Big Names May Show at Depp's Defamation Trial Against Ex

James Franco, Elon Musk among potential witnesses in proceedings against Amber Heard
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 11, 2022 7:34 AM CDT
Next Phase of Depp-Heard Legal Battle Begins
Johnny Depp appears at the High Court in London, on July 17, 2020, left, and Amber Heard appears outside the High Court in London on July 28, 2020.   (AP Photo)

For Johnny Depp, it's been a "surreal" few years," and that time has been extended for him and Amber Heard as their legal battle continues. The two face off in a trial that starts Monday, this time over a defamation lawsuit brought by the 58-year-old actor against his 35-year-old ex-wife, whom he says "devastated" both his career and his reputation after she penned a December 2018 op-ed in the Washington Post about being "a public figure representing domestic abuse." The New York Times notes that the trial in Fairfax County, Va., which could last six weeks, will be televised, and that both parties are set to testify, "all but guaranteeing that they will become a public spectacle." More on what's to come:

  • Heard's initial allegations: In 2016, a year after the couple were married, Heard was granted a temporary restraining order against Depp after she alleged "emotional, verbal, and physical abuse" against her by her husband. The two divorced in 2017, and Heard dropped the restraining order after a reported $7 million settlement.
  • Depp's side: In his $50 million suit filed in March 2019, Depp not only claims her WaPo op-ed hurt his career and reputation—he also denies Heard's allegations of abuse, calling them an "elaborate hoax", as well as says Heard had been physically abusive toward him during their time together. Heard has filed a $100 million counterclaim, parts of which are still in motion, saying Depp and his legal team tried to ruin her by claiming she'd perjured herself, per the Washington Post.
  • UK trial: In a Depp libel case overseas against a UK tabloid, a British judge in 2020 found "overwhelming evidence" that Depp had assaulted Heard multiple times over the course of their marriage, which lasted from 2015 to 2017 (a more complete timeline of their relationship can be found here). How much that case plays into this one is up in the air.
  • Other celebs: Depp and Heard aren't the only two stars who might take the stand. On Heard's potential list of witnesses are ex-boyfriend Elon Musk, as well as actor James Franco, said by Heard to have asked about bruises on her face after an alleged incident with Depp. Actor Paul Bettany is also anticipated to make an appearance, due to texts between himself and Depp over Heard.
  • Implications: The Times calls the proceedings "one of the most high-profile examples of defamation cases that have arisen from the #MeToo era," with attorneys, academics, and lawmakers all watching the outcome closely "to see where the law settles after such a period of turbulence," according to a law professor at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.
(Depp says he's been "canceled" because of all this.)

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