Johnny Depp has denied being a “wife beater” and accused his ex-wife Amber Heard of being the abuser in their marriage on the first day of his libel case.
In a day of lurid evidence at the High Court, the Hollywood star documented his drug-taking history, which started at the age of 11, and how he realised his marriage was over when he found faeces in his bed.
The court heard a claim from Depp that Heard punched him in the face on a plane and also threw bottles of vodka at him, severing his finger.
Depp is suing The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), after an article referred to “overwhelming evidence” that he attacked Heardduring their relationship.
Key evidence included:
- In a witness statement, Depp calls Heard “calculating” and “sociopathic”
- Transcripts of a recording were read out in which Heard calls Depp “a f****** baby” after allegedly hitting him
- Depp claims Heard “or possibly one of her friends” defecated in their bed, with Heard allegedly describing it as “just a harmless prank”
- His lawyers say it is “not a case about money” but “vindication”, with the Pirates Of The Caribbean star, 57, wanting to “clear his reputation” following the claims
- They argue that Heard, 34, has “invented these stories of serious violence”
- In court, the actor spoke about his drinking and drug-taking over the years, and admitted to having taken drugs including marijuana, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, magic mushrooms and prescription pharmaceuticals
- Lawyers for NGN say The Sun’s description of Depp was “entirely accurate and truthful”
- Heard’s spokesman released a statement before proceedings started, saying she is trying to “move on” from their relationship but instead has been “dragged to court to give evidence on some of the most distressing moments of her life”
Deppis also suing The Sun’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over the article published in April 2018.
Both he and Heard attended London’s High Court for the first day of what is expected to be a three-week trial, arriving through separate entrances and wearing scarves as face masks.
The actor claims it was Heard who was the abuser and he was asked by his barrister David Sherborne about a conversation between the couple in September 2015, which was recorded.
Mr Sherborne read from an extract of the recording, in which Heard said to Depp: “You got hit… but I did not punch you. I did not f****** deck you. I f****** was hitting you.”
Heard then went on to say “you are a f****** baby”, to which Depp said: “Because you start physical fights.”
The star said he “wanted to avoid another confrontation”, adding: “As was my practice in these situations, whenever it would escalate I would try to go to my own corner as it were… before things got out of hand.”
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In his written statements, Depp said he was on a private chartered flight in late 2014 or early 2015 with Heard, when she became “verbally aggressive”.
He wrote: “Then she became physically violent and repeatedly punched me in the face. As I moved towards the back of the plane to get away from her, she followed me into the plane’s bedroom and punched me again in the face and the head.
“I pushed her away from me, on to the bed. I then grabbed a pillow and locked myself in the bathroom, where I slept for the duration of the flight.”
Describing a period of time when they were in Australia, in March 2015, Depp said: “Amber severed my finger with the second of two thrown vodka bottles at me in the early afternoon of Sunday 8 March. Amber claims this was on the second day of a ‘three-day hostage situation’.”
Depp added: “Amber claims that during these three days, I subjected her to a variety of what sounds like torture and other abuse.
“These sick claims are completely untrue.”
According to Depp’s statement, Heard “continuously belittled” him and called him a “fat old man”.
He said he found it “devastating and heartbreaking” to hear Heard call him a “horrible father”.
During cross-examination by The Sun’s lawyer, Sasha Wass, Depp was asked about his drug use and admitted taking marijuana, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, magic mushrooms and prescription pharmaceuticals over the years.
He said he started taking drugs when he was just 11, as it was “the only way that I found to numb the pain” due to an unstable home life.
Asked about his celebrity associations, Depp described The Rolling Stones star Keith Richards as his “favourite guitarist” and said both writer Hunter S Thompson and musician Marilyn Manson were “wonderful friends”.
He said he had taken drugs with Manson “twice maybe, many years ago” and not during his relationship with Heard.
Ms Wass replied: “Mr Depp, you are lying about that.”
Asked whether actor Paul Bettany was one of his “drug buddies”, the star replied: “Paul Bettany is an actor that I’ve worked with several times, he is a friend and we have… yes, we have dabbled in drugs together.”
He then listed cocaine, alcohol, Xanax and Adderall as some of the drugs they had taken together.
Ms Wass also questioned whether Depp had an anger management problem, referencing an arrest for assault in 1989 and a later incident in which he damaged a New York hotel room.
“I was angry, but that doesn’t mean I have an anger problem,” the actor said.
The barrister suggested that Depp’s fame and wealth had given him “a lot of freedom”, to which he replied that “the other side of that coin you are, in a way, forced to live a life of a fugitive”.
“Anonymity doesn’t exist anymore anywhere,” he explained.
In one of his witness statements filed for the hearing, Depp gave details about his relationship with Heard, who he met on the set of their 2011 comedy The Rum Diary, and married in 2015. They divorced in 2017, with Heard donating her $7m (£5.5m) settlement to charity.
“I am now convinced that she came into my life to take from me anything worth taking, and then destroy what remained of it.”
Depp said they went to see a marriage counsellor, who he says confirmed to him that Heard had a “borderline, toxic narcissistic personality disorder and is a sociopath”.
In a written outline of the actor’s case, his barrister, Mr Sherborne, said The Sun’s article amounted to a “full-scale attack” on Depp as a “wife beater”, with “defamatory allegations of the utmost seriousness”.
Mr Sherborne said: “The author deploys a panoply of cultural and topical references – namely the #MeToo movement, the Time’s Up movement and the disgraced film mogul and serial abuser of women Harvey Weinstein – in order to convey the seriousness of what the claimant is alleged to have done.
“They are allegations which the claimant absolutely denies, and which, at the time of publication, he had already publicly denied.”
Mr Sherborne said Depp “is not and never has been a wife beater”.
Speaking about The Sun’s article, he said it “repeated Heard’s allegations, referring to what he described as ‘overwhelming evidence’ in her favour, in an obvious attempt to confirm categorically in the readers’ minds – several million readers’ minds – that these appalling and serious allegations of criminality were true”.
Later in the trial, the court is expected to hear evidence by video-link from actresses Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder, former partners of Depp who both say he was never violent towards them, as well as Heard’s friends, who claim they were present when the star was abusive.
Mr Sherborne said the “starkly contrasting nature of the evidence” given by Depp and Heard is “one of the defining features of this case” and that there is “no real room for a middle ground here”.
He continued: “One side is plainly lying, and to an extraordinary extent.”
In a statement released before the hearing started, a spokesman for Heard said the actress had “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,” the statement said.
“It is Johnny Depp who brought these proceedings against a British newspaper and has dragged her to the UK courts to give evidence on some of the most distressing moments of her life.”
Sky News has contacted representatives of Bettany and Manson for comment.
The trial continues.