Hollywood actor Johnny Depp Tuesday launched legal action against the publisher of the British tabloid The Sun and its executive editor Dan Wotton at the High Court in London over a 2018 article in which he was called a “wife-beater”.
The article, titled ‘Gone Potty – How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?‘, was written after Rowling supported the casting of Depp in the lead role of the film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Both Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard were present in court Tuesday.
The lawsuit comes over a year after Depp filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard for an opinion column she wrote in The Washington Post, in which she said she “felt the full force of our culture’s wrath” for sharing her experience of sexual violence. In the column written in 2018, Heard brought up the physical abuse allegations she had made against her former husband, without naming Depp.
What is this dispute about?
The article in The Sun had described Rowling as “the worst type of Hollywood hypocrite” for supporting Depp’s casting in the film, since it provided him “total rehabilitation” in the eyes of the industry. The outrage against Rowling was based on Heard’s claims that Depp was violent and abusive towards her during their marriage.
Depp and Heard were married for two years between 2015 and 2017. Reports, however, indicate that the first time Depp allegedly hit Heard was in 2013 after she made fun of a tattoo on his arm that read “Wino Forever”. The tattoo was originally “Winona Forever” referring to the actress Winona Ryder, who he was in a relationship with until 1993.
In court, The Sun’s lawyer Sasha Wass QC claimed Depp had slapped Heard three times during this incident.
What are the allegations against Depp?
Heard has submitted details of 14 incidents of assault by Depp as evidence in support of The Sun’s article.
Depp has denied all accusations, maintaining that he never hit her.
Heard describes one incident as a “three-day hostage situation” while Depp was shooting for his film “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” in Australia. She claimed Depp choked her and pushed her to the ground after she found a bag of MDMA pills.
According to Depp’s version of the events, he severed the tip of his finger after being hit by two vodka bottles thrown by Heard. Depp claimed the incident took place after Heard learnt he was planning a post-nuptial agreement. Heard, on the other hand, claims he severed his finger while smashing a telephone against the wall.
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In 2016, a Los Angeles court granted Heard a temporary restraining order days after she filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. She accused Depp of hitting her in their Los Angeles apartment in May 2016 — a claim which the police later said bore no evidence.
However, days before the hearing, Heard withdrew the abuse allegations and reached a $7 million divorce settlement with Depp. In a joint statement, the couple acknowledged their relationship was “volatile” and that neither of them had intended any physical or emotional harm. Heard also mentioned she would donate the proceeds from the divorce to a charity.
How has Johnny Depp responded?
Depp has denied hitting Heard and called her allegations “sick”. On Tuesday, he told the court that the newspaper’s claims of him being a “wife-beater” were “completely untrue”.
In fact, Depp has accused Heard of “building a dossier” against him. Depp’s former partners Ryder and Vanessa Paradis are also expected to provide statements to support him.
In the defamation suit filed against Heard, Depp’s lawyers have stated that the article she wrote “depended on the central premise that Ms. Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr. Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her”, The Washington Post reported. The lawyers called the article’s central premise “categorically false”.
In Depp’s own declaration, he maintains that his ex-wife fabricated the domestic violence allegations and that she arrived in court in May 2016 with “painted-on bruises that witnesses and surveillance footage show she did not possess each day of the preceding week,” The Post reported.
Depp has also accused Heard of abusing him throughout the relationship.
Further, he has accused SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk for having a “three-way” extramarital affair with Heard and model Cara Delevingne, a claim Musk has denied. Earlier in June, Musk also urged Depp and Heard to “bury the hatchet”.
On Tuesday, Depp’s lawyers also told the court Heard had been unfaithful to Depp with both Musk and Hollywood actor James Franco.
Heard’s lawyers argued that Depp allegedly hit and slapped Heard on a private plane because he believed she was an having an affair with Franco, the court was also told on Tuesday.
In one of the more sensational claims, Depp told the court that during their marriage, Heard or one of her friends had defecated in their bed. Heard responded to this saying it was “just a harmless prank”, The Daily Mail reported.
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