Johnny Depp tells of childhood abuse as mother was ‘suicidal’ and father told him ‘You’re the man now’ when he left

‘She had the ability to be as cruel as anyone can be,’ actor says of Betty Sue Palmer

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 19 April 2022 22:47
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Johnny Depp tells court Amber Heard’s abuse allegations turned him from ‘Cinderella to Quasimodo’

Johnny Depp told a Virginia court of his childhood abuse as his mother was “suicidal” and his father told him that “you’re the man now” when he left the family.

The actor entered the witness booth on the fifth day of the trial, which began on Monday 11 April in Fairfax, Virginia following Mr Depp’s lawsuit against Ms Heard in March 2019. Mr Depp is arguing that she defamed him in a December 2018 op-ed published in The Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”.

Speaking about his childhood, Mr Depp said he thought it had been normal “until a certain age”. After being born in Kentucky and moving around – Mr Depp noted that always being the new kid was difficult at times – the family moved to South Florida when he was around seven years old.

Mr Depp said his mother was “very unpredictable” and that her feet were “on fire” – constantly feeling the need to move.

“She had the ability to be as cruel as anyone can be,” Mr Depp said, noting that this also affected his siblings and father. “She was quite violent and she was quite cruel.”

Describing his mother’s violence, Mr Depp said “an ashtray” could be “flung at you”. He added that she would hit her children in the head and that she could use a “high heeled shoe or a telephone or whatever was handy”.

He added that he started being able to see when his mother was about to “head into a situation where she was going to be riled up and somebody was going to get it. Generally, it was me”.

Mr Depp said the family was shellshocked and that the siblings would instinctively shield themselves when their mother walked past because they “didn’t know what was going to happen”.

He said his mother would call his brother “four-eyes” because of his glasses and “buck tooth” because of his front teeth. He added that she grew up in eastern Kentucky, an area where you lived in “shacks”. Mr Depp said she “hated” his father’s “refined” parents.

Mr Depp said the family learned to deal with the physical abuse but that the verbal and psychological abuse “tore us up”.

He described his father as “kind”, “quiet”, and “shy” who would “amazingly remain very stoic” when Mr Depp’s mother “delivered the pain”.

“He swallowed it, he took it,” Mr Depp said, adding that he once saw his father punch a concrete wall, shattering his hand. “He remained a gentleman.”

“He was able to maintain his calm and his compusure,” as well as his “relationship to his children,” Mr Depp said. “He’s a good man.”

Mr Depp went on to say that his father would beat him with a belt at the direction of Betty Sue Palmer, his mother. The parents’ relationship finally came to an end when Mr Depp was 15. Mr Depp’s father told him that he had had enough, adding “you’re the man now”.

“I didn’t feel like I was ready to hear those words,” the actor said in court.

Mr Depp said his father leaving led his mother into a “deep, dark depression” and he mimicked her stumbling around the home after taking a multitude “of pills to try to take herself out”. She survived after having her stomach pumped at hospital.

He said his early experiences of family life taught him how to raise children in that he knew he needed to do the “opposite” of what his mother did.

“Never raise your voice in front of the children,” he said adding that he never wanted to “scream ‘no’” to them but to show them that there are options. “You don’t have to stick the coat hanger in the electrical socket.”

He said his mother seemed to “calm down” after taking some “nerve pills” and that he, at the age of 11, would take one as well because he wanted “to calm down” but he “didn’t know how to” and that he wanted to “escape feeling so much”.

“That was the beginning – when I realized that nerve pills calm the nerves,” he said, adding that he had taken all the drugs “he was aware of” by the age of 15.

He added that he never used any substances “to party” but that he took them “to numb” himself as “self-medication”.

In her 2018 op-ed, Ms Heard partly wrote that “like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age. But I kept quiet — I did not expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn’t see myself as a victim”.

“Then two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” she added at the time.

While Mr Depp isn’t named in the piece, his legal team argues that it contains a “clear implication that Mr Depp is a domestic abuser”, which they say is “categorically and demonstrably false”. Mr Depp is seeking damages of “not less than $50m”.

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