What to Know About the Defamation Case Between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

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The $50 million defamation case rocking Hollywood.

One of the most tumultuous Hollywood divorces in recent memory is back in the headlines. This week, the defamation trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard kicked off — here’s some background on the case, and where things stand now.

The sure-to-be-explosive U.S. defamation case begins

The trial between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard began Monday in a Virginia court. Depp is suing Heard for $50 million over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post about her experience as a survivor of “domestic abuse.” Heard is countersuing for $100 million.

In his lawsuit, Depp denied he was abusive during their short marriage, and claimed that Heard had made up the allegations, in order to raise her celebrity profile by becoming a “darling of the #MeToo movement.”

Jury selection began Monday for the trial, which is expected to last about six weeks. Both Heard and Depp are expected to testify. The trial’s being televised — meaning it’ll be picked apart and publicized in real time — and the witness list includes a roster of celebrities, including Elon Musk and James Franco.

More on the U.K. defamation case  

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Depp has already sued for defamation in the U.K. The Pirates of the Caribbean actor sued the parent company for the British tabloid The Sun for calling him a “wife beater” in print. 

Depp lost, with a London judge ruling in 2020 that there was “overwhelming evidence” he had assaulted Heard during their marriage and put the actress “in fear of her life.”

How it all started

The actors met on the set of a 2011 film called The Rum Diary and married in 2015. Heard filed for divorce just over a year later and was granted a temporary restraining order against Depp, alleging abuse.

On the stand in the British trial, Heard said she was assaulted 14 times through the relationship. Her statement accused Depp of “punching, slapping, kicking, head-butting and choking me, as well as throwing me into things, pulling me by my hair, and shoving me or pushing me to the ground.” During one altercation, she said Depp struck her in the face three times, knocking her to the ground — “It felt like my eye popped out,” Heard said. Depp has denied the claims, and in court papers accused Heard of faking a bruise on her face to obtain a restraining order. 

Their years-long legal battle has unearthed other unflattering details about their marriage and has impacted both of their careers: In her op-ed — in which Heard describes the backlash many women face when sharing their stories of abuse — she says she lost a role and a lucrative sponsorship after she spoke publicly about the dysfunctional relationship. Heard wrote that “questions arose as to whether I would be able to keep my role of Mera in the movies Justice League and Aquaman.”

Depp was also booted from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and the Fantastic Beasts films, which are based on the Harry Potter series.

What Amber Heard and Johnny Depp have said about the trial

A source told Vanity Fair that Heard and her supporters are hoping that a “jury verdict against Johnny will send a message to the millions of women out there who suffer from intimate partner violence every single day, that they can move safely on with their lives.” 

The Aquaman actress also issued a statement on Instagram, stating that in her op-ed she “wrote about the price women pay for speaking against men in power. I continue to pay that price, but hopefully, when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny.”

A spokesman for Depp said: “This case being brought to trial is proof that the court acknowledges the notable amount of preliminary wins, evidence, and witnesses in support of Johnny. To decline the opportunity to clear one’s name and allow someone taking advantage of the system to walk away with zero repercussions would be careless and set a dangerous precedent for similar situations in the future.”