It began as a feminist issue, with allegations of domestic abuse, and ended—in spectacular Hollywood fashion—with a $7 million out-of-court divorce settlement.
It’s been nearly three months since Amber Heard filed for divorce from Johnny Depp, arriving in court with a black eye and claiming that the actor physically assaulted her during their 15-month marriage.
“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” the statement reads. “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never an intent of physical or emotional harm. Amber wishes the best for Johnny in the future. Amber will be donating financial proceeds from the divorce to a charity.”
Heard had submitted photographic evidence of bruises to successfully obtain a temporary restraining order from Depp. The court also saw photos of smashed picture frames and bloody residue, according to Heard, from one altercation on the floor of their shared condominium.
Heard, 30, claimed she’d suffered “excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny,” citing the 52-year-old actor’s drug and alcohol abuse and “exceptionally scary” temper which “has proven many times to be physically dangerous and/or life-threatening to me.”
She described Depp’s alleged fits of rage: magnum champagne and wine bottles hurled against the wall; shattered wine glasses; Depp grabbing her hair, pushing her around, shoving her on the floor, and throwing an iPhone at her face.
Inevitably, a trial-by-media ensued—the first in the age of Twitter and Facebook of a sensational celebrity breakup involving alleged abuse.
Back in 2009, photos of Rihanna’s bruised face went viral when they were leaked online, four months before her then-boyfriend, Chris Brown, pleaded guilty to felony assault.
There was extensive coverage of that incident, too, but TMZ and Twitter have both stepped up their game in the past seven years.
In this case, the public appointed themselves jurors and arrived at a verdict one way or the other almost immediately. Some declared Heard a victim, others called her a liar—including Depp and his friends.
Shortly after Heard appeared in court, Depp’s legal team declined to respond to the “salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation and lies about his personal life.”
The LAPD said they found no proof of domestic abuse after responding to the actress’s 911 call on May 21—the night Depp threw a phone at her face, she claimed in her court filing, resulting in a bruise beneath her right eye.
Depp’s friends, family, and exes came to his defense on social media.
Comedian Doug Stanhope wrote a column for The Wrap in support of Depp, who had been “pilloried in the press for domestic violence…murdered on social media.”
He accused Heard of blackmailing Depp and, in telling the actor that she was leaving him, “threatening to lie about him publicly in any and every possible duplicitous way if he didn’t agree to her terms.” A director who has worked with Depp tweeted Stanhope’s column, remarking that Heard was “a better actress than I thought.” (Depp’s lawyers called the blackmail claim “unequivocally false.”)
Pictures emerged of Heard at a friend’s birthday party a day after she’d been to court, which some speculated was further proof that she faked the bruise. Nevermind that her hair was covering half of her face.
Photographs of her in subsequent weeks looking thin were proof that she was a victim of abuse or that she was still faking the entire saga, depending on whose side you were on.
Similarly, pictures of Depp partying late at night were cited as further indication that he had a substance abuse problem and a callous disregard for his ex.
The drama subsided until earlier this month, when Heard showed up at the offices of Depp’s lawyer on her deposition date, but wasn’t deposed.
Depp’s attorney filed documents to the court claiming Heard refused to leave a conference room adjacent from where the deposition was supposed to take place, and that she could see the actress “hysterically crying and pacing in her separate conference room, or screaming and yelling at times and laughing at others.”
Heard’s lawyers wrote to the court that these claims were “categorically false,” and—after she delayed her deposition a second time—insisted that the actress had “been ready to go forward with her deposition and is prepared to do so.”
Then, last weekend, came the disturbing video of Depp, believed to have been filmed by Heard and leaked by TMZ, apparently intoxicated and volatile—to put it mildly. We see him storming around their kitchen, slamming cabinets, throwing a wine bottle, breaking glasses, shouting inanities at Heard and lunging in her direction after noticing that she was filming him on her phone.
Just yesterday, TMZ reported that Depp had accidentally sliced off his finger and, in a jealous rage, dipped the bloody stub in blue paint that Heard had used for artworks, and wrote menacing messages on the wall.
Citing court documents filed by Heard’s team, the website revealed a graphic picture of what they claimed was Depp’s injury as well as a photo of one of Depp’s finger paintings, which reads “Starring Billy Bob [Thornton] Easy Amber.” The actress’ legal team was silent, and Thornton has since denied having an affair with Heard.
This all proved to be a very dramatic lead-up to a decidedly anti-climactic end of the saga when, on Tuesday morning, the news leaked that Heard would receive a $7 million divorce settlement, with the domestic violence allegations dropped against Depp.
It’s a bizarrely tidy, abrupt, and clichéd Hollywood ending to one of the most bitter and sensational Hollywood break-ups in recent history.
Depp’s career will likely not suffer from the saga—nor should it, given how the pair agreed to finalize everything, with abuse charges dropped in favor of a settlement.
It is unknown whether their settlement included an agreement on Heard’s part to not discuss their relationship in the media. Whether, and how, they will both be haunted by the now-dropped domestic abuse charges remains to be seen.