here. I'm sure Johnny is happy to tell his side, but I think, for the sake of the FB franchise, he may have been instructed and coached on behavior, dos/don'ts, etc. And I wonder if the damage control company had any editorial control over what was written/published?

Very much unlike the RS article.

If public opinion continues to be positive after this, it could pave the way for more press junket/premier appearances for FB. :hope:

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Unread postby justintime » Wed Oct 03, 2018 12:29 am

I was particularly gratified to see him alone on the cover of a well-known, respectable magazine. The last time I remember Johnny doing a solo cover shoot was for Numero HOMME and the Dior promotion (Autumn/Winter 2017-2018).
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"There's something about Johnny that breaks your heart." ~ John Logan, ST
"Tear deeper, Mother." ~ Wilmot

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Unread postby Ruby Begonia » Wed Oct 03, 2018 12:31 am

SnoopyDances wrote::thanks!: Sweeney!

I'm wondering if JK Rowling and the FB producers had anything to do with it. The writer describes some pretty heavy hitters in damage control here. I'm sure Johnny is happy to tell his side, but I think, for the sake of the FB franchise, he may have been instructed and coached on behavior, dos/don'ts, etc. And I wonder if the damage control company had any editorial control over what was written/published?

Very much unlike the RS article.

If public opinion continues to be positive after this, it could pave the way for more press junket/premier appearances for FB. :hope:


Since Johnny is quoted saying he's fine to stop acting (if others decide that, I take it), I think you're right that the FB franchise and Rowling could have arranged it. They left in some pretty raunchy stuff if they had editorial control, but it is a men's mag. Unbelievable that so many have taken the side of a talentless woman with a shady past over a man who has an award-winning career spanning 3 decades, known for charitable work and without any remotely similar allegations from any prior girlfriends. A man who has never tried to hide his history of other things, but now needs a crisis management team because of the lies and schemes by scamber and her lowlife, con artist crew.

I love Johnny's quote:"I'm not interested in receiving any spray- painted action figures."

These quotes by Johnny from the GQ article, on the other hand, I feel uneasy about:

" I mean, you realise right away, essentially, that what is being done is the commencement of what they hope is to be your funeral.”

“We probably shouldn’t be talking about this,” continues Depp, “but I am worried. I worry about the people that bought it and I worry about her. It’s just not right. I will never stop fighting. I’ll never stop. They’d have to f****g shoot me."

And then there's the part about what the author read on tbe piece of paper in the typewriter. Was it i note telling the author what he told Rowling about Amber, etc.? "What is written is private. It’s also eloquent. It reads like someone trying to write vividly, someone desperate to get it out, get it down, so he might hold it up and scream, 'Look! This is what happened!'"

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Unread postby Ade » Wed Oct 03, 2018 1:51 am

Thank you so much for posting this. AH stans will say it's a puff piece but what I love about it is that it isn't attempting to white wash him - it's doing what an interview should do - draw out the interviewee and add some unbiased, fair analysis. It is nothing like the puff pieces that she's paid for.

Fascinating, raw and honest - pretty much what you'd expect him to be. I really like a lot of what he didn't say but just let the symbolism stand: the fact that this was in his French property in which he is clearly still very much at home, in his family home - to me it said something about the settlement he must have made with the financial managers and the fact that finances are on an even keel. The fact that Tim Burton was there but not around for the interview (note to the Rolling Stone author which I thought was a stupid comment at the time - if you are doing an interview, you are unlikely to have your friends over for a party, he only had people around on the pay roll because he was working .....)

He's still clearly hurt that Amber wasn't the person he thought she was, and the fact that what she did really hurt his children. I hope his comment about not thinking about finding love again is just a self defence mechanism because I'm sad to think someone so generous and loving won't end up with another decent person who is a great love.

Although it didn't go into everything - it was a fair narrative on what happened with some detail e.g. the picture of Amber at the party the day after the alleged incident. We usually just get that he denied it, and if the article is being fair, that police found no evidence - occasionally her arrest for DV is mentioned.

Other magazines should take note of the number of twitter comments and likes about this for GQ - most of their tweets go uncommented/likes in the single figures. Whenever Johnny appears there are always sharp rises in likes and traffic.

Thanks again for posting - it was good to read a piece of proper journalism.

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Unread postby meeps » Wed Oct 03, 2018 5:37 am

Four out of about twenty three comments were negative on Twitter, when I looked :loveshower:


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Unread postby nebraska » Wed Oct 03, 2018 11:34 am

I am glad to see him speaking out. Unfortunately, we live in a society where a man accused of abuse is automatically guilty of abuse unless he can somehow "prove" it isn't true. Later, sometimes years later, the burden of proof has been put on the accused. And even when not proven guilty of any offense, there is still a taint on his name and reputation forever. "She" knew exactly what she was doing.

What makes me really sad is the on-going "revelations" about his sad relationship with Betty Sue. I hope that this is an exaggeration by the press and that Johnny and his mom had a decent loving relationship. Of course, nothing is perfect and maybe a relationship that withstands imperfection is actually deeper and more meaningful in the end.

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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Wed Oct 03, 2018 12:13 pm

nebraska wrote:I am glad to see him speaking out. Unfortunately, we live in a society where a man accused of abuse is automatically guilty of abuse unless he can somehow "prove" it isn't true. Later, sometimes years later, the burden of proof has been put on the accused. And even when not proven guilty of any offense, there is still a taint on his name and reputation forever. "She" knew exactly what she was doing.

What makes me really sad is the on-going "revelations" about his sad relationship with Betty Sue. I hope that this is an exaggeration by the press and that Johnny and his mom had a decent loving relationship. Of course, nothing is perfect and maybe a relationship that withstands imperfection is actually deeper and more meaningful in the end.

I was surprised by those comments too, in the past in interview he always talked about how he admired her.

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Unread postby Sweeney Todd » Wed Oct 03, 2018 12:51 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:
nebraska wrote:I am glad to see him speaking out. Unfortunately, we live in a society where a man accused of abuse is automatically guilty of abuse unless he can somehow "prove" it isn't true. Later, sometimes years later, the burden of proof has been put on the accused. And even when not proven guilty of any offense, there is still a taint on his name and reputation forever. "She" knew exactly what she was doing.

What makes me really sad is the on-going "revelations" about his sad relationship with Betty Sue. I hope that this is an exaggeration by the press and that Johnny and his mom had a decent loving relationship. Of course, nothing is perfect and maybe a relationship that withstands imperfection is actually deeper and more meaningful in the end.

I was surprised by those comments too, in the past in interview he always talked about how he admired her.

Maybe he was being respectful when she was alive.
:sweeneydepp: Never forget. Never forgive. :sweeneydepp:

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Unread postby jruoss » Wed Oct 03, 2018 1:31 pm

Very interesting read. Love the fact that Tim Burton just happened to be hanging around the area, and boating to boot. There's like a DS interview I think with the two of them where the idea of Tim, wearing shorts, on a boat, seemed hilarious to both of them.

A Johnny Depp memoir? Now that would be something to read.
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Unread postby ForeverYoung » Wed Oct 03, 2018 8:49 pm

nebraska wrote:I am glad to see him speaking out. Unfortunately, we live in a society where a man accused of abuse is automatically guilty of abuse unless he can somehow "prove" it isn't true. Later, sometimes years later, the burden of proof has been put on the accused. And even when not proven guilty of any offense, there is still a taint on his name and reputation forever. "She" knew exactly what she was doing.

What makes me really sad is the on-going "revelations" about his sad relationship with Betty Sue. I hope that this is an exaggeration by the press and that Johnny and his mom had a decent loving relationship. Of course, nothing is perfect and maybe a relationship that withstands imperfection is actually deeper and more meaningful in the end.


Johnny did an interview for Inside the Actors Studio and he said lovely things about his mother such as one of the coolest people he has ever known and considered her one of his best friends. :flashingheart:
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Unread postby stroch » Wed Oct 03, 2018 9:15 pm

It's not impossible that someone, especially your mother, can be as mean as a snake, verbally and physically abusive, and/or cold and neglectful, and yet you still love them. Everyone wants their mother to love them back. As the parent becomes older and no longer faces the pressures and stress of providing for children and keeping a home, all of the hurtful behavior can be pushed aside and a loving relationship can develop.

Pure speculation, but I don't see a contradiction in Johnny's various statements about and behavior toward his mother. Been there, done that.

Love that he was on his property in France, and that Tim was there. Also that he uses the chapel as his own space.
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Unread postby In-too-Depp » Thu Oct 04, 2018 6:20 am

Thanks for posting this Sweeney, an insightful interview and nice to have a balanced view from the journalist. No sensationalism, no sarcasm or biased views, he just reported what he saw and what was said. I'm glad Johnny seems to be enjoying some quiet time and love that he's had Tim with him over the past few weeks.

Johnny is amazing, he's gone through so much and yet he can still see the bigger picture and doesn't focus on negative feelings, of course he'd be angry and frustrated at what he's gone through but what he's most angry about is the effect on his children. He's so strong, maybe that comes from his upbringing, when you face adversity as a child you develop an inner strength that can help you as an adult.

From what I've seen on social media it has been mostly positive and the feedback comes from a wide variety of people.
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Unread postby justintime » Thu Oct 04, 2018 11:20 am

https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-45746692

Article from BBC re: GQ piece. Includes encouraging comments from Adam Waldman, Johnny’s attorney.
"Stay low." ~ JD
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