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The Strange Joy of Watching Johnny Depp Apologize for Sneaking Dogs into Australia

Stars, they're just like us: When they bring dogs into Australia without filling out the proper paperwork, they have to appear on camera to apologize to the country.

by Harry Cheadle
19 April 2016, 12:00am

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Stars, they're just like us: When they bring dogs into Australia without filling out the proper paperwork, they have to appear on camera to apologize to the country and remind everyone of the importance of biosecurity.

That's the strange position actress Amber Heard and her husband, Johnny Depp, found themselves in after a controversy that stemmed from Heard bringing a pair of dogs via a private jet to Australia last year without declaring them to authorities or putting them under quarantine—a big no-no as the country is serious about making sure foreign pests and pathogens stay outside its borders.

As the New York Times reported, this led to Australian officials telling the couple they'd have to get the dogs out of the country, or they'd be killed (the dogs, not the actors). They got them out, but then publicly shit-talked Australia, kicking off a minor media circus that got dubbed the "war on terrier" and involved Russell Brand at one point. But finally, in a conclusion that strongly resembles a plot point in that episode of The Simpsons where they go to Australia, Heard and Depp were pretty much let off scot-free, as long as they apologized.

That is the why of that above video, but the what is more difficult to explain. It kicks off with Heard calling Australia a "wonderful island"—kind of a backhanded compliment, no? and Depp refers to Australians as "warm and direct." He also says that "if you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly."

"Protecting Australia is important," Heard adds.

The words are all there, but something is strangely off about the whole thing, like the forced apology of a middle school kid who is mostly sorry that he got caught. For trained actors, the couple doesn't seem to really be interested in emoting, reciting their lines in monotone. Depp tosses his head around, mumbles like a late-period Brando, and seems unable to sit still for longer than a few seconds. You get the sense that Heard, however muted, is giving it her best shot—when she says, "I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared," it seems like she means it—but Depp seems impatient, bored of the hotel room or wherever they are, eager to get out of there, so he can start production on Pirates of the Caribbean 8: People Still Like These Films, Right?

The video clip is weirdly mesmerizing in a way, maybe because it's that rare example of famous people stripped of all pretense—they're not performing roles on the screen, and they're not even performing as their own public personas. They're just two people who fucked up and now have to deal with the consequences of it. The lighting is bad, the location (a hotel room?) is grubby, Depp's makeup is smeared—it's just a crappy vlog, basically, and the stars are no more interesting than your average suburban couple.

Depp has made millions from surreal roles as impossibly alluring outsiders, but here he's just a 52-year-old man who has to do something he doesn't want to because his wife didn't fill out a form. The couple never faced jail time or a major fine (though smuggling animals into Australia can be a serious crime), but they were forced to appear in a video that's an instant schadenfreude classic, a terrific example of the rich and beautiful being reduced to a pair of jerks who can't even fake contrition for 40 seconds.

If you are thinking about bringing your pets on an international vacation, even if you don't have a private jet, you are probably a smart and fancy enough person to google laws about bringing animals across oceans and make sure you don't break them. Australia is a wonderful island.