In the days leading up to the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, which took place Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., rumors circulated about a surprise appearance by actor and part-time rocker Johnny Depp — which would be his first major U.S. public outing since his defamation trial with ex-wife Amber Heard ended a little less than three months ago. A source told the New York Post that Depp was “really excited” for his post-verdict “comeback,” but when the five-time MTV Movie Awards-winner made three brief, bizarre cameos during Sunday’s VMAs ceremony, it wasn’t exactly the triumphant return he or his fans might have expected.
Somewhat anticlimactically, but also somewhat amusingly, Depp’s augmented-reality face was digitally superimposed on the helmet of a giant Moonperson that was suspended, much like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade float, above the Prudential Center stage. “You know what? I needed the work," Depp quipped. After a commercial break, he returned in his hologrammic flying-astronaut guise to suggest, “Hey, VMAs, let's get back to the f***ing music, shall we?”
Later, during Depp’s final appearance, things got even weird, as he once again joked about being desperate for employment. “I just want you guys to know I’m available for birthdays, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, weddings, wakes… Any old thing you need, you name it,” he deadpanned. “Oh — and I’m also a dentist.”
Many fans appreciated Depp’s self-deprecating humor, and they took to Twitter to show their support.
— michelle (@michelleMHC1) August 29, 2022
— Johnny Depp is a angel ❤ #JohnnyDeppisaicon (@angelove2222) August 29, 2022
johnny depp popping on screen at the VMAs for 2 seconds and then saying “what can I say, I needed the work” was lowkey hilarious ngl
— dani devito (@rxqueen1993) August 29, 2022
oh my fuck, he's a legend, i'm so happy for him, overcoming all the barriers that kept him from being happy these last 6 years, he shines and shines a lot #JohnnyDeppRisesVMA #VMAs #JohnnyDepp #JohnnyDeppKeepsWinning #JohnnyDeppMoonMan #JOHNNY pic.twitter.com/xnWJOhPqGn
— MayluckD3pp🏴☠️🏴☠️ #JohnnyDeppForever (@MayyLua) August 29, 2022
However, other MTV viewers were confused by the randomness of it all, while many Heard supporters were downright appalled that Heard’s alleged abuser had been invited to participate in in the VMAs broadcast in any capacity.
i can’t stop laughing, this is what his fans called “johnny depp’s big comeback” pic.twitter.com/6ttPkd5Pjk
— lilian (@liliandaisies) August 29, 2022
“Johnny Depp’s big comeback” and it made no noise…not a single scream, not a single clap, NOTHING! 😭 pic.twitter.com/E9OPpoRrcT
— karim (@mutantfate) August 29, 2022
Why is a Johnny depp computer screen being hoisted around the vmas like this pic.twitter.com/N7veURxfRc
— Kat Tenbarge (@kattenbarge) August 29, 2022
honestly fuck the VMA’s for including Johnny Depp. the entire crowd of Amber’s industry peers are cheering for her abuser. it makes me sick. the industry hasn’t changed at all. not surprised, but still so disappointed.
— shane (@shxnerusso) August 29, 2022
this is disgusting
— Kon (@coastfreakk) August 29, 2022
You know what’s wild about Johnny Depp’s appearance at the VMAs? Before this year, they have never made a point to even mention his ass in regards to ANYTHING music. This was some weird, intentional, line-in-the-sand ass stance they arbitrarily took to piss people off.
— SP𖤐𖤐KY (they•he) (@leoxeloo) August 29, 2022
Meanwhile, Depp was apparently thrilled with his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it “comeback,” taking to his own social media to share a clip from the VMAs ceremony with the caption “guess who?”
On June 1, a Fairfax County Circuit Court jury awarded Depp $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages, finding that Heard had defamed him in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed about sexual violence. (Heard won $2 million in her countersuit; she insists that her op-ed did not defame her ex-husband, and her attorneys are appealing the case.) “Six years later, the jury gave me my life back. I am truly humbled,” Depp declared in a statement after the controversial verdict was read.
The 2022 MTV Music Awards were co-hosted by Nicki Minaj, LL Cool J, and Jack Harlow. Minaj received the Video Vanguard Award, while the Red Hot Chili Peppers were presented with another lifetime-achievement honor, the Global Icon Award. Other performers included K-pop group BLACKPINK, country crooner Kane Brown, Italian glam-rock band Måneskin, emo veterans Panic! At the Disco, EDM star Marshmello with Khalid, Lizzo, Eminem and Snoop Dogg, and Latin sensations Anitta, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin. For a complete list of winners, click here.
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