An international feud between a celebrated Hollywood actor and an Australian government official, already a strange spectacle, keeps getting stranger.
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.
“Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are commonplace around the world,” Ms. Heard says without enthusiasm. “That is why Australia has to have such strong biosecurity laws.”
Mr. Depp continues, with the energy of a man who hadn’t had his espresso yet: “And Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct. When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly.”
“I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared,” Ms. Heard says. “Protecting Australia is important.”
Mr. Depp closes with a passionless word of advice: “Declare everything when you enter Australia. Thanks.”
Mr. Joyce was unimpressed, mocking the couple’s video by saying it looked as if Mr. Depp was “auditioning for ‘The Godfather.’”
“I don’t think he’ll get an Academy Award for his performance,” he said, according to the BBC.
A War of Words
On “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Mr. Depp revisited the whole saga, dryly criticizing “the choice they made to utilize the taxpayers’ dollars to globally chase down a couple teacup Yorkies and give them 50 hours to live.”
Mr. Kimmel asked who had written the video apology, and Mr. Depp dodged by replying: “A genius.” He said he didn’t watch the iPhone-produced video before it was released “because I didn’t want to kill myself.”
Then he turned to the subject of Mr. Joyce, saying: “He looks somehow inbred with a tomato. It’s not a criticism, I was a little worried. He might explode.”
Mr. Joyce lobbed his own barbs the next day, telling reporters, “I’m inside his head.”
“I’m pulling little strings and pulling little levers. Long after I’ve forgotten about Mr. Depp, he’s remembering me,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “I’m turning into his Hannibal Lecter.”
But Mr. Joyce said the case had serious implications, and he thanked Mr. Depp for the publicity given to biosecurity laws.