(Press Association) Johnny Depp has denied slapping his ex-wife Amber Heard after she laughed at his “Wino Forever” tattoo, as he faced further questioning on the second day of high-profile libel action against The Sun newspaper.
The Hollywood actor rejected suggestions he slapped Heard three times during a time when he had “fallen off the wagon” after she made a joke of the etching on his arm – saying “that is not true, you are mistaken.” The 57-year-old was asked about the alleged incident as he re-entered the witness box to give evidence in his claim.
Depp is suing the tabloid’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over the 2018 article, which labelled him a “wife-beater” and referred to “overwhelming evidence” that he attacked Heard, 34, during their relationship – which he strenuously denies.
Sasha Wass QC, for NGN, asked Depp about the alleged incident in March 2013, which Depp agreed was at a time when he had “fallen off the wagon” following about 160 days of sobriety. It involved a tattoo the actor had done on his arm during his relationship with actress Winona Ryder, which read “Winona Forever” and which he had changed to “Wino Forever” after they split.
Wass put it to Depp that he had slapped Heard three times after she laughed at the tattoo during a period where he was drinking heavily.
She said: “Do you accept that Ms Heard was making a joke out of your tattoo, ‘Wino Forever’?”
Depp replied: “I don’t recall any conversation.”
Sasha Wass QC continued: “I suggest that that provoked disappointment, firstly, in you, and then anger in you, but you don’t remember.”
Depp replied: “I don’t recall any argument about any of my tattoos.”
Wass said: “You then, Mr Depp, slapped Ms Heard across the face.”
The actor responded: “That is not correct, it’s untrue. It didn’t happen.”
Wass said: “You slapped her more than once, because after you slapped her the first time, she didn’t react, she just eyeballed you, she just stared at you, and that made you more angry and you slapped her again.”
Depp answered: “That is patently untrue.”
Wass then put it to the actor that he slapped his former wife three times in total during the incident, to which he replied: “I’m sorry but that is not true, you are mistaken.”
The barrister then put it to Depp that he “broke down” after coming to his senses and realizing what he had done, to which he said: “I didn’t hit Ms Heard.”
Heard claims that Depp first hit her in early 2013 – one of 14 separate allegations of domestic violence, all denied by Depp, relied on by NGN in their defense.
Wass had opened the second day of Depp’s cross-examination by asking the actor about his drug use, saying: “Were you taking cocaine in March 2013?” Depp replied that it was “difficult to recollect if I was taking cocaine in March 2013… it’s possible.”
The barrister later told the court that Heard had told Depp “that she knew all about addiction because her father and, indeed, also her mother had also been drug users.” Depp said that was true and that he became “very close” with Heard’s father and mother. But the actor denied that Heard had said “she could help him” with his drug use.
The actor’s case against NGN and Wootton arises out of the publication of an article on The Sun’s website on April 27 2018 with the headline “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife-beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”
NGN is defending the article as true and says Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” between early 2013 and May 2016, when the couple split.
In a written outline of the actor’s case, his barrister, David Sherborne, said the article made “defamatory allegations of the utmost seriousness” against Depp, accusing him of committing serious assaults on Heard and “inflicting such serious injuries that she feared for her life”.
Sherborne said: “The articles amount to a full-scale attack on the claimant as a ‘wife beater’, guilty of the most horrendous physical abuse. The claimant’s position is clear – Ms Heard’s allegations are complete lies. The claimant was not violent towards Ms Heard, it was she who was violent to him.”
He added: “The marriage was at times physical, at her instigation, and on occasions he found it necessary to defend himself from her violence. He is not a wife-beater and never has been.”
A separate libel claim brought by Depp against Heard in the US, over a December 2018 column in the Washington Post – which said the actress received “the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out” but did not mention Depp by name, is due to begin next January. The pair met in 2011 and began living together in 2012 before marrying in Los Angeles in February 2015.
The trial continues.