Warning: This article may be triggering for some readers. Please read at your own discretion.
Johnny Depp’s former partners Winona Ryder and Vanessa Paradis had been scheduled to give evidence in the actor’s libel suit on Thursday against a British tabloid that accused him of assaulting Amber Heard.
Depp’s lawyer said that he no longer needed to call them “much as it would have been a pleasure to have them here,” because The Sun does not contest Depp’s claim that he never hit them.
Depp is suing the Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers, and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article headlined “Potty — How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” Depp strongly denies abusing Heard.
Depp and French singer Paradis had two children during a 14-year relationship that ended in 2012. American actress Ryder dated Depp for several years in the early 1990s.
Lawyers released statements from Ryder and Paradis, who were both due to appear via video and both said they could not reconcile Heard’s accusations of violence with the kind and loving man they knew.
“I knew Johnny very well years ago. We were together as a couple for four years, and I counted him as my best friend, and as close to me as family,” Ryder’s statement began.
“I count our relationship as one of the more significant relationships of my life.
“I understand that it is very important that I speak from my own experience, as I obviously was not there during his marriage to Amber, but, from my experience, which was so wildly different, I was absolutely shocked, confused and upset when I heard the accusations against him,” she continued.
Ryder said that the “idea that he is an incredibly violent person is the farthest thing from the Johnny I knew and loved.
“I cannot wrap my head around these accusations. He was never, never violent towards me. He was never, never abusive at all towards me.
“He has never been violent or abusive towards anybody I have seen. I truly and honestly only know him as a really good man – an incredibly loving, extremely caring guy who was so very protective of me and the people that he loves, and I felt so very, very safe with him.
“I do not want to call anyone a liar but from my experience of Johnny, it is impossible to believe that such horrific allegations are true. I find it extremely upsetting knowing him as I do.”
Paradis said in a witness statement that she had always known Depp to be “a kind, attentive, generous, and non-violent person and father.”
Depp and Paradis have two children together; Lily-Rose, 21, and Jack, 18.
“I have known Johnny for more than 25 years,” her statement began. “We’ve been partners for 14 years and we raised our two children together.
“Through all these years I’ve known Johnny to be a kind, attentive, generous, and non-violent person and father.
“On movie sets the actors, directors and entire crews adore him because he is humble and respectful to everyone, as well as being one of the best actors we’ve seen.
“I am aware of the allegations which Amber Heard has publicly accused Johnny of for more than four years now. This is nothing like the true Johnny I have known, and from my personal experience of many years, I can say he was never violent or abusive to me.
“I have seen that these outrageous statements have been really distressing, and also caused damage to his career because unfortunately people have gone on believing these false facts.
“This is so upsetting as he has helped so many persons in his personal and professional life, with kindness and generosity.”
Depp’s security chief testified in the libel suit on Thursday that Heard physically abused Depp during the couple’s tempestuous marriage.
In a written witness statement released as he appeared in court, security officer Sean Bett said that “throughout the course of Mr. Depp and Ms. Heard’s relationship, Ms. Heard was verbally and physically abusive towards Mr. Depp.”
“On many occasions, I witnessed her shout at Mr. Depp. I was also told by Mr. Depp on multiple occasions that Ms. Heard had physically abused him,” he said.
Bett, a former Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy who has worked for Depp for a decade, said he regularly had to remove the Pirates of the Caribbean star from bad situations when Heard was in an “abusive mood.”
“Ms. Heard often behaved in this way when she had been drinking. I learnt quickly to recognize the signs so that we were able to leave the situation before it escalated further,” he said.
Bett was cross-examined Thursday by The Sun’s lawyer, Sasha Wass, who questioned his claim that he had never seen Heard with bruises or marks on her face or body but had several times seen Depp with bruises inflicted by his wife.
There was a dispute about the date of a photo of the actor’s bruised face taken by Bett, and Wass suggested Bett was lying to protect his employer.
“Ma’am you can call me a liar a hundred times. I’m not a liar. I’m telling the truth,” Bett said.
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 the incident took place on May 21, less than 48 hours before she filed.
In March 2019, Depp sued Heard in a US$50-million defamation lawsuit, citing a piece she wrote for the Washington Post about domestic abuse.
The complaint said that while Depp was not named in the Post article, it was clear Heard was talking about him. The lawsuit called her ongoing allegations of domestic abuse “categorically and demonstrably false.”
“They were part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career,” the lawsuit said, claiming: “She is the perpetrator.”
The suit said Depp has suffered financial losses because of the accusations, including being dropped from his role as Capt. Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
In her article, published in the Post in December 2018, Heard also said she lost an acting role and a contract with a major fashion brand because she went public with her claims of abuse.
“I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath,” Heard wrote, adding that she felt as though she was “on trial in the court of public opinion.”
Heard asked a judge to dismiss the defamation lawsuit in April 2019.
While neither Heard nor Depp is on trial, the case is a showdown between the former spouses, who accuse each other of being controlling, violent and deceitful during their tempestuous marriage.
Heard is due to give her side of the story when she enters the witness box next week.
Depp’s $50-million lawsuit is due to be heard next year.
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