For decades, Johnny Depp’s acting career continued on an upward trajectory. Appearing in blockbuster after blockbuster, the only negative words written about the Hollywood A-lister came from the occasional film critic.
Until he married Amber Heard.
The two met while filming “The Rum Diary,” and began a relationship in 2012 after he separated from his longtime girlfriend Vanessa Paradis, with whom he has two children. The couple married in 2015 but separated a year later, officially divorcing in January 2017.
In 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement when scores of women were claiming men with even an ounce of notoriety had sexually harassed or assaulted them (a number of these accounts would later turn out to be greatly exaggerated or even falsified), Heard wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post and shared that she had been the victim of domestic violence. She didn’t name Depp as her abuser but claimed she suffered consequences for speaking out, though she wasn’t known for making such claims until that op-ed.
There was enough information in her op-ed for many, including Depp, to believe she was accusing him. Depp has since vehemently denied the allegations and insisted, with some evidence to back him up, that Heard was the actual abuser in the relationship.
He has taken to litigation in an attempt to clear his name, however it’s an uphill battle that is unlikely to go in his favor due to the difficulty public figures have in successfully suing for defamation. Depp’s first attempt to do so — when he sued British tabloid The Sun for defamation after it reported on Heard’s allegations and referred to Depp as a “wife beater” — failed in court. He needed to prove in these cases that he never attacked Heard, as was claimed. Depp was able to disprove 12 of Heard’s 14 allegations, but because proving a negative is nearly impossible, the judge in the case branded him a “monster” and refused to accept his claims.
Depp’s attorneys called the ruling “perverse” and “bewildering,” pointing out the mountain of evidence the judge appeared to have ignored in arriving at his decision.
“Most troubling is the Judge’s reliance on the testimony of Amber Heard, and corresponding disregard of the mountain of counter-evidence from police officers, medical practitioners, her own former assistant, other unchallenged witnesses and an array of documentary evidence which completely undermined the allegations, point by point. All of this was overlooked,” Depp’s attorney Jenny Afia said. “The judgment is so flawed that it would be ridiculous for Mr. Depp not to appeal this decision.”
That “mountain” of evidence included surveillance videos, eyewitness statements, audio, photos and more showing that Depp appeared to be the real victim.
“One of the testimonies comes from Trinity Esparza, who was the concierge at the penthouse where Heard claims Depp hit her in the face. Esparza now questions how Heard received the mark on her face she claimed was from Depp, after reviewing surveillance footage from three days later, when Heard’s sister Whitney pretended to punch her in the face, according to court documents,” The Daily Wire previously reported.
Depp’s attorneys also presented evidence that Heard attacked Depp while he was in bed and staged the attacks she claimed he committed.
“Unaware that members of Mr. Depp’s security team (including an 18-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department) were mere feet away, Ms. Heard falsely began yelling, ‘Stop hitting me, Johnny,’” Depp alleged in court documents. “The interaction culminated with Ms. Heard making false allegations that Mr. Depp struck her with a cell phone, hit her and destroyed the penthouse. There were multiple eyewitnesses to this hoax.”
Even more damning, Depp’s attorneys presented audio of Heard admitting to hitting the “Pirates of the Caribbean” actor.
“I’m sorry that I didn’t, uh, uh, hit you across the face in a proper slap, but I was hitting you, it was not punching you. Babe, you’re not punched,” Heard tells Depp in the recording. “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.”
Several of Depp’s ex-wives, girlfriends and former co-stars came to his defense, saying he was not abusive and never had been.
Winona Ryder, who was engaged to Depp for three years during the early ’90s, provided a declaration supporting Depp from the allegations.
“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,” she wrote in court documents obtained by The Blast. “I find it extremely upsetting knowing him as I do.”
Vanessa Paradis, who dated Depp for 14 years, also defended him from the allegations. “I am aware of the allegations which Amber Heard has publicly accused Johnny of for more than 4 years now,” Paradis wrote. “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,” she added. “This is so upsetting as he has helped so many persons [sic] in his personal and professional life, with kindness and generosity.”
Though Depp lost his defamation case in the U.K. (his appeal was denied as well), he has gotten some court wins for his current legal battle taking place in Fairfax, Virginia. Judge Penney Azcarate, who is overseeing the trial, refused to dismiss the case after Heard’s attorneys made several attempts to do just that. Last year, Depp also won a motion to force the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to disclose whether Heard actually paid the organization the millions of dollars she received from her divorce settlement with Depp. Heard claimed she donated the money, but questions have arisen as to whether she actually did, and the ACLU refused to say whether it received the money. Despite the ruling, however, the ACLU still has not disclosed whether Heard actually paid.
As the current defamation trial gets under way, the movie stars are lodging competing allegations of assault against each other, and Heard is now accusing Depp of sexual assault. Many of the witnesses so far have supported Depp’s version of events, with a former assistant of Heard’s saying the actress verbally abused her and that even Heard’s own mother and sister were “terrified” of her.
Another witness, the couple’s 2015 marriage counselor Laurel Anderson, testified that the violence was mutual but still seemed to put most of the blame on Heard, saying that the actress said it was a “point of pride” to start a fight with Depp. Anderson also noted that “if [Depp] was going to leave her to deescalate the fight, she would strike him to keep him there.” Anderson said she thought Depp may have initiated some fights but she was “less sure on” that.
As noted earlier, Depp faces a difficult task to prove that Heard defamed him with her op-ed, in which she didn’t name him. Further, the likelihood of him prevailing if the jury believes he hit her even once — regardless of if it was in self-defense — is low, due the nature of such allegations. Men are much less likely to be believed as victims and are easily seen as abusers with minimal evidence. Still, Depp does have supporters. They, along with Heard’s camp, have shown up outside the Fairfax, Virginia, courthouse where the trial is taking place.
There should be no question that Depp’s career and reputation have been more damaged by Heard’s unproven allegations than hers have been by becoming a #MeToo darling.
After claiming to be a victim, Heard received an award and became an ambassador on women’s rights at the ACLU. Depp, meanwhile, was forced to drop out of the “Fantastic Beasts” movie series after losing his defamation case in the U.K., though he was honored at two film festivals.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.