Johnny Depp is well-known for his acting roles, from 21 Jump Street to Pirates of the Caribbean. While Johnny is an established actor, he hasn’t spoken very often about his parents, Betty Sue Palmer and John Christopher Depp. The actor is the youngest of four kids that the divorced couple had during their relationship. While Johnny’s relationship with his mom and dad has mostly been kept quiet, the actor has brought up a number of shocking claims during the defamation trial against Amber Heard. Find out more about Johnny’s mom and dad here.
Betty Sue Palmer
Johnny’s mother Betty was a waitress during his childhood. Betty and her then-husband John were living in Owensboro, Kentucky when Johnny was born, but the family moved around a lot during Johnny’s childhood, as he revealed in a 2002 interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio. His parents split up when he was 15 in 1978. Johnny told James Lipton that he focused on his mom after the divorce. “She’s just one of the smartest, funniest, greatest people I’ve ever been lucky enough to know,” he said at the time. “She is truly one of my best friends.”
After the divorce, Johnny described the period as a “dark” time for his mom. He revealed that he walked in on his mother overdosing on pills shortly after the split in his testimony during the defamation trial with Amber Heard. He also revealed that he began using drugs as a result of the “trauma” his childhood brought on. “It’s been for trying to numb the things inside that can plague someone who has experienced trauma,” he said, per The New York Post.
Betty remarried to a man named Robert Palmer, who spent much time in prison. The actor explained that the 2015 Hollywood Vampires song “As Bad As I Am” was an ode to him in an interview with USA Today. “He was this really cool guy. He was a bit of a rounder. He spent about half his life in prison, in Statesville Ill. And he had this toast. ‘Here’s to you, as good as you are. Here’s to me, as bad as I am. You’re still as good as you are, as bad as I am,’” he said.
Despite clearly loving his mom, Johnny has been open about receiving beatings from her during his childhood, while his dad was mostly out of the picture. “Yeah, there were irrational beatings,” he told Rolling Stone in a June 2018 interview. “Maybe it’s an ashtray coming your way. Maybe you’re gonna get clunked with the phone.” When his mother died in 2016, he described her not so kindly at her funeral. “My mom was maybe the meanest human being I have ever met in my life,” he told the magazine.
During the trial, Johnny’s relationship with his mom was brought back to the forefront once again. He detailed being whipped by a belt, as well as other forms of both physical and psychological abuse that the actor claims his mom took part in, via The New York Post. “There was quite a lot of name calling,” he said in his testimony.
John Christopher Depp
The actor revealed that his father was a civil engineer in the Inside The Actor’s studio interview. After the divorce, Johnny said that his father had left the family when he was 15, around the time that he’d dropped out of school and was performing in bands. He confronted his dad after he left unexpectedly. “He said, ‘I’m done. I can’t. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t live it anymore. You’re the man now,’” he explained in his testimony. “Those words didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t feel like I was ready to hear those words.”
Johnny said that at the time he felt like his father’s leaving was “cowardly,” but he’s since reached out to his dad to gain more perspective on why he left. Since his dad left, Johnny appears to have forgiven him and gained more understanding, having called him a “good man” in his testimony, per The Post. “He apologized to me for having gone through the whipping — the belt,” he said. The actor said that his dad wasn’t abusive. “At the same time my father was to some degree at the mercy of Betty Sue.”