He went so far as to compare the actress to his mother, whom he described as a total nightmare.
“You start to slowly realize that you are in a relationship with your mother, in a sense. And I know that sounds perverse and obtuse, but the fact is, some people search for weaknesses in people,” the 58-year-old actor said in a Virginia courtroom as part of a $50 million defamation lawsuit he filed against Heard. “It was a sort of rapid-fire, endless parade of insults.”
The actor likening his ex-partner to a woman he told jurors abused him and his siblings throughout their childhood came on the eighth day of a civil trial in Fairfax County outside Washington. Depp has claimed his ex-wife “devastated” his career with a defamatory 2018 Washington Post op-ed that does not mention Depp by name, but in which Heard described herself as a domestic violence survivor and urged other women to come forward.
Depp has denied he ever abused women—going so far as to say on Wednesday he has “never struck Ms. Heard. I have never struck a woman in my entire life.” He insisted on the stand that Heard was the abuser in the relationship, which began after they met on the set of the 2011 film The Rum Diaries. They were married in 2015 and began the divorce process in August 2016.
Speaking publicly about the alleged abuse for the first time, Depp said Heard “couldn’t be wrong” and would indulge in “demeaning name-calling” and, later, physical abuse.
Depp said that the relationship got so toxic that he started seeing similarities between Heard and his mother, whom he described on the stand Tuesday as a “violent” and “cruel” woman.
“I would lock myself into the bathroom or somewhere she couldn’t get into. And that happened constantly over the years,” Depp said about his relationship with Heard. “It did not serve the relationship. It was meant to feed her needs. She has a need for conflict. She has a need for violence. It erupts out of nowhere.”
“Violence is unnecessary. Why would you hit someone to make them agree with you? I don’t think it works,” he added.
Heard has long denied she abused Depp, insisting she only ever acted in self-defense, and has since countersued him for defamation.
Kimberly Lau, a New York attorney who specializes in harassment and assault suits, told The Daily Beast that Depp’s testimony suggests a strategy focused on exposing “his vulnerability as a victim of domestic abuse during his childhood, and [trying to] cast Heard as the abuser—essentially, Depp’s mother incarnate.”
“The key for a defamation plaintiff to prevail is to show the falsity of the publisher’s statements,” Lau added. “In this case, Depp is going above and beyond that to try to show not only did he not abuse Heard but that she, in fact, was the abuser. If he is successful, that can be devastating for Heard’s credibility and, in turn, her future career prospects.”
Jurors are faced with deciding whether Heard acted with “actual malice” when she wrote the Post editorial—meaning that the actress knew what she had written in the piece was false—or that she published the piece with “reckless disregard” for the truth. The jury will also be asked to review some issues raised in Heard’s 2020 countersuit against Depp.
On Wednesday, Depp said Heard would accuse him of being a bad father, a “monster” who was addicted to drugs and alcohol, and would even threaten “to die” if he left her. (Depp previously said that his mother attempted suicide after his father left them.)
“Everything I did just didn’t fit her, she didn’t accept it. So I stayed, because, of course, I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Especially Ms. Heard. I didn’t want to break her heart,” Depp said.
In one particularly harrowing incident after arguments about a postnuptial agreement, Deep said Heard threw a vodka bottle at him and “severed the tip of my finger off.” He said the act of violence—and the sight of blood pouring out of his finger—spurred a “nervous breakdown” that resulted in him writing on the walls in his blood all the “lies I ever caught her in.”
As Depp was describing the altercation, including how he went to the hospital and lied to doctors because he “didn’t want to get her in trouble,” Heard was seen repeatedly blinking her watery eyes and turning her head away from view.
“I knew in my mind, and in my heart, this is not life. This is not life. No one should have to go through this,” Depp said, adding that the altercation marked the end of their relationship in his mind. “I didn’t want to see her. I didn’t want to have any more arguments. I was just done.”
Audio recordings played in court included one clip in which Heard seemed to admit to hitting Depp, “throwing around pots and pans,” and starting “a physical fight.”
“You didn’t get punched. I hit you, you didn’t get punched. I did not fucking deck you. You’re fine, I did not hurt you,” Heard says in the clip played to jurors on Wednesday. “I’m not sitting here bitching about it. You’re such a baby.”
The pair ultimately broke up in 2016, after Heard sought a temporary domestic-violence restraining order against Depp. Depp described on the stand the moment he learned about the court order on May 27, 2016, and said he believed Heard chose that date on purpose because it was his daughter’s birthday and the premiere of his newest movie, Alice Through the Looking Glass.
“I felt like it was incredibly cruel.... I felt it was treachery,” he said about the temporary order. “I don’t know if she just wanted me to be erased or drop dead or just let me stick around and allow her to ruin my life for a while.”
Depp said the pair legally finalized their divorce on Jan. 13, 2017, which happened to be a Friday. He said that per the agreement, he paid Heard $7 million.
Almost two years later, in December 2018, the actress wrote in the Post op-ed that her decision to file that order made her “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”
“I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” Heard wrote in the piece. “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real-time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”
Three months after the editorial was published, Depp filed the $50 million lawsuit against Heard, asserting that not only were his ex-wife’s allegations of abuse an “elaborate hoax” intended to hurt his career, but that those claims were self-serving, turning her into a “darling of the #MeToo movement.”
“I am suing her over defamation and the various falsities that she used to bring my life to an end,” Depp said during cross-examination.
The lawsuit also states that Depp’s “reputation and career were devastated” by Heard’s first allegation of domestic abuse in 2016, specifically noting that Disney dropped the actor from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise four days after the article was published.
When asked by his attorneys what he lost after Heard’s allegations were made public, Depp paused for a moment before answering: “Nothing less than everything.”