A highly publicized court case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is currently under way in Virginia. In the ongoing legal battle, Depp is suing Heard for $50 million for defamation, with Heard countersuing for $100 million, following abuse allegations from Heard and a 2018 Washington Post “Opinion” piece. The exes will take the stand to testify in the culmination of a yearslong legal battle. Joining them will be a bevy of high-profile witnesses including Elon Musk and James Franco. Below, we break down the circumstances that led to their current dispute, starting from the day they met as co-stars in 2009.
The actors meet as co-stars on the set of The Rum Diary, a film adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel of the same name. Depp plays Paul Kemp, a journalist who encounters Heard’s character, Chenault, before the two begin a passionate affair behind the back of Chenault’s fiancé. Depp is still in his long-term partnership with Vanessa Paradis; the couple share two kids, Lily-Rose Depp, 22, and Jack Depp, 20. In 2009, Heard is arrested for allegedly physically assaulting her partner, Tasya van Ree — however, the charges against Heard are dropped after van Ree claims that cops “misinterpreted” the incident.
Although Depp and Heard are ambiguous about their relationship status a few years after their initial meeting, court filings indicate that they began dating at the end of 2011 or the start of 2012. Heard calls it quits with her partner that year. After 14 years together, Depp and Paradis decide to end things, which Depp then discusses in a 2013 Rolling Stone piece, in which he states that “relationships are very difficult.”
Depp and Heard marry in a private ceremony at their L.A. residence. After the first, more understated nuptials, they wed again in a more extravagant setting on Depp’s private island in the Bahamas. “We’ve been together for a long time now, so it’s been a fairly organic process,” Heard tells Elle after their wedding. “I have a fiercely independent spirit.” Later in 2015, the couple are caught violating Australia’s biosecurity laws after they bring their dogs, Pistol and Boo, into the country illegally.
Heard reportedly arrives in court with a bruised face after filing for divorce from Depp on May 23, 2016. She claims that Depp caused the injury by throwing an iPhone at her. The judge grants her a temporary restraining order against Depp after she made a domestic-abuse complaint on May 21. However, an LAPD spokesperson states that their investigation into the May 21 claim bore “no evidence of a crime.” During this month, Heard also provides court filings that allege that the Fantastic Beasts actor often assaulted her while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. “He has a short fuse,” she said. “He is often paranoid and his temper is extremely scary for me as it has proven many times to be physically dangerous and/or life-threatening to me.”
In August, Depp and Heard settle their abuse case out of court. As part of their divorce, Heard receives a settlement of $7 million, which she says she will donate to charity. The exes release a joint statement saying, “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain.”
The couple finalizes their divorce. Heard keeps Pistol and Boo, and Depp retains possession of his island in the Bahamas as well as his collection of motorcycles and cars. A non-disparagement clause — which prevents Depp and Heard from speaking negatively about their marriage or ensuing divorce — is inserted into the settlement.
Heard writes the Washington Post op-ed that sets off the series of lawsuits and countersuits that persist still. Although she doesn’t mention Depp by name, the op-ed is the center of his 2019 defamation suit for $50 million, in which Depp’s representatives allege that Heard was a perpetrator of abuse, not a victim.
Depp sues the Sun and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article in which Depp is labeled a “wife beater.” The U.K. libel trial wraps on November 2, ruling the publication’s use of the phrase “substantially true.”
Depp is denied an appeal against the Sun. Following the outcome, he is removed from the next installment of Fantastic Beasts and replaced with Mads Mikkelsen.
The trial begins in a Fairfax, Virginia, courthouse on April 11. Opening statements from Heard’s attorneys open with the accusations of abuse, including horrific claims of physical and sexual assault. In his own testimony, Depp states that he pursued the defamation case to clear his name for his sake of “the truth.”