There likely won’t be a red carpet rolled out in front of the Fairfax County courthouse, but some big names are coming to Johnny Depp’s now $100 million defamation battle with ex-wife Amber Heard when the long delayed trial starts next month.
If the three-year old and counting case survives the latest summary judgement motion set for a March 24 hearing, James Franco, WandaVision star Paul Bettany, Elon Musk and representatives of the Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros, and the LAPD will be joining friends, family, lawyers and other associates of the formerly-married Rum Diary co-stars in the Virginia courtroom. Additionally, the private correspondence of Depp and Heard with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and power players will be laid out for the public to see.
Kicked off by a $50 million defamation suit filed by the one-time Pirates of the Caribbean star back in March 2019 over a Washington Post op-ed about domestic violence which was penned by Heard in late 2018, the bitter and increasingly scorched-Earth dispute between the couple is presently set to go to trial starting April 11.
After failing to both get the matter moved to California and dismissed, the Aquaman star countersued her litigious ex-husband for $100 million in September 2020. After losing his UK libel suit against Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid in November 2020 for calling him a “wife beater,” and denied an appeal in March 2021, Depp also came up short in January 2021 in his desire to see Heard’s big bucks countersuit tossed out.
Currently both Depp and Heard are planning to take the stand, in-person, in Judge Penney S. Azcarate’s courtroom during the trial, which is expected to last around six weeks. Both Franco and SpaceX boss Musk were dragged into this case by Depp, who accused them of having affairs with Heard. They’re now on Heard’s witness list; The 2011 Oscar nominee and one of the world’s richest men will speak to the court via WebEx video link.
Having given a scathing deposition in Depp’s UK libel case almost two years ago, Ellen Barkin is on Heard’s witness list in this trial, too.
Submitted to the Virginia state court on March 15, Heard’s list sees the Animal Kingdom actress participating via a deposition in this case, as will Depp’s fired (and sued) ex-lawyer Jacob Bloom. A Praetorian Guard including a “Custodian of Records/Corporate Designee” for Warner Bros, the LAPD, the ACLU, Disney and WME Entertainment will offer business records declarations as a part of the proceedings.
Avengers alum and Depp pal Paul Bettany is on the 21 Jump Street actor’s March 14 submitted 38-subject witness list to give testimony “via video link.” Ignominiously drawn into Depp’s UK trial with the reading of extensive texts between the duo that detailed “burning”, “drowning,” and having sex with the “burnt corpse” of Heard, Bettany is not a witness for the actress
However, Bettany’s 2015 correspondence with Depp is on Heard’s 1530-item exhibit list.
What is also on that wide-ranging exhibit list are texts between Heard and her Aguaman co-star Jason Momoa and director James Wan. There is correspondence with original Justice League helmer Zack Synder, and 2018 emails by CAA kingpin Bryan Lourd are on the list. Emails between Depp and Fantastic Beasts creator J.K. Rowling as well as musician Jack White are included, as well.
Articles by a number of outlets — including this 2016 Deadline piece — on the Depp/Heard marriage and corresponding legal dust-ups are to be found on the exhibit list too, along with years’ of tax returns and film contracts. There are also hours of security camera footage, plus a number of photographs of a seemingly bruised and battered Heard and snaps of drugs allegedly belonging to Depp.
All in all, between the witness lists and the extensive exhibit list from Heard’s attorney Eliane Bredehoft, there look to be few rocks left undisturbed at this point. And we haven’t even seen an exhibit list yet from Depp.
Filing the case initially a few years after he and Heard split amidst restraining orders and a $7 million settlement from the actor, Depp has shared his POV on the relationship.
“Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse, she is a perpetrator,” Depp’s spring 2019 suit declared.
Since then, through the legal ups and downs, Depp and his legal team and advisors have consistently proclaimed Heard a liar and questioned how much of that $7 million settlement she actually donated to L.A.’s Children Hospital Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, as promised.
The intent of probing the charity donations has clearly been to undermine Heard’s credibility. The move gained some traction in early 2021 when Heard’s top lawyer admitted it wasn’t all as straightforward as advertised.
“Amber has already been responsible for seven figures in donations to charitable causes and intends to continue to contribute and eventually fulfill her pledge,” the Reston, VA located Bredehoft told Deadline at the time.
As his fans have repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to have Heard tossed off film projects, Hollywood Vampires guitarist Depp has been on a tour over the last year of farther afield festivals, where he has plead his case to the public.
“It doesn’t matter if a judgement, per se, has taken some artistic license,” the fired Fantastic Beats actor told the San Sebastian Film Festival last September on the subject of so-called cancel culture and his own diminished career. “When there’s an injustice, whether it’s against you or someone you love, or someone you believe in – stand up, don’t sit down.”
What’s more, in a likely career-defining instance, Depp himself will be sitting down in court next month to help argue his long festering case – for better or worse.