Johnny Depp exempt from Australian laws? Well... it would seem fair

We have built a world for stars in which bothersome issues such as quarantine are irrelevant

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The Independent Online

The whims of famous people may seem as fickle as the seasons, but in a few they are constant. Travelling with animals, for example. As the peerless photograph of Liz Taylor on a yacht moored by Tower Bridge with her dogs reveals, you are not an A-lister until you have a couple of four-leggers in your entourage.

I once interviewed the great Gregory Peck at the Cognac film festival. It took place on a bench outside a magnificent chateau. At the end, we stood up. Towering over me, Peck waved magisterially at a uniformed maid who came trotting over the perfect sward towards us. Beside her trotted two tiny Pekinese, the hair on their heads tied into matching beribboned bunches. He patted them fondly. This was when I realised that Peck took Hollywood with him wherever he was.

Today’s stars are no different, as evinced by Johnny Depp, who it seems also needs to travel with small furry animals for company. Last month, he arrived in Australia with two Yorkshire terriers, his beloved Pistol and Boo. Without a thought for quarantine regulations, Depp flew into Brisbane airport to film the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean without the necessary paperwork.

All was well until Pistol and Boo blew their cover by visiting Happy Dogz, a Brisbane grooming salon. The Australian authorities took a pretty dim view of this and demanded the dogs be off Oz soil within 72 hours, or it would be pistols for Pistol. And the other one. “Mr Depp has to take his dogs [back] to California or we are going to have to euthanise them,” growled Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Quite right too. This is what many intelligent and sane people around the world will be thinking. Why should these stars, with lives already full of privilege, be even more indulged by not having to go through the paperwork that we civilians have to? It’s certainly Mr Joyce’s view. “Just because he is Johnny Depp does not mean he is exempt from Australian law.”

Except it so often does. Thanks to our grovelling adulation of stars, we have organised a world for them in which bothersome issues such as quarantine are, quite frankly, irrelevant. Of course Depp didn’t think about quarantine. He has probably never had to bother himself with such bureaucracy, because he has “people” who look after all the boring bits of life, such as train tickets, car insurance, house purchasing and getting a new ironing board. Such is the world that the A-lister inhabits. A world that we have all conspired to build.

Cannes week is a handy annual reminder of the gilded cage in which we have incarcerated the ultra famous. I covered the film festival for the BBC for nearly a decade and I never ceased to be amazed by how the super-famous were treated. At a set time they would step out of giant limousines on to the requisite red carpet where they would run the gamut of about 2,000 photographers in the equally requisite black tie. Nobody was allowed to ask any questions, other than shouting “Over here! Over here!” as the celebrity wheeled and grinned and gurned on the steps of the Palais. Their hair was fixed, their make-up perfect, their borrowed clothes immaculate. They reminded me of toys, kept in a box all year round, and brought out to play with only on special occasions.

After the screening, they would attend the so-called “press conference”, during which they would answer fawning, pre-selected questions with a rictus smile and processed answers. Then the celebrity is driven to a giant hotel near a beautiful beach where he or she sits for eight hours before a poster advertising their film, in a room with no windows. A procession of staff will come to redo hair and makeup and ask exactly what sort of quinoa salad is required, and what type of avocado pear, while journalists queue up to ask identical questions at strict four-minute intervals.

As the quinoa salad is eaten, the journalists must back off. The celebrity must not be seen eating. Or drinking. Or doing anything normal and human. Indeed, they are not treated as human beings. Some brave celebrities balk at all this and insist on being given their lives back. Many do not.

Is it any wonder that Depp took his dogs to Brisbane without any notion of how the real world lives? How silly the authorities are for throwing the book at him. They should just thank the Lord that Depp and his “people” are paying millions to use Australia as the backdrop for his latest movie and throw Pistol and Boo a boomerang.

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