By Ted Johnson, Dominic Patten
3RD UPDATE, 2:25 PM PT: After a day and half on the stand in his $50 million defamation trial against Amber Heard, a once-confident Johnny Depp on Wednesday found himself losing his footing and flashing signs of anger.
Under cross examination from Aquaman star Heard’s lawyer Ben Rottenborn in the closing minutes of today’s session, Depp became both combative and sometimes confused as the attorney zeroed in on the actor’s assertions that a late 2018 Washington Post op-ed penned by Heard destroyed his life, career and reputation.
“I’m suing her over defamation and the various falsities that she used to bring my life to an end,” the often sunglasses-wearing Depp declared to the jury, lawyers and others in the Fairfax County Courthouse this afternoon. Admitting as Heard sat nearby that the opinion piece does not mention his actual name, the suddenly somewhat befuddled actor tried to re-craft a 2016 statement he signed upon the couple’s divorce.
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“I was advised by my attorneys not to fight it,” he said of why he didn’t contest Heard’s claims of domestic abuse at the time, and waited nearly three years to file this case in March 2019.
As openly irritated Depp floundered and was cut off from the long-winded answers of his previous testimony, the strategic Rottenborn appeared poised to make the more pragmatic case of why didn’t Depp just sue Heard for violating the terms of their divorce settlement with public statements about where she would donate her $7 million settlement, rather than zero in on defamation claims.
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A key part of a defamation trial is that plaintiffs have to show it was a specific statement or article that caused damage to a reputation. Depp tried to make the case that Heard’s op-ed cost him the next Pirates movie. But Heard’s attorney tried to show that Disney had made that decision not to hire Depp before the WaPo op-ed appeared, and that Depp didn’t want to do the movie anyway.
Noting an October 25, 2018 Daily Mail piece that Depp was “out” of the Pirates franchise, Rottenborn bluntly asked Depp whether he wouldn’t do another Jack Sparrow movie if he was offered $300 million and more. “That is true,” Depp quietly replied, after a meandering discussion about his Jack Sparrow character remaining part of the Disney theme parks and merchandise even if “Disney was trying cut ties to be safe.”
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After previously citing a sixth Pirates movie as being in “dangle mode,” and that he had even been approached to perhaps write for the flick when asked by his own lawyer Jess Meyers earlier in the day, Depp fessed up to Rottenborn and the court that he had no idea if another installment in the sea-set franchise was ever going to be made.
Depp will be on the stand for more cross examination Thursday. Having countersued her ex-husband for $100 million after coming up short getting this case tossed out, Heard is also scheduled to testify, though no date has been set in what is expected to be five-week trial. Both Depp and Heard testified in the former’s spectacularly unsuccessful 2020 UK libel action against Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid for calling the actor a “wife-beater.”
Earlier in the last hours of today’s testimony, Depp under the tutorage of Meyers tried to convey the stakes in the case and the abuse allegations from his POV.
“Nothing less than everything, nothing less than everything because when the allegations were made, when the allegation were rapidly circulating the globe telling people that I was a drunken, cocaine-fueled menace who beat women suddenly in my 50s, it’s over, you’re done,” one-time Oscar nominee said of what he had lost from Heard’s claims.
“No matter the outcome of this trial, the second the accusation were made against me .. once that happened, I lost then,” he added in considered tones. “I lost because that is not a thing that anyone is going to just put on your back for a short time. I will live with that for the rest of my life because of the allegations and because it was such a high-profile case.”
Clearly running behind already, the trial is set to go Monday-Thursday with Fridays off. Along with Heard, big names like Elon Musk, James Franco and Depp’s one-time drinking pal and text buddy Paul Bettany (of Avengers and WandaVision fame) are expected to testify before this is all done.
2ND UPDATE, 1:05 p.m. PT: Johnny Depp said that though he was upset during a May 21, 2016 confrontation with then-wife Amber Heard, he was not physically abusive toward her.
On his second day on the stand in the $50 million defamation trial, the ex-Pirates of the Caribbean star said that had already told Heard that he planned to file for divorce when he went to their downtown Los Angeles to gather some of his possessions and have a conversation with her.
A topic was a photo that Depp had seen, after he moved out, in which feces were on his side of their bed. Heard claimed that it was from their dogs, but Depp denied it. Depp said that when Heard got his belongings and came back downstairs, Heard was on the phone with a friend and they were laughing about the incident.
“It was a tough couple of days and I didn’t really feel like I deserved that kind of treatment,” a sunglasses-wearing Depp said on the stand. He said that he grabbed the phone and told her friend, ‘You can have her now. She’s all yours.’”
He said that he then “flopped the phone on the couch.” The actor then described that then another friend of Heard’s, Rocky Pennington, ran into the penthouse and said, “Leave her alone Johnny. Leave her alone.’”
Depp said that he was 20 feet away, but Heard told her friend on the phone, “Stop hitting me Johnny.”
She was “screaming in her best freaked out voice.”
Depp said that two friends of his, who he had brought with him, then entered the penthouse. Heard saw them and said to Depp, “That is the last time you will hit me.”
Heard filed for a restraining order later that month and released photos showing herself with significant bruises on her face.
Much of Depp’s afternoon testimony was devoted to describing various arguments in their stormy relationship, as he put the blame squarely on Heard for some violent incidents. At one point, he said that “there was some accidental contact” on his part as he tried to restrain his then-wife from hitting him. Depp denied that he broke Heard’s nose in the altercation despite Heard showing him a red soiled Kleenex. “I pulled the Kleenex out of the trash bin and I inspected it pretty closely and realized it was nail polish, nail varnish,“ he told the court.
Depp’s attorney Jess Meyers also played audio recordings of an argument that they had in 2015, after Depp said Heard had kicked a bathroom door on his head. In one of the excerpts, Heard called Depp a “baby” and said, “I was hitting you. I was not punching you.”
Depp also spoke of the death of his mother in May 2016. The Alice in Wonderland star talked about the impact of that loss, and how he “forgave” his mother for her abusive ways. But he also said that it helped resolve himself to end his marriage with Heard and that “if it is not going to work, it is not going to work.”
Depp’s extensive testimony, in which he has described situations slowly and haltingly, is likely to extend into Thursday. Cross-examination by Heard’s lawyers is expected to begin tomorrow.
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UPDATED, 10:32 AM PT: On the witness stand today, Johnny Depp described in graphic detail the March 2015 argument with then-wife Amber Heard that led to him severing his right middle finger.
That incident has come up several times so far in the trial on his $50 million defamation suit, as his attorneys have argued that it was Heard who was physically abusive, not him.
How To Watch The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Trial: Depp May Be Cross Examined By Heard’s Lawyer Wednesday
Depp said that he lost the top of his finger when Heard threw a vodka bottle at him and the glass shattered. She was visiting his rented home in Australia as he was making the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film.
That day, Heard had arrived on a flight from Los Angeles but was upset over a meeting she had with an attorney to discuss Depp’s request for a “post-nuptial” agreement. Depp testified that Heard said the attorney was rude and dismissive to her.
“She kept saying: ‘I am not even in your will. I am not even in your will,’” Depp told the jury. “I thought it was an odd thing to say. … It felt wrong, and she would not let go of the fact that I was in on this post-nuptial agreement and I was trying to trick her into getting nothing if something were to happen.”
He said that their argument escalated, and that Heard “was irate and she was possessed” and called him an “ass kisser to lawyers” or a “pussy.” He said that he tried to lock himself in at least nine different rooms and a bathroom, but she banged on the doors and screamed. He said that he called his lawyer Jake Bloom to try to get the attorneys on the phone because “I was very upset that she was pushed to that limit because I believed it. In fact, none of it had happened.”
Depp said that he eventually went to the home’s downstairs rec room where, despite being sober for a number of months, he poured himself two or three shots of vodka.
“She found me there [and said], ‘Oh, you’re are drinking again,’ a monster and all that,’” Depp said.
He said that Heard grabbed the bottle and hurled it at him, and that it went right past his head and smashed behind him. He said that he then walked behind the bar and pour himself a shot from a larger bottle of vodka. In the witness box, Depp stood up as he demonstrated how he was standing when, he said, Heard took the other bottle and threw it at him.
“My hand was on the edge of the bar and she threw the large bottle and it made contact and it shattered everywhere, and I honestly didn’t feel the pain at all.” But he said that he did feel dripping and “looked down and I realized the tip of my finger had been severed. … I was looking directly at my bone sticking out and the meaty portion of the inside of your finger, and blood was just pouring out.”
He said that he then went into “some sort of nervous breakdown” and started to write on the walls with his own blood. He didn’t say what was written but said that they were “little reminders of our past that represented lies that she had told me and lies that I had caught her in.”
Heard’s attorneys have said that they intend to argue that Depp’s would was self-inflicted.
Depp said that he was in “shock” but could not recall what Heard said next. He said that he then went to the emergency room but told the doctor that he had smashed the finger on some large accordion doors.
He said that he didn’t want to disclose that Heard had thrown the bottle, as he wanted to keep things “as copacetic as possible.” He did tell Dr. David Kipper, who he had hired to treat his addition to opiates.
Jurors were shown graphic photos of his injury, as well as a photo of Depp’s face. Depp pointed to a mark that he said came from Heard putting out his cigarette on his cheek.
Depp said that he had surgery to reconstruct the finger via a skin graft from another part of his hand. He said that he wore a bandage through the rest of production on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales but that it was removed in the film through CGI.
PREVIOUSLY, 8:51 AM: Johnny Depp continued his second day of testimony in his $50 million defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard, as he described the deterioration of their relationship and what he said was physical and emotional abuse on her part.
On direct questioning from his own attorney, Depp described Heard as attacking him with “a rapid-fire, sort of an endless parade of insults and looking at me like I was a fool.”
He said that if their arguments “continued to escalate, if I continued to try to present my version of my side of the story, when you are approached in a kind of, when you are approached with such anger and hatred, it seemed like pure hatred for me. If I stayed to argue that, I was sure that it would escalate into violence, and often times it did. It did.”
Depp’s attorney asked him what he meant by “violence.”
“In her frustration and her anger, she would strike out,” he testified. “It could begin with a slap, it could begin with a shove, it could begin with throwing a TV remote at my head. It could begin with throwing a glass of wine at my face. All in all, it was constant.”
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He said that Heard used his personal experiences against him “as weapons, especially when it came to my kids. There was no need for it. Too many lines were crossed, you couldn’t see the lines any more.”
The jury in the Fairfax, VA, courtroom likely will hear two versions of the nature of their relationship.
Depp filed his defamation lawsuit after Heard wrote a Washington Post op-ed in 2018 in which she described herself as a domestic abuse survivor. Although he was not named, Depp contends that the connection was apparent, given the publicity over an argument two years earlier, in which Heard obtained a restraining order and released photos showing her face badly bruised. Heard, meanwhile, has filed a $100 million counterclaim, and her attorneys plan to present testimony of Depp’s physical abuse.
In his Wednesday testimony, Depp described being on a May 2014 flight from Boston to Los Angeles with Heard. He had taken to Roxycotin pills, amid concerns over his addiction to the opioid.
“I was not feeling any pain and I knew that she was ready for some kind of brawl,” he said. Depp said that during the flight Heard would “poke and prod physically and poke and prod psychological, emotionally,” to the point where he left and hid in the bathroom and fell asleep.
“I found the only way to find any kind of peace was to try to walk away,” Depp said.
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