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A brief history of the entire Johnny Depp and Amber Heard saga

The pair are battling it out in court for the third time

On Monday (11th April), a landmark trial between former married couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard began. 

The actor is suing Heard for £38.2 million in damages, after his legal representatives claimed the 58-year-old has found it “difficult” to land film roles since Heard first accused him of domestic abuse. Depp has denied this continuously, with his legal representatives calling the claims “invented.”

Heard has filed a counterclaim of defamation in response – dating back to 2018, when she wrote an opinion article for The Washington Post about her alleged experience of abuse.

This sorry situation has been going on for six years, if you can believe it, and it wouldn’t be hard to feel lost and confused by, well… pretty much everything. So, let’s run through it all again. What exactly happened between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard? And WHY is the legal battle still ongoing?

2009: Depp meets Heard on the set of The Rum Diary

the rum diary amber heard

Photo via GK Films

Depp plays a journalist named Paul Kemp in the comedy-drama film, who meets an engaged woman (Heard) and falls in love with her. At the time, he was married to French singer Vanessa Paridis, with whom he has a daughter, Lily Rose Depp. 

2012: The pair start dating

Vanessa Paridis and Johnny Depp announced their split in June 2012. The couple never married but were in a long-term relationship for 14 years. 

Heard split from former girlfriend Tasya van Ree around the same time. In 2009, Heard was reportedly arrested for allegedly assaulting van Ree at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington. According to USA Today, prosecutors declined to press charges against her – and the incident was wiped from her criminal record in 2011. 

2014: Depp and Heard get engaged


Photo by taniavolobueva/Shutterstock

Heard was pictured wearing a “titanic-sinking” engagement ring in late 2014. A few months later, they married in a private ceremony. The wedding was hosted in their LA home. 

2016: Heard files for divorce from Depp; claims he abused her

Heard filed for divorce 23rd May 2016. She filed a temporary restraining order against Depp, alleging he’d physically abused her while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. 

Heard filed for divorce 23rd May 2016. She filed a temporary restraining order against Depp, alleging he’d physically abused her while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. 

Depp vehemently denied the accusations.

August 2016: The pair reach a settlement of £5.9 million out of court

ellen show

Photo via Warner Bros.

Heard withdrew her restraining order, as well as a spousal support request worth over £38,000. 

The pair released a statement following the settlement: “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain.”

She pledged to donate the £5.9 million to the American Civil Liberties Union (where she’s an ambassador for women’s rights) and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. 

The divorce was finalised in 2017. 

December 2018: Amber Heard publishes an opinion article in The Washington Post

The article – which is the subject of this week’s court battle between Heard and Depp – allegedly implied the actress was abused by the former Fantastic Beasts star. 

“Two years ago,” she said, “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.

“Friends and advisers told me I would never again work as an actress — that I would be blacklisted… I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”

2019: Depp sues Heard for defamation

johnny depp amber heard timeline

Photo via NBC

“(Heard’s) implication that Mr. Depp is a domestic abuser is categorically and demonstrably false,” Depp’s lawyers said.

The lawsuit went on to claim Heard’s statement was an “elaborate hoax” cooked up to generate “positive publicity.” Amber Heard has yet to respond. While it’s unclear whether she’ll give her testimony in court, her ex Elon Musk and friend James Franco have been listed as witnesses. 

January 2020: Leaked phone recordings show Heard admitting to hitting Depp

The Daily Mail released previously unheard phone recordings in which Heard and Depp discussed separation; as Heard appeared to admit getting “physical” with him.

“If things get physical, we have to separate,” Depp said. “There can be no physical violence.”

“I can’t promise you I won’t get physical again,” Heard replied. “God I… sometimes get so mad I lose it.” The actress responded through her lawyer, who said: “The fact that a woman fights or talks back does not mean that she has not been the subject of repeated domestic violence and abuse. It’s a myth to say, as Mr. Depp apparently is implying, that if Ms. Heard slapped him, then she can’t also be a victim. That is just not true.”

July to November 2020: Depp files a defamation suit against The Sun; fails

In 2018, The Sun published an article in which they branded Depp a “wife-beater.” In response, Depp filed a lawsuit against both News Group Newspapers and the then-executive editor, Dan Wootton. 

During the trial, Depp testified the alleged violence was mutual. He claimed Heard “punched” him and deliberately soiled his bed – although she has since denied both allegations. Testimonies from Paridis and Winona Ryder both claimed Depp was incapable of being “violent or abusive.” Depp has maintained, since 2016, that his relationship with Heard wasn’t abusive. 

A judge ruled in favour of The Sun – which then published an article entitled “Johnny Depp is a wife-beater and fool for thinking he could overturn the damning evidence against him”. 

November 2020: Depp ‘resigns’ from Fantastic Beasts

johnny depp amber heard

Photo via Warner Bros.

Depp’s defining role as the evil Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hung in the balance throughout the year’s legal proceedings. Just days after court found in The Sun’s favour, Depp announced his “resignation” from the film series. 

“I have been asked to resign by Warner Bros. from my role as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts and I have respected and agreed to that request,” his short statement read. 

The news was met with mixed reactions, as #JusticeForJohnnyDepp made the rounds on Twitter. 

“Johnny Depp was asked to resign from Fantastic Beasts and I cannot be more mad about it… His career is being jeopardised,” one person said. 

“Warner Bros has led by example and shown us all how it should be done,” said another. 

April 2022: The defamation trial begins


Photo by SHAWN THEW/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Today’s events (12th April) alone have included extracts from Amber Heard’s article being read out in court, a ban on selfie-taking and Johnny Depp’s opening statement read out by his legal representatives. 

It has been revealed at the time of writing this that Depp will himself testify in the case.   

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