Lawyers for Johnny Depp, actor-producer, have accused Amber Heard, his ex-wife, of deceptively assuming a victim role in what they dismissed as the actress’s “obsession” with her public image.
Depp’s multi-million defamation suit against her went to a trial, starting in Virginia on April 11 with jury selection.
He claimed a 2018 domestic violence piece written by Heard in The Washington Post, had implied he was abusive.
Heard didn’t name the actor but Depp’s lawyers said her allegations made it difficult for him to land acting roles.
On the day of opening arguments, Camille Vasquez, a lawyer for Depp, told jurors Heard had been the aggressor.
She said Heard concocted a role for herself as a victim after Depp asked her for a divorce to “avoid humiliation”.
“She is obsessed with her public image. She has been living and breathing this role for years now and she is preparing to give the performance of her life,” Vasquez said.
Lawyers for Heard countered that the actress endured emotional, verbal, and physical harassment at Depp’s hands.
“Mr. Depp wants to haunt her, to wreck her career,” Ben Rottenborn, her attorney, argued.
Christi Dembrowski, Depp’s older sister, while responding to questions from Depp’s lawyer, described a volatile childhood that she and Depp had experienced, shaped by their mother’s abuse.
“Mom would, she would scream, she would yell. She would hit [dad], call him names. Depp never fought back,” she said.
Dembrowski described her famous sibling as a “gentle and loving brother, son, and father to his two children”.
She said her brother’s attitude changed and he seemed “sadder” when he became involved with Heard.
Recalling an instance when Dior wanted to hire Depp for an ad, Dembrowski said Heard would often insult Depp.
“She [Heard] said, ‘Dior, why would Dior want to do business with you? You don’t have style. She called him an old fat man,” Dembrowski added.
Depp’s failed relationships
Depp and Lori Anne Allison, makeup artist, were married from 1983 until 1985.
In the late 1980s, he was engaged to Jennifer Grey and Sherilyn Fenn before proposing in 1990 to Winona Ryder.
Between 1994 and 1997, he was in a relationship with the English model Kate Moss.
Following his break-up with Moss, Depp began a relationship with French actress Vanessa Paradis, whom he met while filming ‘The Ninth Gate’ in France in 1998.
They have two children, daughter Lily-Rose Melody Depp and son John Christopher ‘Jack’ Depp III.
The Depp-Heard divorce
After his relationship with Paradis, Depp began dating Heard, with whom he co-starred in ‘The Rum Diary’ (2011).
The couple married in a civil ceremony in February 2015 but Heard would file for divorce in May 2016.
Heard had alleged he had been verbally and physically abusive throughout their relationship, usually while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Depp denied these claims and alleged that she was “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution”.
A settlement was reached in August 2016, and the divorce was finalised in January 2017.
Depp paid Heard a settlement of $7 million, which she pledged to donate to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).
In November 2020, the high court ruled that 12 of the 14 incidents of violence claimed by Heard were “substantially true”.
It rejected Depp’s claim of a hoax and accepted that the allegations Heard had made against Depp had damaged her career and activism.
Protracted legal tussle
Following the verdict, Depp resigned from the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise, after being asked to do so by Warner Bros, his production company.
Depp sought to appeal the verdict, with his lawyers accusing Heard of not following through on the charity pledge.
In response, Heard’s legal team stated that she had not donated the full amount yet due to the lawsuits against her by Depp.
Depp’s appeal to overturn the verdict was rejected by the court of appeal in March 2021.
Depp also sued Heard for defamation in Virginia, US in early 2019 over the op-ed she wrote about abusive relationships, which had been published by The Washington Post in December 2018.
He alleged that Heard had been the abuser and that her allegations constituted a hoax against him.
Depp added that, as a consequence, Disney had declined to cast him in future projects.
The defamation case against Heard went to trial in Fairfax County, Virginia on April 11, 2022.
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