In a hearing this morning in Fairfax County, Virginia, Circuit Court Chief Judge Bruce White pushed the trial back from January 11 next year to May 3, 2021. However, the latest postponement had nothing to do with Depp’s filming schedule for Warner Bros’ Fantastic Beasts 3. Nor was the new date scheduled because of Heard’s Aquaman 2 commitments.
Nope, it was all about COVID-19.
“Right now, the Virginia Supreme Court has not authorized us to conduct jury trials,” Judge White told the virtually assembled lawyers for both actors. Heard herself also participated via video link on Friday. Even the new date is actually penciled in, as criminal trials are going to be the first back in court and the backlog could push the battle between the ex-Pirates of the Caribbean star and his ex-wife further into next year.
In a trial that has been pushed back twice already due to the coronavirus pandemic, Depp on August 31 asked that the proceedings be moved to somewhere between March and June 2021. The reason Depp gave was the revamped production of the David Yates-directed Fantastic Beasts 3, which is now up and running in the UK. Back as Grindelwald for another movie in the latest franchise based on J.K. Rowling’s books, Depp said he was scheduled to be on set from October to next February in London.
In an opposition filed on September 4, Heard proclaims prophetically that if Judge White granted Depp’s request for continuance, it could actually conflict with the filming schedule on her own Warner Bros tentpole sequel.
“Defendant’s career has virtually halted, with the exception of Aquaman II – which she was told months ago would begin filming in February 2021,” the filing from Heard’s legal team at Reston VA’s Charlson Brederoft Cohen & Brown, P.C. and Roanoke, VA’s Woods Rogers PLC declared. “Warner Bros counsel said that they do not know when Aquaman II will begin filming, but it will be sometime in the spring of 2021, which is also a basis for denying the continuance.”
In fact, in a September 8th letter (read it here) entered into the court docket on September 9, WB SVP for Corporate Legal Wayne M. Smith told Depp and Heard’s top lawyers that Aquaman 2 “will not start production any earlier than May 31, 2021.” If the Virginia trial runs any longer than its anticipated three weeks, then Heard may indeed have a serious conflict.
Now set to be on FB3 on September 17 until the end of February next year, according to Smith’s letter, Depp was clearly happy with the outcome today. The usually reclusive actor posted a rare greeting to fans on social media:
This all started when the litigious Depp went after Heard in early 2019 for an op-end Heard wrote about domestic violence for the Washington Post in December 2018 . A piece that, while Depp believes cost him a role in Disney’s Pirates reboot, never actually mentions him by name.
Since then Heard has unsuccessfully repeatedly attempted to have the matter dismissed or moved to the West Coast. Earlier this summer, the actress countersued her ex-husband for $100 million.
The Rum Diary co-stars’ short and media spotlighted marriage came to an end in 2016 with a temporary restraining order slapped against Depp amid domestic violence claims. The relationship was officially over with a $7 million divorce settlement, most of which Heard ultimately donated to charity – though Depp contests if she actually did make the donations she claims
This new delay in the Virginia case comes as Depp, Heard and their respective cast of attorneys wait for the verdict in Oscar nominee’s UK libel battle against Rupert Murdoch-owned The Sun. Splashed about as the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century, the 16-day trial against the tabloid over stories about “wife beater” Depp allegedly abusing Heard ended in late July.
The High Court’s Judge Justice Nicol is expected to make public his verdict in the next few weeks.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.