Johnny Depp and Australian Minister’s Feud Has Gone to the Dogs


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Johnny Depp arriving in court in Australia in April.

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Patrick Hamilton/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An international feud between a celebrated Hollywood actor and an Australian government official, already a strange spectacle, keeps getting stranger.

In one corner is the actor, Johnny Depp, who said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Monday that the official looked as if he had been inbred with a tomato.

In the other corner is Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s deputy prime minister and agriculture minister. He said on Wednesday that he was “inside” Mr. Depp’s head, like Hannibal Lecter, the killer cannibal in the movie “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Why, a fair person might wonder, would a high-ranking Australian official and a cooler-than-thou actor descend into name-calling across oceans? Why did it lead to perhaps Mr. Depp’s worst acting performance ever, in the form of a video apology? Does it have something to do with a threat to kill healthy dogs? Valid questions, all. Let’s catch you up.

Who Let the Dogs In?

Mr. Depp, 52, known for playing such offbeat roles as Hunter S. Thompson, Edward Scissorhands and Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, was in Australia last year to film the fifth installment in the franchise. The trouble began when his wife, Amber Heard, 30, arrived in Australia on April 21, 2015, with their two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, to visit him. The actress had disembarked from her private jet without declaring the dogs, who were supposed to be placed in quarantine upon arrival.

Her lawyer, Jeremy Kirk, later said that Ms. Heard believed that Mr. Depp’s staff had taken care of the pets’ paperwork. They had not. The Australian authorities were not happy, and set down the conditions for the couple to make things right.

Mr. Joyce had strong words about Mr. Depp: “It basically looks like he sneaked them in,” he declared in May 2015. “Mr. Depp either has to take his dogs back to California or we’re going to have to euthanize them.”

That struck Mr. Depp and Ms. Heard as a tad extreme. Sympathetic observers started a hashtag, #WarOnTerrier, and created a petition asking for canine leniency. But celebrities aren’t above the law, Mr. Joyce maintained.

“If you start letting movie stars, even though they’ve been the ‘sexiest man alive’ twice, to come into our nation, then why don’t we just break the laws for everybody?” Mr. Joyce said.

In the end, Mr. Depp and Ms. Heard agreed to send the pups back to the United States.

A Fine, and That Video

In April, Ms. Heard pleaded guilty to providing false information on her passenger card. Prosecutors dropped the more serious charges, which could have led to two years in jail and a fine of 20,000 Australian dollars (about $15,350).

Ms. Heard and Mr. Depp made a video apology, which the Australian government uploaded to YouTube. The video, to put it bluntly, is awkward and quite excruciating to watch.