Johnny Depp, Amber Heard
Robin Abcarian, Tribune News Service
If you want know what mutually assured destruction looks like, forget about Russia vs. Ukraine for a minute and check out the spectacle of Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard. It’s not exactly “War of the Roses” grotesque, but it’s pretty depressing. This is what you get when fame and fortune infantilise two grown people, each of whom needs desperately to have the last word — and to have it in public.
Their tumultuous short-lived marriage has resulted in years of acrimony and courtroom drama spanning two continents. The current chapter of their domestic warfare is taking place in a Fairfax County, Virginia, courtroom, where Depp’s defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Heard is unfolding before a jury of seven.
In May 2016, just after she filed for divorce, Heard accused Depp of throwing a cellphone at her face during a fight. He has denied it and no charges were filed, but she was granted a temporary restraining order after swearing to the court that she feared for her life. In April 2018, the London-based newspaper the Sun published a story headlined “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife-beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”
In November 2018, after a salacious three-week trial in London’s Royal Courts of Justice, a judge determined that Depp had not been libelled and referred to 12 separate incidents that justified the Sun’s headline. Depp’s request for appeal was denied. A month later, The Washington Post published an opinion essay by Heard, in which she described herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse” who had “felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” Though she did not mention Depp by name, it was clear she was referring to him.
He filed a libel lawsuit against her, claiming he’d lost work as a result of the piece, including a starring role in a “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequel for which he claims he would have earned $40 million. “It’s very strange when one day you’re Cinderella so to speak, then 0.6 seconds later, you’re Quasimodo,” he testified on Tuesday.
Then in 2020, Heard countersued Depp, claiming his former attorney defamed her when he said her abuse allegations were a “sexual violence hoax,” ginned up to attract attention for her movie “Aquaman,” which premiered three days after her essay ran in The Post.
And on it goes.
I daresay this marriage was doomed from the start and not just because of the couple’s 22-year age difference. One month after tying the knot, according to Depp’s lawsuit against Heard, she threw a bottle at him in Australia. The bottle shattered and the broken glass “severed and shattered” the bones of his right middle finger. Photos introduced as evidence depict a gruesome injury.
Heard, for her part, has accused Depp of many assaults, including a surprise accusation in the latest trial that he physically assaulted her once while he was black-out drunk. The exhibits presented on her behalf are also disturbing. A cellphone video she entered into the record depicts an apparently drunken Depp storming into their kitchen, grabbing a bottle, and slamming and breaking glass cabinet fronts. The video ends when he sees that she is recording him and furiously grabs the phone.
Thursday, he admitted that he had “assaulted a couple of cabinets.” Depp is known as a prolific imbiber of substance abuse and alcohol and has testified about how his frequent inebriation enraged his wife.
He also has a long history of temperamental outbursts — in 1989, when he starred in “21 Jump Street,” he pleaded guilty to assaulting a security guard. In 1994, he trashed a $1,200-a-night Manhattan hotel room he shared with then-girlfriend Kate Moss and paid nearly $10,000 for the damage. At the time, he blamed the destruction on an armadillo hiding in the closet.