After a high-profile libel case in London, actor Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard will return to court on Monday, this time in the United States, for a blockbuster libel case revolving around allegations of spousal abuse.
The case pitting Depp, 58, against Heard, 35, will be broadcast live. Both are expected to testify, along with actors James Franco and Paul Bettany, and billionaire Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk.
The case centers on a column written by Heard and printed in The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she describes herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse” who was ridiculed online after her assault claims. .
The column was titled: “I have spoken out against sexual violence and faced the wrath of our culture. That has to change.”
The actress never names Depp, whom she met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and was married to from 2015 to 2017, but he sued her for defamation for implying that he was an abuser, seeking 50 millions of dollars in damage.
“The op-ed’s clear implication that Mr. Depp is a domestic abuser is categorically and demonstrably false. Mr. Depp never abused Ms. Heard,” the complaint says.
Depp accuses Heard of seeking to “generate positive publicity for herself” ahead of the release of the movie “Aquaman,” in which she had a leading role.
Heard countersued, asking for $100 million, saying she suffered “unbridled physical violence and abuse” at his hands.
“The frivolous lawsuit that Mr. Depp has filed against Ms. Heard continues that abuse and harassment,” his counterclaim says.
– Intimate details exposed –
After a fierce legal battle at every stage of the US case, jury selection begins Monday in a Fairfax County courthouse, outside Washington.
Depp made his case in Virginia, as The Washington Post is published there. The state also has anti-defamation laws that are considered more favorable to plaintiffs than those in California, where the two actors live.
The trial, presided over by Judge Penney Azcarate, is expected to last several weeks. Opening statements could begin as soon as Tuesday.
Depp and Heard are expected to testify in person, while other witnesses could be heard via video link.
More details about the private lives of the two actors are expected to emerge.
Starting in 2016, Heard filed for a restraining order against Depp amid allegations of abuse. Her divorce was finalized in 2017.
Depp lost the London case, which he brought against The Sun for calling him a “wife beater”. His attempted appeal was rejected in March last year.
That trial uncovered details of the couple’s volatile relationship, including Depp’s battle with drugs and alcohol.
Heard testified that she loved Depp sober, but that he became a “freak” after days of bingeing on powerful prescription and other medications.
Depp’s career has suffered in the wake of that case.
He left his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.
Depp also said he was asked to step down from the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise based on the book by Harry Potter author JK Rowling. He has been replaced by Mads Mikkelsen.
In a quirk of time, the next movie in that series opens in US theaters on April 15.