As most of the world knows, superstar actor Johnny Depp is the linchpin of the gazillion dollar Pirates of the Carribean movie franchise.
He was twice voted ‘Sexiest Man Alive’, survived an engagement to Winona Ryder, slept with Kate Moss, was friends with River Phoenix and Hunter S Thompson, has three Academy Award nominations, a slew of other honours, and was the mainstay of the finest TV series in the history of mankind, 21 Jump Street.
That alone vaults him into the stratosphere of demi-god. It’s also the reason I wear blue-tinted glasses and style my hair like a slightly less-psychotic version of Edward Scissorhands.
More importantly, Depp’s current Pirates venture, Dead Men Tell No Tales, is a $250 million film. It employs more than 200 Australians and attracts about $20 million or more of Australian tax incentives.
But wait, there’s more! Depp flew back into Australia recently after a hiatus from filming the latest Pirates instalment. He had returned to the USA for treatment on an off-set injury and some ‘at home rehab’ for alcohol-related problems.
This time, however, he brought his wife Amber Heard and his two dogs with him on his private jet. The wife was not a problem. The dogs, however, were.
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, never one to mince words, gave Depp 72 Hours to get the dogs out of town threatening to euthanise them with lethal injection.
“Take ‘em home tonight or I’ll bloody well kill ‘em,” was pretty much the message. “Oh, and by the way, stop the $250 million film for that while you’re Home and Away! Schmuck.”
But what could have been easily handled by a Department of Agriculture staffer or Customs official with a visit and phone call, has now turned into an international PR incident that makes us look like some Kentucky redneck backwood trailer trash.
And being that Depp hails from Kentucky, he’s probably seen a lot of Barnaby Joyces in his lifetime.
When you go on national TV and say you’re going to kill the man’s dogs instead of offering up some special quarantine area for the 10 days necessary, you are showing 8 billion people via social media that Australia is running an amateur-hour business.
I’d speculate there’d be more diseases coming in with some of the people who travel here than would ever be harboured on Pistol and Boo (the Yorkshire terriers in question).
“Why is Johnny special?” you ask.
“Nobody is above the law,” you say.
Now this will most certainly unleash the wrath of some, but I’m afraid this one is all about the money. Yup, it gets down to ‘dollars and sense’.
The Pirates films are worth ONE QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLARS to Australia, specifically Queensland – a state Joyce used to represent as a senator.
And there are BILLIONS of dollars worth of potential sequels and other major Hollywood productions at stake.
Since we’ve already said “adios” to our auto industry, maybe we shouldn’t tell one of the biggest stars of another industry to “bugger off with his dogs or they’re dead”.
Did Depp screw up? Absolutely. Should there have been special circumstances in his case? Absolutely.
The message we are sending by having our Agricultural Minister make an absolute nong of himself with billions of dollars at stake is that we’re not a First World Nation. And perception is everything in the movie business.
When studios, producers and stars are considering shooting in Oz, they are either going to think “yeah I love the beach and sun and the great crews”, or they’re going to put on the prima donna hat and say “yeah, but they’ll kill your pets in a New York minute”.
So if big stars don’t want to shoot here, the movie goes elsewhere. Understand the math?
It’s hard enough to attract serious productions to Australia, along with the half a billion dollars in secondary and tertiary revenue they can generate from hospitality, catering, tourism, transportation, etc.
If we’re gonna play in the big leagues, we have to be professional and act professional.
— BBC News Australia (@BBCNewsAus) May 15, 2015
We don’t have to ‘mollycoddle’ stars, though we certainly do that with every major sports star in this country.
As anyone knows, elite athletes are treated like royalty, even when they’re shrouded in controversy. So what is wrong with being polite to an extremely popular guest who comes bearing gifts?
The Dog Days of Hollywood are upon us.
It’s lucky for Barnaby Joyce that Johnny Depp didn’t own cats. With nine lives each, that’s a lot of trips to the euthanasia parlour.