In one of the most high-profile cases to roil Hollywood in years, Johnny Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard are at it again, this time at a trial that opened today in a Fairfax, Virginia court. Jury selection is expected to begin at once, and arguments could be presented as early as tomorrow. The trial, before Judge Penny Azcarate, will be broadcast on Court TV.
The brouhaha started in 2019 when Heard published an op-ed in the Washington Post alluding to earlier allegations that Depp had abused her. In the context of the #MeToo movement, she wrote of the backlash she’d suffered since making her original allegations against Depp in 2016. Her article did not mention Depp by name or offer any details, but she identified herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse.”
That thinly veiled comment was enough to prompt Depp to file a lawsuit for $50 million accusing Heard of concocting a hoax to destroy his career. Heard countersued for $100 million.
Two years ago, a court in the U.K. denied Depp’s suit against the Sun newspaper, which had described the actor as a “wife beater” in a 2018 article. The judge in that case concluded Heard’s allegations were credible, writing “I accept her evidence of the nature of the assaults he committed against her. They must have been terrifying. I accept that Mr. Depp put her in fear of her life.”
Heard had accused Depp of assaulting her in in several locales in 2015, including a Pirates of the Caribbean film shoot in Australia. The filings included accusations that Depp had pulled out clumps of her hair and left her with cuts and bruises. After that verdict, Depp was booted from the Fantastic Beasts franchise; he had already lost his role in Pirates of the Caribbean.
Observers believe the Virginia jury will be under a global spotlight in trying to sort through the “he-said-she-said” nuances of the case. A source told Deadline that the case is Depp’s “last gasp attempt” to prevail: “A jury verdict against Johnny will send a message to the millions of women out there who suffer from intimate partner violence every single day, that they can move safely on with their lives. And it will allow Amber to move on as well.”