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Johnny Depp’s VMAs cameo is the latest stop on his redemption tour

With NASA having scrapped Monday’s planned moon rocket launch over engine issues, it seems the only astronaut to capture the public’s attention early this week was … Johnny Depp?

The actor made a brief cameo at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards as the Moonperson, the VMAs mascot generally present at the show in trophy form. This year, producers made the choice to bring the Moonperson to life. After Lizzo’s opening performance, a figure in a spacesuit appeared above the crowd, suspended from the ceiling. The visor opened to reveal a video recording of Depp’s face.

“Hey, you know what? I needed the work,” he said in one of a few appearances during the show.

The bizarre moment — perhaps on brand for this particular award ceremony — marked Depp’s first major public appearance since winning his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which she described herself as representative of domestic abuse. After a June verdict landing largely in Depp’s favor, awarding him $15 million in damages and Heard $2 million for a counterclaim, the 59-year-old actor said, “The jury gave me my life back.”

Depp has charted his career revival in realms beyond MTV as well. Less than a week after the verdict — around the time he created a TikTok account, which as of Monday boasts 16.5 million followers — Depp stood alongside British guitarist Jeff Beck as Beck announced at a concert that they would be releasing an album together. And though he joked about needing work, Depp has already booked multiple film gigs, including a biopic about the artist Modigliani that he will direct and co-produce with Al Pacino.

Dior, which has employed Depp as the celebrity face of its Sauvage cologne since 2015, stood by him throughout the high-profile trial and reportedly re-upped his contract earlier this month with a multiyear, seven-figure deal. The fashion house did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for confirmation, but its Instagram account hinted at a continued partnership the day before reports of the deal spread when it shared photos of Depp backstage at a musical performance.

“Fearless yet human, just like Sauvage,” the caption read.

Heard, 36, has maintained that she didn’t intend for Depp to lose work as a result of her publishing the op-ed, as she told “Today” show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie in a sit-down interview after the verdict’s delivery: “I have no bad feelings or ill will toward him at all,” Heard said. “I know that might be hard to understand, or it might be really easy to understand if you’ve ever loved anyone.”

Lawyers representing Heard in July filed notice to appeal the verdict, which attorney Elaine Bredehoft said in a separate “Today” appearance sent “a horrible message” to women who have survived domestic abuse. Depp’s team followed suit, filing their own notice to appeal the following day.

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