For movie fans hoping to gawk at Johnny Depp’s quirky castle in West Hollywood, it’s virtually impossible to see. But there’s a weird history behind this home.
Among the many shocking stories to be aired in the defamation trial Johnny Depp has brought against his ex-wife Amber Heard is a video that the actress clandestinely recorded at Depp’s West Hollywood home.
In it, the actor is seen kicking, banging and slamming kitchen cabinets, and yelling “motherf***er” in the gothic kitchen of the unusual house.
The property is a replica of a Bavarian castle which looks more like the set of a horror movie, replete with turrets, towers and battlements, than it does a Californian home, New York Postreports.
For Hollywood movie fans hoping to gawk at the quirky castle on Sweetzer Ave, near the famous Sunset Strip, it’s virtually an impossible task. The house is hidden on a cul-de-sac, behind lush foliage and trees planted for privacy. All that can be seen from street is the front gate.
Still, that doesn’t stop tour buses from hauling loads of fans up to try to get a look.
“We were getting these vans with open tops and the people are talking and cheering and yelling – and it’s been annoying,” John Ryan, 63, who’s lived on the street for 28 years, told The Post.
Strange history of Hollywood ‘castle’
As bizarre as it is seeing a gothic castle in the midst of LaLa Land palm trees, the history of the property is even stranger.
Depp purchased the castle in 1995 for $US2.3 million from flamboyant lawyer-to-the-stars Marvin Mitchelson, whose most famous case was the pioneering the claim to “palimony” in a landmark case against actor Lee Marvin by his live-in girlfriend. The late lawyer, who had a well-publicized jet-set lifestyle, had turned the castle’s interior into an elaborate showplace.
He lost the seven-bedroom, nine-bathroom estate in bankruptcy after a tax fraud conviction that led to him serving two years in prison. He died in 2004 aged 76.
“After Mitchelson lost the castle,” Mr Ryan said, “it fell into disrepair. When Johnny Depp bought it he spent quite a time renovating it, trucking in huge trees to completely hide it. Over the years he bought the five or six houses on the circle and one of them he uses for a recording studio. At that time he was throwing money away like crazy.”
The castle was designed in 1931 and built over six years by Hersee Moody Carson, an eccentric former schoolteacher from Louisiana who became wealthy thanks to her third and fourth husbands.
Her third husband, Beverly Hills businessman Peter Gross, committed suicide after being blackmailed by his housekeeper over an affair they were having.
Hersee then wed George Campbell Carson, a coal miner who earned his millionaire status after spending almost two decades in court battling mining companies over a patent infringement. He won $20 million from them in 1925.
Hersee went on a spending spree, buying art and antiques – including Louis XVI furniture and Hepplewhite cabinetry – for the castle which she dubbed “Mount Kalmia” in honor of a mountain laurel flower.
According to Los Angeles realtor and researcher James Colin Campbell, who has investigated the castle’s history, Hersee “hired 100 workers to build the three-storey, 7,500-square-foot (700sq m) castle which she designed herself as she went along – no expense was spared”.
The amenities included 125 stained glass windows, handpainted wallpaper and an underground conveyor belt running from the street to the kitchen for deliveries. Once the castle was completed in 1933, Hersee divorced Carson who died the following year after cutting her out of his will. She sued his Carson family heirs and won a settlement.
But it was too late: During the early years of World War II, the city of Los Angeles bought the place for $9000 after Hersee fell delinquent on her taxes. (She died in 1972 aged 93.)
Famous faces to live in mansion
It was then leased to a burlesque dancer who turned it into a boarding house with 38 renters, among them a comedy writer for Bob Hope.
For years, the castle has been rumored to have been the eerie domicile of Hollywood legend Bela Lugosi, famous for his portrayal of Dracula, but that was a fiction made up by tour guide operators to generate business and interest.
In the 1950s, the house was occupied by Noah Dietrich, who oversaw the movie-making empire of billionaire Howard Hughes. Dietrich ran RKO Pictures and TWA Airlines and Hughes reportedly tasked him with “making me the richest man in the world”. It’s not known how much he paid for the house or how long he lived there – all apparently part of the secrecy surrounding him and his boss.
During the ’70s, the castle was the setting for posh parties, with up to 400 revelers entertained at the soirees held by then-owner Berry Gordy, the Motown legend who helped make the likes of Diana Ross famous. (He also secretly fathered her daughter Rhonda.)
Heard preferred penthouse to castle
But despite the castle’s popularity over the generations, it apparently wasn’t Amber Heard’s cup of tea ascertained from a document entered into evidence at her defamation trial. The letter from a former lawyer for Heard threatened to serve Depp, 58, with a restraining order if he did not continue to let the actress, 36, live rent-free at three of his penthouses in a hip downtown Los Angeles building.
The actor purchased a collection of five penthouses in the Eastern Columbia Building between 2007 and 2008. During their turbulent two-year union, Heard moved around with Depp to his various residences, but it was rare for the couple to stay at the castle – or any one place – for very long.
At one point, Depp’s Pirates Of The Caribbean co-star Orlando Bloom moved into the castle for a time.
Depp also owns a French village replete with its own skate park and bistro, which is now for sale for $77 million. He has a 16 hectare ranch in his home state of Kentucky, a 150-year-old mansion in England, and his own island in the Bahamas.
Meanwhile, the West Hollywood castle continues to attract tourists – even as neighbor Mr Ryan has tried to deter them.
“As a neighbor of Mr Depp, I implore you to please not go there!” he once posted on TripAdvisor.com. “All you’re doing is bothering everyone in the area with no pay-off! I have lived across the street since Mr Depp moved in many years ago, and I have seen him ONE TIME! Trust me, you won’t see him.”
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and has been republished with permission