“Truth Is the Only Thing I’m Interested In”: Johnny Depp Testifies in Defamation Trial

The actor disputes his ex-wife Amber Heard’s claims that she suffered abuse at his hands, referring to the allegations as “lies”

Johnny Depp at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., Monday April 18. Photo: Steve Helber/AP

In the most dramatic moment yet in the trial of Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard, the actor took the stand on Tuesday and offered his side of what happened in the final days of his brief marriage to Amber Heard.

Sporting a ponytail and a brown, three-piece suit, Depp spoke slowly and calmly as he painted a picture of the relationship and its career-killing aftermath which offered a stark contrast to the actress’ narrative, which he dubbed “diabolical.”

“They just weren’t true,” Depp said of Heard’s claims of being a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband. “So I felt the responsibility of clearing the record as the only way that I can get [vindication]. It has really taken this full six years, and it’s been six years of trying times. It’s strange when one day you’re Cinderella, so to speak, and then in zero-point-six seconds, you’re Quasimodo. And I I didn’t deserve that, nor did my children, nor do the people who have believed in me for all these years. I didn’t want anybody, any of those people, to believe that I had done them wrong or lied to them or that I was a fraud. I pride myself on honesty. I pride myself on truth. Truth is the only thing I’m interested in.”

Depp’s appearance comes in the middle of week two of the $50 million defamation suit he filed against his ex-wife in 2019 that has sparked intense coverage worldwide. He is expected to be cross-examined by Heard’s lawyers on Wednesday.

“Lies will get you nowhere, but lies build upon lies and build upon lies,” he said in an apparent reference to claims made by Heard, who sat largely motionless as she listened intently to Depp’s testimony.

The case has already offered plenty of fireworks, with Heard’s lawyers claiming publicly for the for the first time during opening arguments that Depp had sexually assaulted the actress while they were married. (The pair wed in 2015 and split a year later.)

Depp is suing Heard over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed she wrote in which she claimed she was a survivor of domestic abuse. The couple is facing off at the Fairfax County Courthouse in Virginia in the long-awaited trial, which is expected to last six weeks. Depp’s testimony marks the first time he has discussed at length the domestic violence accusations that Heard has made against him.

The Pirates of the Caribbean star claims that his reputation was damaged and lucrative film roles dried up after Heard wrote about domestic abuse in her op-ed. Though Depp wasn’t specifically named in the piece, it implicated her ex, given the timeline she set forth in it. She wrote, “Two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” Two years before the op-ed published, Heard had filed for a temporary restraining order against Depp as the marriage was disintegrating.

Heard, who countersued Depp for $100 million in 2020, is expected to take the stand later in the trial in an effort to bolster her side in the he said-she said case, which will largely come down to who the seven-person jury believes is more credible.

During Depp’s testimony, he recounted his upbringing in Kentucky at the hands of a physically abusive mother, who was “as cruel as can be” and that the “only thing to do was stay out of the line of fire.” He described his father, who left the family when Depp was a toddler, as someone who never rose to his mother’s abuse and kept his composure.

“I once saw him punch a wall and then shatter his hand because it wasn’t drywall,” he said. “It was proper, concrete, steel wire, rebar, things of that nature. But still never, never touched her. Never argued with her.”

Depp addressed his drug use, which is a central focus of Heard’s defense. He described his mother taking what she called “nerve pills,” which helped calm her down. “When I was 11 years old, I wanted to calm down and I didn’t know how to,” he recalled, adding that he used the pills “to escape caring so much, feeling so much. … That was the beginning.” 

But he pushed back on the idea that it affected his work, and said that he had eschewed alcohol for 18 months around the time of production on Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales in Australia. Heard has claimed that he was abusive there, while Depp’s attorneys said during opening arguments that she threw a vodka bottle at him in Australia that hit his hand and exploded, severing the end of one of his fingers.

“The characterization of my quote-unquote substance abuse that’s been delivered by Ms. Heard is grossly embellished, and, I’m sorry to say, but a lot of it is just plainly false,” he continued. “I’m not some maniac who needs to be high or loaded all the time. … There’s been no moments where I would have been considered out of control. Never.“

Depp traced his career trajectory in which he rose from struggling young actor to A-list star, and the fish bowl he lived in during the years before Heard.

“More security, and, you know, then just getting followed by hordes of paparazzi and things like that,” he said. “I’ve had worse jobs, certainly nothing to complain about it.”

On Monday, Depp’s head of security, Sean Bett, testified that the actor had been abused by Heard, and his lawyers presented a picture that showed Depp with a laceration on his cheekbone. Bett said he took the picture to document the abuse. Depp’s longtime bodyguard testified that he never witnessed any violence toward Heard and never saw any physical injuries on Heard during the couple’s relationship. More specifically, he said he never saw any bruising on Heard’s face after the May 21, 2016, incident in which Heard said Depp threw a phone at her. Bett was cross-examined on Wednesday morning and was grilled about Depp’s alcohol consumption during that incident.

Also on Tuesday morning, Depp’s sound engineer, Keenan Wyatt, testified on the actor’s behalf. As was the case with Bett, Wyatt said he never witnessed Depp being violent to Heard or anyone else, including the actor’s former partner Vanessa Paradis, a point reiterated by Depp when he took the stand in the afternoon. Wyatt, who has worked with Depp since before the star met Heard on the 2011 film The Rum Diary, also said that he never saw any bruises or physical marks on the actress, including during a Boston flight that Heard claimed was the setting for abuse she endured. Heard’s team homed in on the fact that both Betts and Wyatt are on Depp’s payroll, but the latter stressed that he was paid by studios and not by the actor directly, and that his rate was negotiated by his union.

Although Depp is the biggest name expected to testify at the trial, Heard’s former boyfriend, billionaire Elon Musk, is on the witness list. It is unclear if he will testify. Depp’s team was unable to serve Musk, and he never gave a deposition. During a 2020 U.K. trial in which Depp sued a British tabloid for libel and lost, a concierge at the couple’s Los Angeles high-rise testified that Heard had bruises on her neck the night after Musk apparently slept at their home in June or July 2016. Depp had already decamped to Europe following the May 2016 incident.

The Virginia trial, which is running Mondays through Thursdays, is scheduled to pause from May 9 through 12 as Judge Penney S. Azcarate attends a judicial conference.

From Rolling Stone US.

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