Inside the Horrifying Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Court Case, From Cocaine Tantrums to ‘Creepy’ James Franco
As Depp sues British tabloid The Sun for libel, all of the horrific and at times surreal allegations he and ex-wife Amber Heard have shared over the years take center stage.
Depp sued News Group Newspapers for a Sun article that called him a “wife-beater.” NGN’s defense rests on 14 allegations of domestic abuse from Heard, which Depp has denied. He now insists that Heard used him for his fame, and is framing him as the aggressor when in fact it was her that terrorized him.
Depp and Heard married in 2015. A little more than a year later, Heard filed for divorce—and a week after that, she filed for a domestic-violence restraining order against Depp, claiming that he had been both physically and verbally abusive. A photo of her bruised face later went viral.
In 2016, Heard donated her entire $7 million divorce settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. The separation was finalized in 2017. After continued sniping back and forth—both in legal proceedings and in the press—Depp filed a $50 million defamation suit against Heard last year, which will be heard in court next January.
Depp and NGN’s court battle has, so far, largely consisted of the company’s attorney, Sasha Wass, confronting Depp with details of Heard’s allegations, as well as corroborating photos, videos, doctors’ notes, and text messages. Depp, in turn, has denied or explained away the allegations—suggesting instead both in his testimony and written statement that Heard fabricated evidence of abuse for years in a Gone Girl-like scheme to gain notoriety and further her career.
Depp’s testimony began last Tuesday morning, as he and Heard both arrived at London’s High Court of Justice with their faces covered; Depp wore a black bandana, while Heard wore a red polka-dotted scarf. According to Page Six, the proceedings have overtaken five courtrooms due to social distancing.
During his Tuesday testimony, Page Six reports, Depp said that a troubled childhood led him to begin experimenting with drugs at an early age. By age 14, he said, he’d tried “every drug known to man.”
Heard has said that Depp’s drug use—during which he frequently blacked out—led him to physically abuse her. In court, Depp held firm that he is not a “monster” who would do such a thing. “There were blackouts for sure,” he said Thursday, according to the Daily Mail, “but in any blackout there are snippets of memory.”
Nonetheless, Depp has been asked to explain several now-infamous episodes and allegations while on the stand. Tuesday’s proceedings, for instance, recalled the time in 1994 when he trashed a hotel room—totaling $10,000 in damages, Wass said. Depp shrugged the damage off as “a few dents.”
“I was angry,” Depp said, per Page Six. “That didn’t mean I had an anger problem. On that occasion, I chose to express my anger.”
Depp also denied actress Ellen Barkin’s allegation, in a written statement, that he once threw a bottle of wine across a hotel room out of anger and jealousy. He claimed it was the result of a grudge.
Wass showed the court a video of Depp kicking the kitchen cabinets in his and Heard’s shared home, and throwing a wine bottle, while Heard was in the room. Depp’s response, per Page Six: “I was violent with some cupboards... Clearly, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind. I was upset, very upset.”
Depp and his lawyers, however, are out to prove that Heard’s abuse allegations are nothing more than a bid for fame. Depp told the court that Heard has “a calculating, diagnosed borderline personality.”
“She is sociopathic; she is a narcissist, and she is completely emotionally dishonest,’’ he said in a written statement. As Vanity Fair notes, Depp characterized himself as the de-escalator, rather than the aggressor.
Depp alleged that Heard once began repeatedly hitting his head on a private flight—forcing him to hide in the bathroom. (“Rage-filled violent incidents on planes were common with Amber,” he wrote in his statement, per VF.) “This is not a case about money,” Depp’s lawyer David Sherborne said. “It is about vindication.”
As the trial resumed last Wednesday, Depp fended off allegations that he frequently blacked out and, at times, became violent with Heard. He denied kicking Heard in the back during a flight, The Guardian reports; in an email to Heard about the flight, Depp admitted to having consumed two bottles of Champagne, as well as “powders,” and said that as a result he’d turned into an “angry, aggro Injun.” He also later sent her an apology email, the Guardian reports, which Depp defended by saying it was important to “placate” Heard.
The court also listened to a recording of Depp apparently howling “like an animal” after allegedly attacking Heard on a plane while drunk and high, accusing her of cheating on him with her then co-star James Franco before passing out on the toilet, per the Daily Mail. During the alleged tirade he allegedly called her a “go-getter slut” who “liked getting fucked on set.”
Depp confirmed he had consumed alcohol before the flight but said that he spent the flight sketching in a notebook. He claimed Heard had previously called Franco “creepy and rapey.”
In a text to his friend Paul Bettany days after the flight, Depp wrote, “Drank all night before I picked Amber up to fly to LA this past Sunday. Ugly mate. No food for days. Powders. Half a bottle of whisky. A thousand red bull and vodkas, pills, 2 bottles of champers on plane and what do you get?”
Another allegation: that Depp, drunk and high, once dangled Heard’s teacup Yorkshire terrier, Pistol, out a car window while “howling” after a violent fight with Heard, per The Evening Standard. Wass alleged that the day before, Depp and Heard had fought over a painting by her ex-wife, Tasya van Ree, which hung in their home, and that Depp had back-handed her.
Depp said that “hanging a defenseless dog weighing three pounds out of a window is not my idea of fun, although my sense of humor is rather skewed.”
Depp also denied repeatedly slapping Heard for making fun of his tattoo “Wino Forever,” which used to read “Winona Forever,” for his ex-partner Winona Ryder. “I don’t recall any argument about my tattoo,” he said, per The Standard. Both the Pistol story and tattoo story, he said, are “patently untrue.”
Wass then went on to examine Depp’s drug use—which Heard said in an unsent letter written in 2013, at the start of their relationship, rendered him “like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” according to the Standard. “The problem is I never really know which one I am dealing with until it’s too late.” The letter described a pattern in which Depp would binge, often vomiting or soiling himself, and pass out.
The court also saw, among other images, a photo of Depp seemingly passed out, fully clothed, on the floor beside his bed, per Page Six. Depp claimed he was just sleeping, and that despite his head—shoved into a nightstand—was actually resting on a cushion.
Depp said of the letter, “I would suggest, ma’am, it appears to me Ms. Heard was building a dossier very early on that appears to be an insurance policy for later,” the Standard reports.
When asked if he was suggesting that Heard had carried out a three-year conspiracy to frame him, Depp said, “By everything I’ve seen and experienced, yes.”
Depp also claimed that Heard made no effort to stop his drug use, and that he had seen her use cocaine herself, despite her claim that she has not done so since her teen years. (Depp has confirmed he was addicted to the opioid Roxycodone, but denies addiction to any other substance.)
But as The Guardian notes, the court also heard about texts from Depp, sent to his friend Paul Bettany, that Wass said reflected his resentment for Heard’s attempts to stop his drug use. The two joked about proving she was a “witch”—and at one point, Depp wrote, “Let’s burn Amber.”
Depp said he was “resentful of the fact Ms. Heard was very aggressive and quite insulting about my use of alcohol.” As Wass noted, these claims ran contrary to his previous claim that she’d made no effort to curb his substance use issues.
The court also heard arguments regarding how Depp’s finger got severed during a fight with Heard in a rented home in Australia, The Guardian reports; the actor claims Heard hurled two vodka bottles at him, one of which sliced his fingertip off exposing bone. Heard claims the injury occurred when Depp smashed a phone into a wall.
Wass read the court an email from Depp to his doctor about the incident, in which he wrote, “I’m so very sad. I cut the top of my middle finger off, what should I do? I’m so embarrassed …” Depp denied that those words were meant to indicate he’d inflicted the injury upon himself—at which point Wass replied, “Are you serious?”
The court also saw photos of the rented home following the argument—after Depp had painted the walls with his bloody finger, writing among other things, “I love u.”
And last Thursday, Depp continued to insist that Heard’s allegations and corroborating evidence are the result of a years-long plot to frame him.
Thursday’s proceedings began with Wass questioning Depp about a detox trip he took with Heard to the Bahamas in 2014, per a Press Association story. Asked if he “pushed and shoved” Heard during the trip, Depp replied, “I didn’t push Ms. Heard or attack her in any way, as certainly I was not in any condition to do so.” He said he “was in no physical condition to push anyone.”
Wass read text messages sent from Heard to Depp’s nurse, who was staying on the opposite side of his private island during the trip, per the Daily Mail. In one, Heard wrote, “Issue seems to have arisen again. All of a sudden he’s flipping. He’s screaming, he’s so mad he pushed me and I asked him to get out. Don’t want to keep you guys.” When the nurse asked if they should come over, she said yes.
“I can only say from my point of view I was in no physical condition to push anyone,” Depp responded, per the Daily Mail. “I’m denying I pushed her. I’m going to suggest that the testimony is fabricated.”
“And this is part of the hoax is it?” Wass asked.
“I believe it’s part of the dossier that was an insurance policy for her,” Depp replied. “I wouldn’t know if she followed the instructions of the nurse to the letter.”
As the Daily Mail notes, Depp said he would sometimes begin to feel sick around 3:15 in the afternoon, shaking with stomach cramps. Heard, he said, would tell him he was not due his medication until 4 p.m. “My body clock was needing medication to stop the onslaught... I was not in good shape,” he said per the Daily Mail.
Wass also asked Depp about a time that September when he punched a wall during an argument with Heard, the Daily Mail reports; medical notes say he was found sitting in the kitchen with bloody knuckles.
“I would rather express my anger by hitting an inanimate object than... the person I love,” Depp said.
Notes from Depp’s private doctor, David Kipper, say the actor “romanticizes the entire drug culture and has no accountability for his behavior.” In another note, Kipper writes, “There is also an issue of patience. He is driven almost reflexively by his id. He has no patience for not getting his needs met. He has no understanding of delayed gratification and is quite childlike in his reaction when he doesn’t get immediate satisfaction.” Depp said Kipper had just met himself and Heard, and that he was “not versed in our lives, our life together, as yet.”
Notes from Heard’s psychiatrist claim Depp was surrounded by enablers too intimidated by his fame and money to speak out about his behavior—and that he was threatened by Heard’s career, especially romantic scenes she shared with other actors including James Franco.
When asked why Heard would privately tell her psychiatrist these things if they were not true, Depp said, “I believe it had a benefit to her motivation,” the Daily Mail reports.
“I think she was telling porky pies with her psychiatrist,” he said.
Wass began last Friday’s proceedings by asking Depp to testify regarding Heard’s 30th birthday party, according to the Daily Mail. The actor said he’d arrived to the party hours late after receiving bad financial news, and granted that he’d likely consumed marijuana to calm himself before returning to their home.
Heard was angry he was late, he said, and rather than join the party he’d gone to their bedroom to read a book. He said he thought her anger over his missing her 30th birthday was “too much.”
The Daily Mail reports that Depp denied throwing a bottle of champagne at Heard and shoving her to the floor multiple times when she confronted him about his tardiness—as well as leaving a note that read “Happy Fucking Birthday.”
The next day, Depp claims, Heard or one of her friends defecated in their shared bed—which is what prompted him to decide it was time to split up. Heard claimed it was one of the couple’s dogs, but Depp insists that the feces found in the bed by maintenance staff were too large to have come from a tiny dog.
Depp laughed over the incident in texts read to the court, per the Daily Mail. As the actor told Wass, “It was one of the most absurd, unexpected statements that I have ever witnessed in my life so, yes, initially I did laugh because it was so strange.” He later added that he “thought that was a strangely oddly fitting end to the relationship.”
Confronted regarding the incident when he allegedly threw Heard’s phone at her following another argument, the Daily Mail reports, Depp claimed that a series of texts among Heard’s friends, including one from a friend who urged her to call 911, were all part of Heard’s “choreographed hoax” against him.
The court also heard messages that Depp sent to Heard’s agent, asking for her removal from the Aquaman film, alleging that she’d had an affair with Elon Musk, and plotting her “global humiliation,” per the Daily Mail.
“I have no mercy, no fear and not an ounce of emotion or what I thought was love for this gold digging, low level, dime a dozen, mushy, pointless dangling overused flappy fish market...” he wrote. “I’m so happy she wants to go to fight this out. She will hit the wall hard. And I cannot wait to have this waste of a cum guzzler out of my life. She will hit the wall hard.”
As Depp finished his testimony Monday, he addressed an incident from December 2015 in which he allegedly head-butted Heard the night before she was set to appear on The Late Late Show with James Corden, according to a Press Association report. Depp claimed that if his head clashed with Heard’s it was an accident as he grabbed her to “lock her arms” to stop her from attacking him. He denied Wass’ suggestion that he “invented” that explanation.
Depp’s attorney Sherborne also referred to a text message from Heard’s father, in which he told Depp he knew his daughter needed help with her temper—as the actor did with his substance-use issues, Press Association reports. “But I still love you like a father or brother,” he wrote.
“If your daughter told you that her husband had slapped her repeatedly, punched her, deliberately smacked her in the nose, grabbed her by the hair, dragged her upstairs by the hair, pulled chunks of her hair out, would you still send a text to him saying ‘I love you like a brother or father’?” Sherborne asked Depp, who said he would not.
Sherborne also returned to Heard and Depp’s fight after her 30th birthday party; Depp alleged that Heard threw a “roundhouse punch” at him as he tried to read,” USA Today reports.
Depp’s former assistant Stephen Deuters also took the stand to support Depp’s claim that Heard was the abuser in the relationship. While questioning Deuters, Wass pointed out that Deuters is “financially dependent” on Depp and his brand remaining intact for his future income—an assertion Deuters confirmed on the stand, according to the Daily Mail.
Deuters’ testimony addressed Depp and Heard’s alleged argument on the 2014 flight, during which Heard alleges Depp accused her of having an affair with Franco and attacked her. Deuters said that although the couple argued, “it didn’t seem to be a screaming-obscenities slanging match,” USA Today reports.
According to the paper, Deuters wrote in a text message to Heard after the flight that Depp was “incredibly apologetic and knows that he has done wrong,” and that “when I told him he kicked you, he cried.” But Deuters apparently denied that those texts corroborated Heard’s account—saying instead he’d only used the word “kicked” to placate Heard.
“I was seeking probably to deflate the situation,” Deuters said per USA Today. “It wasn’t my job to be a relationship counselor.”
Of the same incident, Depp repeated the claim from his written statement that he had been quietly sketching on the plane. On Monday he testified that as he sat drawing, Heard “began to harangue him,” per the Daily Mail, and that in response he tried to “playfully tap her on the bottom with his foot.” In response, he reportedly claimed, Heard “continued to verbally berate” him.
In text messages from after Heard filed for divorce, Deuters called her a “sociopathic show pony, Machiavellian overlord, talentless cunt,” per Daily Mail. He also mentioned to a friend that Heard was arrested in 2009 on a charge of hitting her girlfriend at the time, Tasya van Ree.
It’s true that Heard was arrested, as police confirmed to USA Today in 2016—but in a statement released by Heard’s publicists at the time, van Ree herself said that Heard was “wrongfully” accused and that two police officers “misinterpreted and over-sensationalized” the incident.
The court also saw a photo of Depp seemingly passed out, with a container of melted ice cream spilled across his lap. He said Heard had photographed him during a private flight—at a time when he was working 17-hour days and had already agreed to detox in the Bahamas, the Daily Mail reports.
“I was obviously on the nod and very tired, falling asleep, and the ice cream then spilled all over my leg and then she took that...and showed me the next day and said, ‘Look at what you've become...Look at you, it’s pathetic,’” Depp said.
Responding to the ongoing trial, a representative for Heard told Vanity Fair, “Amber never asked for these proceedings to take place. Amber obtained a domestic-violence restraining order against Depp back in 2016 and has tried to move on with her life. It is Johnny Depp who brought these proceedings against a British newspaper and has dragged her to the U.K. courts to give evidence on some of the most distressing moments of her life.”