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Make-up, the infamous op-ed and Elon Musk: Here’s what’s new in Depp v Heard


By Sarah Finnan
17th May 2022

Law & Crime

Make-up, the infamous op-ed and Elon Musk: Here’s what’s new in Depp v Heard

The Johnny Depp v Amber Heard trial got back underway in Fairfax, Virginia yesterday, returning after a brief week-long recess.

One of the most high-profile legal battles in modern history, interest in the case has skyrocketed in recent weeks and Law & Crime – many people’s go-to source for live coverage – has hit record-breaking viewing numbers since proceedings began over a month ago (more than 330 million people have tuned in so far). 

Now scheduled to end on May 27th, the trial’s opening statements began on April 11th during which both sides made graphic claims of domestic assault. 

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million on the grounds that the actor’s reputation and career suffered following a 2018 op-ed written for the Washington Post. Though he was not explicitly named, his ex-wife wrote that she was a victim of domestic abuse and Depp’s counsel argues that this constitutes “defamation by implication”.

Heard is counter-suing for $100 million, arguing that Depp and his legal team defamed her in their statements that her allegations were an “abuse hoax”. She claims that Depp “authorised and conspired” with his counsel in order to “attempt to destroy and defame Ms Heard in the press”.

Before the trial went on break this month, Heard testified about the first instance of abuse, as well as her intentions in writing the op-ed at the centre of the trial. Heard took to the stand once again yesterday when Depp’s legal team began their cross-examination.

Getting the facts straight

Heard spent the first few minutes on the witness stand adjusting her testimony and telling the court that the alleged abuse from Depp actually began earlier than she first recalled, according to a review of her therapy notes. 

“You never forget it, it changes your life forever, you never forget something like that. I just had the date wrong,” she told the court, changing the date of the original incident from 2013 to the early part of 2012. 

She then recounted a time when Depp allegedly assaulted her while the two were on honeymoon in South Asia. According to her, the two argued on the last night of their time aboard the Orient Express as Depp wanted “permission” to break his sobriety. He had already been drinking “brown liquor” that night she recalled, alleging that Depp slapped her and then held her by her neck. 

“Violence became normal towards the end [of the relationship],” according to Heard. 

Sex scene

Later in the day, Heard talks of a sex scene in the movie London Fields, that supposedly caused Depp to “freak out”. “Unbeknownst to me, they used a body double to do a sex scene, so I have an incredibly jealous man who’s already irate with me because I’ve broken the rules and done a sex scene,” Heard explained. 

She says Depp was already angry with her because she had entertained doing a TV job with the actor James Franco, which “would also require brief nudity”. The court has previously heard that Depp was jealous of Franco. Heard calls the situation a “pressure cooker”, describing it as “a week of hell”. 

According to Heard, the couple watched a screener of the movie together at Depp’s chateau in France. “Johnny at one point slapped me in the face in the bedroom of the chateau we were staying in, punched me in the jaw, he either pushed or threw me — it’s hard to say – but I went flying into this old church furniture. It was the first time I had ever sustained a concussion. I wrote about it later.”

Happy f*cking birthday

Describing her 30th birthday in April 2016, Heard says that she and Depp had gotten into a fight the evening after her party, during which Depp “chest bumped” her, “pushed [her] to the ground” and “grabbed [her] by the pubic area”. She alleges that he later screamed “Happy f*cking birthday” at her, also leaving “a note to that effect”. 

The court was also shown a series of photos of Heard, which she says were taken by her friend Rocky Pennington after Depp allegedly threw a phone at her on May 21 2016 when he came to visit her in LA. 

On May 23 2016, Heard filed for divorce from Depp and obtained a temporary restraining order against him four days later. “It felt like the hardest thing I ever had to do. I had worked so hard to try to make this relationship work, I went to therapy, Al Anon [which provides support for family and friends of alcoholics], I read books, I did everything I could do to make this relationship work. I was conflicted,” she told the court. 

“I knew it was falling apart, I knew I had to leave him, I knew I wouldn’t survive it if I didn’t, so I decided to file for divorce. It was so hard as I loved Johnny so much. If I didn’t, I’d likely not literally survive. I was so scared it was going to end really badly for me, and I really didn’t want to leave him. I loved him so much, and would have done anything, but I couldn’t do that one thing. I couldn’t stay.

“The monster had become that thing that was now normal and not the exception. The violence had become normal and not the exception. I believe he would have taken it too far and I wouldn’t be here,” she finished.

Make-up routine

Also discussing her much-talked-about make-up routine, Heard’s lawyer asked her to describe what she would do when she had bruises or cuts to cover. To which she responded that she would use a mixture of ice and arnica (a homoeopathic remedy for bruising) to “take down the swelling” and foundation and concealer to hide the marks. She says she had a theatre colour correction kit which she called her “bruise kit”, and carried around with her “all the time”. 

Divorce settlement

During her testimony, Heard also admitted that she has not yet donated the entirety of her $7 million divorce settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles as promised back in 2016. 

“I fully intend to honour all of my pledges,” Heard told the court, adding, “I would love for [Johnny] to stop suing me so I can.” Terence Dougherty, chief operating officer of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), already testified to say that $350,000 was donated by Heard in December 2018, $100,000 was paid by Depp and another $350,000 came from the investment fund. 

After that time, Heard’s then-boyfriend Elon Musk, made donations of $500,000 to both charities in her name. Heard says that was not part of her pledge. 

Asked why she had accepted the divorce payout, Heard said that she “didn’t care about the money”.“I was told if I didn’t agree to a number that it could be overturned, that this would never actually settle, it would never get completed, we would never settle. I took far less than what they were offering and what I was entitled to.

“I promised the entirety of it to charity because I was never interested in Johnny’s money. In the divorce, I wanted my safety. I want to move on with my life, I wanted my future. And then he started compromising that, calling me a liar, making it impossible for me to move on.

“I wanted the truth, I wanted him to clear my name. I wanted him to leave me alone. I’ve been saying that since 2016,” Heard stated. 

The Washington Post op-ed

Asked why she decided to write the op-ed for the Washington Post, Heard responded by saying that she took “the opportunity to lend her voice to a great cause which was a conversation around women’s issues the country was having at the time”. 

According to Heard, the ACLU drafted the first draft of the piece and she personally didn’t want to mention Depp in either name or reference. Heard said that she hired an attorney to look over the copy as she didn’t want to have any legal issues as a result of the article. “I know what happens to people when they come forward and speak about these issues, especially when they come forward against someone more powerful than them… That backlash, that retaliation that people face when they come forward was exactly what I was writing about. I didn’t want Johnny to retaliate against me, and literally prove my point.”

Heard maintains that she is “proud” of the article, telling the court that she “had the paper article framed”.  

Proceedings continue today, with further testimony from Heard. A verdict isn’t expected until later in the month with closing arguments to take place on May 27. For a full account of what went down in the Fairfax Circuit Court so far, have a look at our week one, week two, week three and week four recaps.