Johnny Depp's focus over the last several months has been on anything but making movies as his legal battle with Amber Heard continues to take unexpected twists and turns. However, at the moment Depp is focusing on the work as he is currently in Germany for a special Berlin Film Festival gala screening of his new movie Minamata, about U.S. photographer W Eugene Smith. Depp plays Smith in the film, which he also helped produce.
In the early 1970s, W Eugene Smith and his wife Aileen M. Smith were living near Minamata, Japan where people had been getting sick due to extreme mercury poisoning since the 1950s. This was due to heavy metal discharge in the local water by an area chemical plant. Smith and his wife documented what came to be known as Minamata disease in a photo essay, which is the source material for the new film.
More than simply being the star or a producer on Minamata, director Andrew Levitas’ tells Deadline that Johnny Depp was the driving force behind the film's production, saying...
Johnny is too humble to say it; this came from him. All the passion and what we were able to do in terms of pulling it together came out of Johnny’s heart and built from there, it mattered.
Johnny Depp tends to be one of the more prolific top level stars in Hollywood, with multiple films coming out every year. However, that output has basically come to a standstill. Minamata is currently the only film Depp has set to release this year, and the only other thing he's currently signed to do is Fantastic Beasts 3 which releases next year.
It's likely that Depp's personal life has forced him to take a step back from making movies, but if Depp himself was the driving force behind Minamata, then it would seem that the lack of quantity might have improved the quality of Depp's work. He was perhaps able to focus on this film because he didn't have a great deal else to work on, and that could show in the final result.
Based on Depp's own comments to Deadline, it seems the actor was really affected by learning about the events of Minamata, Japan an event which isn't widely known. Part of the value of the film is that it will make people more aware of what took place.
While the movie is premiering at the Berlin Film Festival now, it's not set to actually debut anywhere else in the world until September, although the film doesn't have a U.S. release date currently scheduled at all. Perhaps the showing in Berlin will aid with that if the movie has strong buzz once its been seen.