Warning: This article contains explicit language and may be triggering for some readers. Please read at your own discretion.
Depp testified in a U.K. libel case that hinges on who the aggressor was in the celebrity couple’s violent, toxic relationship on Tuesday.
The 57-year-old actor is suing British tabloid the Sun over an April 2018 story headlined “Potty — How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”
Depp strongly denies Heard’s claims that he assaulted her during their marriage and sued the Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, and its executive editor, Dan Wootton.
Depp, 57, and Heard, 34, arrived by separate entrances at the neo-Gothic court building. Both wore face coverings over their noses and mouths as they arrived. Proceedings have been spread over several courtrooms to allow for social distancing due to the novel coronavirus.
“These sick claims are totally untrue,” Depp said in a written witness statement, adding that his ex-wife’s allegations hurt his career and had “been a constant issue in my casting.”
A three-week trial over his libel claims opened Tuesday. The trial is one of the first to be held in person since Britain began to lift its coronavirus lockdown.
The Pirates of the Caribbean star entered the witness box of the wood-panelled courtroom and began by taking the court oath and giving his full name: John Christopher Depp II.
Depp told the court that Heard had “said to the world that she was in fear of her life from me, and I had been this horrible monster, if you will. Which was not the case.”
While Heard isn’t on trial, the case is also a showdown between the former spouses, who accuse each other of being controlling, violent and untruthful. It is set to put the two performers’ complex private lives under a microscope.
The Sun’s defence relies on Heard’s allegations of 14 incidents of violence by Depp between 2013 and 2016 in locations including Los Angeles, Australia, Japan, the Bahamas and a chartered jet. He denies them all and says Heard attacked him with items including a drink can and a cigarette. He also claims that on one occasion, Heard or one of her friends defecated on his bed.
“She was the abuser, not him,” Depp’s legal team, led by lawyer David Sherborne, said in a written statement. “She is a highly complex and aggressive individual who suffered extreme mood swings, would provoke endless circular arguments, and fly into violent rages.”
In written witness statements, Depp said that in Australia in 2015, Heard severed the tip of his finger by hurling a vodka bottle at him. A photo of the bloody digit was included with his witness statement.
The Edward Scissorhands star also claimed that Heard repeatedly punched him in the face on a private jet, which forced him to spend the flight locked in the plane’s bathroom.
“Rage-filled violent incidents on planes were common with Amber,” he said in the written statement.
Depp spoke about an incident in which Heard said he had hit her and he alleged the opposite.
“As things tended to do, (it) escalated and got physical, ending with a bit of assault. Ms. Heard struck me,” he said.
Depp described himself as the peacemaker who attempted to remove himself from situations between the two of them “before things got out of hand.”
In a written statement, Depp alleged that Heard was “a calculating, diagnosed borderline personality; she is sociopathic; she is a narcissist; and she is completely emotionally dishonest.”
“I am now convinced that she came into my life to take from me anything worth taking, and then destroy what remained of it,” Depp said.
Heard alleges that her ex-husband was prone to drink- and drug-fuelled violent rages.
Under cross-examination by the Sun’s lawyer, Sasha Wass, Depp acknowledged taking myriad drugs over the years, including marijuana, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, magic mushrooms and prescription painkillers.
Depp told the court that his drug use began when he was an 11-year-old child with “not a particularly stable or secure or safe home life.” He said it was “the only way that I found to numb the pain.”
Wass also tried to depict Depp as someone with an anger management problem and brought up a 1989 arrest for assault and a later incident in which he damaged a New York hotel room.
“I was angry, but that doesn’t mean I have an anger problem,” Depp said.
Wass also played a video clip recorded by Heard that shows Depp swearing and kicking kitchen cupboards before he poured red wine from a large bottle.
In response, Depp said he “wasn’t particularly proud of myself” over the footage, and he denied that it showed he became a “monster” when he drank.
“It’s not Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” he said to the courtroom.
Heard is due to give evidence later in the trial. Depp’s lawyer said Heard had recently asked that one allegation be heard in private “because of its supposedly horrific nature.”
Witnesses for Depp are scheduled to include his former partners Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder, both of whom have submitted statements supporting him.
Depp is also suing his ex-wife Heard in the United States for $50 million for allegedly defaming him in a Washington Post article about domestic abuse. That case is due to be heard next year.
Depp’s lawyer said in an opening statement that the actor had brought the case against the Sun to “clear his reputation.”
“This is not a case about money,” he said. “It is about vindication.”
Depp’s lawyers said the judge would have to decide between two starkly opposing accounts of the relationship.
“There is no real room for a middle ground here,” they said. “One side is plainly lying, and to an extraordinary extent.”
Last week, the Sun’s lawyers applied for the case to be dismissed on the grounds that Depp failed to disclose text messages he exchanged with an assistant showing that he tried to buy “MDMA and other narcotics” while he was in Australia with Heard in 2015.
Judge Andrew Nicol ruled that Depp had breached a court order but said “it would not be just” to throw out the actor’s claim.
He also rejected an attempt by Depp to force Heard to disclose evidence, including communications with actor James Franco and Space-X founder Elon Musk, with whom she allegedly had affairs while involved with Depp.
The judge said the issue of Heard’s extramarital relations was irrelevant to the central issue in the case, which is “whether Mr. Depp assaulted Ms. Heard.”
Depp’s lawyer Adam Waldman confirmed the audio is a real recording from 2015.
In the recording, Depp and Heard debate an incident in which she allegedly punched and injured him.
“After you got f—ing physically violent with me… I texted Travis and I said: ‘Come up here,’” Depp says in the recording.
“I know! Come and save me,” Heard says, mocking Depp. “Continue… Travis to the rescue.”
“Come what? Save me? That was the last one,” Depp says. “You can go.”
At another point in the conversation, Depp says: “I told you to tell Travis that you punched me in the f—ing face, and you said, ‘No, I didn’t, what the f–k are you talking about?”
“I didn’t punch you, by the way,” Heard interjects. “I’m sorry that I didn’t hit you across the face in a proper slap but I was hitting you. It was not punching you.
“Babe, you’re not punched … I don’t know what the motion of my actual hand was, but you’re fine. I did not hurt you, I did not punch you; I was hitting you.”
“Don’t tell me what it feels like to be punched when you f—ing have a closed fist…” the Pirates of the Caribbean actor says.
“You didn’t get punched. You got hit. I’m sorry I hit you like this but I didn’t punch you. You didn’t get f—ing decked. I f—ing was hitting you,” Heard tells Depp.
“You’re a f—ing baby. You’re such a baby,” Heard says.
Depp asks: “Because you start physical fights?”
(Warning: The recording below contains explicit language.)
At another point in the recording, Depp says: “I do not want to leave you. I do not want a divorce, I do not want you out of my life. I just want peace. If things get physical, we have to separate.”
Heard says she can’t promise she will “be perfect. I can’t promise you I won’t get physical again.”
“God, I f—ing — sometimes, I get so mad I lose it. I can f—ing promise you I will do everything to change. I promise you. I’m not going to throw around divorce,” she says.
“I love you and I want you to be my wife. And I want to be your husband,” Depp responds. “And I wanna be a good husband. If I haven’t been, I’ll do everything I can to find out how to be a good husband.”
Depp’s lawyer said that Heard “recorded her conversations with Depp.”
“The first confessional tape she made reveals a conversation any real abuse victim will recognize all too well,” Waldman said. “It exposes that Ms. Heard perpetrated serial violence against Mr. Depp, and then concocted an elaborate abuse hoax to cover it up. Ms. Heard gives a motive for her violence: Mr. Depp was always trying to ‘split’ to escape her abuse.”
Heard’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, said that she was also a victim of abuse and did not address the audio recording.
“The fact that a woman fights or talks back does not mean that she has not been the subject of repeated domestic violence and abuse,” the statement read. “It’s a myth to say, as Mr. Depp apparently is implying, that if Ms. Heard slapped him, then she can’t also be a victim. That is just not true.”
Depp and Heard — who met while filming The Rum Diary in 2011 — were married on Feb. 3, 2015. On May 23, 2016, Heard filed for divorce, seeking spousal support. She cited irreconcilable differences as the reason. They were officially divorced on Jan. 13, 2017.
Four days after filing for divorce, Heard requested a temporary domestic violence restraining order against Depp, which the judge granted after she submitted multiple photos as evidence of alleged assault, one of which purportedly shows the actress with what appears to be a bruise on her right eye. She claimed that incident took place on May 21, less than 48 hours before she filed.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
Are you or someone you know experiencing abuse? Visit the Department of Justice’s Victim Services Directory for a list of support services in your area.
Women, trans and non-binary people can find an additional list of resources here.
— With files from the Associated Press