Johnny Depp took the stand in a Virginia courtroom Tuesday afternoon, as he attempted to prove that his ex-wife Amber Heard defamed him after she accused him of domestic abuse.
Depp has sued Heard for $50 million over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed where Heard called herself “a public figure representing domestic abuse,” two years after the actress first publicly said that Depp abused her. Heard has since filed a $100 million counter-claim against Depp, accusing the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star of defaming her too.
Depp’s testimony Tuesday rarely touched on the allegations of violence that brought the famous pair to court. Instead, his lawyers initially asked about his family—including Depp’s contention that his mother was abusive—and his acting career. Depp, a multimillionaire movie star, framed his success as a kind of happy accident (bolstered by Nicolas Cage). The testimony, at times, felt like a recitation of Depp’s greatest hits, with Depp cast as the underdog bewildered by his growing fame: He talked about how he first got a role in “Nightmare on Elm Street,” how he crafted his “Pirates of the Caribbean” character Captain Jack Sparrow, and how the success of that franchise changed his life.
“We had to hire more security and I was certainly worried for my kids’ safety,” Depp said. (Depp has two children with his former partner Vanessa Paradis.) “Just getting followed by hordes of paparazzi and things like that—I’ve had worse jobs, certainly. Can’t complain about it. But yeah, after a while you realize anonymity has left the building.”
By the time Depp’s testimony ended, early Tuesday evening, Depp had started to talk more about how he met Heard and began a romantic relationship with her, as well as her family and circle of friends.
When asked about how his early family life impacted his relationship with Heard, Depp mostly talked about how, at first, she’d seemed “too good to be true”—before an apparent incident with his boots.
“She was attentive, she was loving, she was smart, she was kind, she was funny, she was understanding,” said Depp, who also at one point called Heard “literate.” “I worked quite a lot. When I would come home from work, I would come in the house, hotel, and she would sit me down on the couch and give me a glass of wine and take my boots off, set them to the side. And I’d never experienced anything like that in my life.”
Then, one day, Depp said he took his boots off himself.
“I sat down on the couch and I took my boots off and suddenly Miss Heard approached with this look on her face and she just said, ‘What did you just do?’” Depp said. “Within a year, year and a half, she had become another person, almost.”
Depp and Heard both say that their relationship was violent. But while Heard says Depp abused her, Depp says his ex-wife abused him.
At another point in the testimony, Depp seemed to consistently misgender a friend of Heard’s, iO Tillett Wright, who is a trans man and uses he/him pronouns. “She was born a female, if that’s the right terminology these days,” Depp said with a slight laugh. “She had chosen at a very young age—she had decided that she was a—she was a male and she identified as a male.”
On the first day of the trial, Heard’s legal team alleged that Depp had sexually assaulted Heard—an allegation never before aired publicly. Heard’s attorney said that Depp went on a bender in Australia in 2016, when he took ecstasy, punched and kicked Heard, and penetrated her with a liquor bottle.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Depp said that the sexual assault claim was fabricated.
“These fictitious claims were never made at the onset of Amber’s allegations in 2016, and only advantageously surfaced years later once she was sued for defamation after noting in her op-ed that she was a victim of ‘sexual violence,’” the spokesperson said. “Words are key in a defamation case and conveniently, this allegation only came after that. This follows a pattern of her elaborate, erroneous claims which have continued to change and evolve over time for the purpose of Hollywood shock value of which Amber has mastered and used to exploit a serious social movement.”
Depp said on the stand that he had been addicted to opiates, but said that allegations of his substance use have been “grossly embellished.”
“Before Australia and in Australia, I had been off of alcohol for I believe 18 months,” the actor said on the stand. “There’s no moments where I would have been considered out of control.”
Heard and Depp have clashed in court before: In 2020, a British judge concluded that a newspaper had not defamed Depp when it called him a “wifebeater” and said there was “overwhelming evidence” that Depp had assaulted Heard.
Depp’s fans have leapt to defend him over the years of the public battles between Depp and Heard, and this trial has proven no different. The chat for one YouTube livestream of the trial was almost entirely comprised of comments that support Depp, while the hashtag “Justice for Johnny Depp” ran wild on Twitter. Depp’s fans have also tried to get Heard fired from the “Aquaman” superhero franchise.
Heard is expected to testify before the trial ends.