Most striking Johnny Depp revelations in Amber Heard defamation trial, from parent abuse to struggle with fame

‘I can’t say that I’m embarrassed because I know that I’m doing the right thing,’ actor says in court

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 20 April 2022 14:21
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Johnny Depp tells court Amber Heard’s abuse allegations turned him from ‘Cinderella to Quasimodo’

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Johnny Depp is facing ex-wife Amber Heard in a defamation trial following his 2019 lawsuit.

The trial began in Fairfax, Virginia began on 11 April, during which Mr Depp’s legal team alleged that Ms Heard had been fabricating damaging claims about Mr Depp, while Ms Heard’s attorneys claimed that the actor had subjected their client to sexual violence during their marriage.

Ms Heard filed for divorce from Mr Depp on 25 May 2016, after they had been married for 15 months.

She cited irreconcilable differences in her filing, and days later she was granted a temporary restraining order against Mr Depp following an incident in which Ms Heard claims she was physically assaulted by Mr Depp – an allegation Mr Depp denies.

Mr Depp paid Ms Heard $7m as part of the divorce agreement, which was finalised in January 2017.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star filed the lawsuit in March 2019, responding to a December 2018 Washington Post op-ed in which Ms Heard claimed to be a victim of domestic violence. While she didn’t mention Mr Depp by name, the news of their divorce had been a frequent story over the previous two years.

Mr Depp states in his lawsuit that the claims against him are part of an “elaborate hoax” and that the op-ed damaged his career, noting that he was removed from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise four days after the publication of the op-ed.

While he’s not mentioned, Mr Depp argues in the lawsuit that the op-ed “depends on the central premise that Ms Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her”.

While the lawsuit was filed in March 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the trial. During the opening statements, Ms Heard’s lawyer Ben Rottenborn claimed that Ms Heard was the victim of abuse “took many forms” such as emotionally, physically, and psychologically.

The headline of Ms Heard’s 2018 op-ed read “Amber Heard: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”. The attorney claimed that Ms Heard didn’t write it and wasn’t given final approval, but added “tragically, it’s true”.

Johnny Depp

“Amber did suffer sexual violence at the hands of Depp,” Mr Rottenborn claimed. “You will hear in the most graphic and horrifying terms about the violence that she suffered. You’ll hear that straight from her. She will get on the stand and she will tell you that it happened.”

“These fictitious claims were never made at the onset of Amber’s allegations in 2016, and only advantageously surfaced years later once she was sued for defamation after noting in her op-ed that she was a victim of ‘sexual violence’,” a representative for Mr Depp told ET. “Words are key in a defamation case and conveniently, this allegation only came after that.”

Camille Vasquez, a lawyer for Mr Depp, repeated the allegation that Ms Heard had made up the claims to boost her own career prospects during the #MeToo movement.

Mr Depp’s sister and personal manager, Christi Dembrowski, was the first person to testify in support of the actor. She said she saw Mr Depp being physically abused by their mother and said that Mr Depp swore he would never do anything like that.

While she said she didn’t believe her brother had struggled with drugs and alcohol, she sent a text to Ms Heard saying, “I love him so much but he needs help”. Ms Dembrowski said that was in reference to his use of pain medication.

The sister claimed that during their marriage, she once heard Ms Heard call Mr Depp an “an old, fat man” and that she got angry when he was offered to work for Dior.

“They’re about class and style and you don’t have style,” Ms Dembrowski quoted Ms Heard as telling Mr Depp.

On the witness stand on Tuesday, Mr Depp said that “about six years ago, Ms Heard made some quite heinous and disturbing criminal” claims against him, adding that the allegations were not within “any species of truth”.

He said, “it was a complete shock... it just didn’t need to go in that direction”.

Mr Depp said there had been “arguments” in the relationship, “but never did I reach the point of striking Ms Heard in any way nor have I ever struck any woman in my life”.

US actress Amber Heard looks on during a trial in the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, USA, 19 April 2022

He added that Ms Heard’s accusations “permeated the industry”.

Mr Depp said the story became a “quote-unquote fact” as it made its way through the global media.

“Since I knew there was no truth to it whatsoever, I felt it was my responsibility to stand up – not only for myself in that instance but stand up for my children, who at the time were 14 and 16,” Mr Depp continued. “So they were in high school and I thought it was diabolical that my children would have to go to school and have their friends or people in the school approach them with the infamous People magazine cover with Ms Heard with a dark bruise on her face.”

The actor said he wanted to clear his name and clear his children from “this horrid thing they were having to read that their father” had done “which was untrue”.

“My goal is the truth because it killed me that people I had spoken with, that I had met with over the years ... would think that I was a fraud and that I had lied to them,” he said.

Mr Depp said the last six years had been “trying times”.

“It’s strange when you’re Cinderella, so to speak, and in 0.6 seconds you’re Quasimodo,” he added.

Mr Depp said he felt exposed testifying as he has been a private person, wanting to shield his children from “hordes of paparazzi” and that he didn’t want his kids to see their parents as “novelties”.

“I can’t say that I’m embarrassed because I know that I’m doing the right thing,” he added.

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 mom was “very unpredictable” and that her feet were “on fire” – constantly feeling the need to move.

Actor Johnny Depp testifies at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse as his defamation case against ex-wife Amber Heard continues, in Fairfax, Virginia, U.S., April 19, 2022

“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, 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.”

US actress Amber Heard looks on during a trial in the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, USA, 19 April 2022

At the beginning of his relationship with Ms Heard, Mr Depp said she appeared to be “too good to be true”.

He said it “became a regular thing” for Ms Heard to take his shoes off when he came home from work and give him a glass of wine. When he came home one night and she was busy, he took his own boots off, he said, adding that she approached “with this look on her face” and asked, “what did you just do?”

She said it was “my job” to take his boots off, according to Mr Depp. “That’s what I do, you don’t do that – I do that.”

Mr Depp said he “took pause at that she looked visibly shaken or upset that I had broken her rules of routine”.

“Within a year, a year and a half, she had become another person almost,” he added.

Mr Depp said he had to ramp up his security after the first Pirates of the Caribbean film when people started to try to break into his home to see “Captain Jack Sparrow” and follow his family around.

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”.

“The characterisation of my substance abuse that has been delivered by Ms Heard is grossly embellished, and a lot of it, I’m sorry to say, is just plainly false. I think it was an easy target for her to hit,” Mr Depp said from the witness stand.

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