The latest chapter in Hollywood star Johnny Depp’s legal battle with his ex-wife Amber Heard begins on Monday as a defamation lawsuit in the United States begins over Heard’s domestic violence allegations.
Depp, 58, sued Heard for US$50 million, claiming she defamed him when she wrote a 2018 opinion piece in the Washington Post of being a survivor of domestic violence.
The editorial never mentioned Depp by name, but Depp’s attorneys said it was clear Heard was referring to him and that the article had damaged his film career and reputation.
Depp has denied all allegations of abuse, saying in his lawsuit that Heard’s claims were an “elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career”.
Jury selection is expected to begin Monday in the case.
Depp wants the Fairfax County jury to find Heard knowingly made false statements.
Heard, for her part, will argue that she is shielded or “immune” from liability because her 2018 op-ed on domestic violence dealt with a matter of public interest.
“I never named him. Instead, I wrote about the price women pay for exposing men in power. I continue to pay the price, but I hope that when this case is over, I I can move on and so can Johnny,” Heard said in a statement on Saturday.
The Washington Post is not charged in the lawsuit.
Depp lost his defamation lawsuit in 2020
The US lawsuit comes less than two years after Depp lost a libel case against The Sun, a British tabloid that called her a “woman fighter”. A High Court judge in London ruled that he repeatedly assaulted Heard and made him fear for his life.
WATCH | Johnny Depp loses UK libel case
The United States is a difficult forum for libel plaintiffs, especially public figures like Depp, who faces several hurdles in the Virginia case. Depp must prove with clear and convincing evidence that Heard knowingly made false statements.
Under English libel law, the person being sued bears the burden of proving that their allegations were true.
Depp and Heard met while doing The rum journal in 2011 and married four years later. Heard accused Depp of domestic abuse after filing for divorce in 2016.
Depp rose to fame in Hollywood in the 1990s with portrayals of loners and strangers in cult classics such as John Waters. crybaby and Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands.
He’s become a household name with the swashbuckling Disney franchise Pirates of the Caribbeann, playing fan favorite Jack Sparrow.
Heard, 35, is known for her roles in Aquaman and Justice League. She filed her own libel suit against Depp, claiming he defamed her by calling her a liar.
Heard: Depp had an alter ego, “the monster”
Heard’s counterclaim will be decided in the trial, which could last six weeks. Heard is seeking $100 million in damages from Depp, according to court documents.
In testimony to the High Court in London, Heard said Depp would turn into a jealous alter ego, “the monster”, after using drugs and alcohol and threatening to kill her.
She detailed 14 instances of extreme violence when she said the actor choked, punched, slapped, hit her on the head, choked and kicked her. The London judge accepts 12 of these accounts as true.
Following the November 2020 ruling in the London libel trial, Depp was replaced by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen in the third film of the fantastic beasts franchise, a spin-off of the Harry Potter books and movies.