When Amber Heard took the witness stand in Johnny Depp’s defamation case against her on May 4, she quickly described the emotional toll of the proceedings — and the power differential in their relationship. “I struggle to find the words to describe how painful this is,” Heard said when asked how she felt about the trial, adding shortly thereafter: “This is the most painful and difficult thing I’ve ever gone through, for sure.” Heard testified that she met Depp after auditioning for The Rum Diary. Heard met Depp at his office; they discussed obscure literature and blues music for several hours. Depp sent her home with several books, Heard said. Heard wore a deep navy, three-piece suit with a blue-and-white–striped shirt in court while describing their relationship, and she spoke matter-of-factly. She looked around the courtroom while answering her lawyer’s questions, while Depp’s gaze remained locked on the table.
“We spent the whole time just talking about things that we care about; I was so surprised. I knew who he was. I wasn’t a fan of his work,” she said of their meeting. “It was weird because he’s twice my age and he’s a world-famous actor …” Heard said. “I left there just feeling like, wow.” Heard got the part. Depp seemed to take a liking to Heard early on. “We didn’t really have a whole lot of interaction on set until we did a scene that involved kissing,” Heard recalled, which matches Depp’s testimony. “We had a kissing scene, and didn’t feel like normal, it didn’t feel like a normal scene anymore. It felt more real.” There are certain things that you do in a job to be professional, like when you do that sort of scene, you don’t use your tongue if you can avoid it,” Heard said, but “he grabbed my face and pulled me into him and really kissed me, but we were filming a scene.” “Did he use his tongue?” Heard’s attorney, Elaine Bredehoft, asked. “Yes,” Heard answered.
Bredehoft’s line of questioning and Heard’s answers seemed like they meant to establish that Depp had the upper hand in their relationship — and that he started to push boundaries early on. Once on the Rum Diary set, Depp “kicked his foot up in the air and, basically, kind of lifted the back of my bathrobe up,” Heard said, explaining that she was wearing vintage-style undergarments for a scene in the 1950s-set movie. In Depp’s trailer, he “playfully kind of pushed me down on this bed/sofa”-style furniture and lifted his eyebrows. Heard “playfully” batted away these alleged encounters.
Heard and Depp started dating following the 2012 press tour for The Rum Diary. Depp lavished her with affection and gifts, even when she pushed back. “All of a sudden I had a colt,” Heard recalled of Depp gifting her a horse, despite her repeated protests. “I couldn’t see straight, practically. I was head over heels in love, and he felt like that to me — he felt like he was also in love.” Not long into their relationship, Depp went through periods where he would disappear; when he returned, he would be “different.” Depp would turn Heard’s words around and “accuse me of saying something else,” she said. “He made comments about whoring myself out,” Heard said, saying Depp’s criticism related to her clothing and roles she auditioned for.
She claimed Depp’s anger became more explosive. Depp would throw something or smash up an apartment. He would throw glasses at her, Heard said. Heard recalled the first time Depp allegedly hit her: “It changed my life.”
“I didn’t realize at the time, but I think he was using cocaine. Like there was a jar, a jar of cocaine on the table. I realize that sounds weird, but it’s like an actual vintage jar of it,” Heard continued. She asked Depp about the Winona Ryder tattoo on his arm, a story which Depp told his version of in his testimony. “I just laughed because I thought he was joking,” she said of it reading “Wino Forever,” “and he slapped me across the face. Then he slapped me again. It was clear: It wasn’t a joke anymore.”
Heard described several instances of Depp’s alleged drug use and erratic behavior. Once, while Depp was taking cocaine, he accused Heard of having an affair. Depp had stayed up all night, and his business contacts were calling him in the morning, as he had to be at a shoot. Eventually, Heard and several others convinced him to leave the house. They grabbed the dogs, one Depp’s and one Heard’s, and got into the car. The windows were down, as Depp was constantly smoking, she said. Depp started “howling.”
“He grabs this teacup Yorkie and holds Boo out of the window of the moving car,” Heard said. “And he’s howling and, like, holding the dog out the window.” Nobody in the car did anything. Heard was able to gently coax Depp’s arms back into the vehicle.
Heard also described Depp allegedly raging during a couples getaway, penetrating her with his fingers to search for drugs. Heard described this alleged encounter as a “cavity search.” Heard, who started crying several hours into her testimony, said that, throughout their relationship, she had to figure out what Depp had ingested to know how to react.
“Johnny on speed is very different from Johnny on opiates. And Johnny on opiates — very different from Johnny on Adderall. And cocaine Johnny, which is very different from quaaludes Johnny,” Heard testified.
Heard’s testimony stands in stark contrast to that of Depp and his witnesses. Depp set himself up as a victim on the stand while detailing a turbulent relationship, claiming he suffered childhood abuse as well as domestic abuse — and ruinous fallout from Heard’s 2018 Washington Post op-ed. The testimony from Depp’s side also portrayed Heard as an unstable woman and unreliable narrator who wanted to boost her public profile. Depp’s efforts to cast Heard in a negative light are integral to his trial strategy. To claim that Heard’s op-ed defamed him, he has to prove that her allegations of abuse are false. So Depp needs to show that her claims can’t be trusted. He is suing for $50 million in Fairfax County, Virginia, court; she has filed a $100 million counterclaim.
Before Heard testified, her team called forensic psychologist Dawn Hughes to the stand. Hughes, who served as an expert witness in the NXIVM sex-cult trial, assessed Heard through hours of examination. Hughes, an expert in treating victims of intimate-partner violence, said that Heard had post-traumatic stress disorder but did not have signs of personality disorders — as Depp’s expert contended. Hughes said that Heard endured interpersonal abuse, including sexual violence. Hughes also testified that Depp’s physical abuse came amid jealousy about Heard’s ties to other men, including James Franco. (Heard and Franco starred in two films together, Pineapple Express and, later, The Adderall Diaries.) Hughes’s testimony also served to establish why Heard might have stayed with Depp despite the alleged abuse. She explained that people who endure intimate-partner violence stay because of a “trauma bond” and emotional dependency. “It makes it very difficult for the victim of the abuse to extricate herself from that relationship,” Hughes explained. By bringing in this testimony from Hughes, Heard’s team addressed how staying in a relationship doesn’t negate abuse. Heard will have to convince jurors that Depp abused her to show that her op-ed wasn’t false, which is the core of Depp’s defamation claim. Heard’s op-ed did not mention Depp by name, but he claims that it clearly implied he was her abuser.
This post has been updated.