on-set drama

All Your Questions About Johnny Depp’s Assault Lawsuit, Explained

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

Several months after Johnny Depp won his defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, he faced another court battle — a proceeding over an alleged assault on the set of his film City of Lies. Gregg “Rocky” Brooks, a crew member, sued the actor in July 2018. Brooks claimed Depp punched him over a production dispute the year prior. When Brooks returned to set a few days after, a producer allegedly asked him to sign paperwork promising he wouldn’t sue. Brooks alleged he was axed after refusing to do so. Brooks claimed he “suffered physical pain and emotional and psychological injury, all of which have caused and continue to cause [him] psychological and emotional distress.” He maintained that Depp’s actions were “willful and malicious and was intended to oppress and cause injury” to him. Depp denied these allegations. The civil trial for Brooks’s lawsuit against Depp was scheduled to start in Los Angeles Superior Court on July 25, 2022, for a trial. However, on July 11, 2022, court papers were filed indicating that both sides had reached a settlement.

Here’s what you need to know about the Brooks-Depp legal drama.

How did this all start?

As location manager for the Los Angeles–set City of Lies, Brooks was responsible for making sure production took place during the hours required by city filming permits. On April 13, 2017, filming permits let them shoot from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at the Barclay Hotel; the crew had to wrap outside the location at 7 p.m. and inside at 10 p.m. One of the producers asked Brooks if he could seek an extension to accommodate the needs of production and Depp, “who wanted to direct two friends in an expanded version of the scene previously scheduled for the day.” Brooks did so, and when it was obvious they would need another extension, he obtained one with a midnight cutoff inside the hotel. Around 10:50 that night, the on-scene film-permit monitor asked Brooks to tell an assistant director time was running out. In response, the assistant director allegedly shot back, “Why don’t you tell that to Johnny Depp?,” knowing Depp “would not be happy about the restriction.” Since Depp wasn’t the director, Brooks had no reason to tell him, but he did so anyway, “feeling he had no choice but to do as he was instructed.”

So how did this turn into an alleged assault?

Brooks was worried about what might happen, and “knowing Depp may become upset and feeling the need to protect himself, [he] started approaching the nearby, on-set [police] officer Jim ‘Big’ Rigg to get his assistance in relaying the message to Depp,” per his lawsuit. Brooks didn’t make it to Rigg in time. Depp came over and “began attacking him,” screaming, “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU? YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO!,” court papers claimed. Brooks maintained that he stayed calm and collected and explained that it was his job to make sure production followed permit requirements such as timing.

Depp didn’t calm down, Brooks alleged, and screamed, “WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU? YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT TO DO!” While Depp was yelling at Brooks, he “angrily and forcefully punched Plaintiff twice in the lower left side of his rib cage and causing pain.” Brooks insisted that he kept his cool — and that this upset Depp even more. The actor allegedly yelled “I WILL GIVE YOU ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS TO PUNCH ME IN THE FACE RIGHT NOW!” Brooks did not punch Depp in the face. Depp kept screaming and berating Brooks in front of the crew until Depp’s “own bodyguards physically removed [him] from the scene.” As this allegedly unfolded, Brooks said Depp’s breath “smelled of alcohol.” Brooks claimed he was “informed” and believed Depp had been drinking and using drugs on set that day, per court papers.

Is that it?

Nope — Brooks returned to the set several days later. A producer asked him to write and sign a statement promising he wouldn’t sue the production. When Brooks refused, “his services were terminated immediately,” according to the lawsuit. Brooks’s lawsuit claimed assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, hostile work environment, wrongful termination, and retaliation.

What has Depp said about the allegations?

In court paperwork filed on August 15, 2018, Depp denied everything. It gets weirder, though. Depp’s lawyers said Brooks couldn’t sue because of the “doctrine of self-defense/defense of others.” Depp claimed Brooks “provoked the alleged altercation.” He also claimed Brooks engaged in “unlawful and wrongful conduct,” saying he “willfully and maliciously acted out and conducted his activities in such a manner as to cause Defendant Depp to fear for his safety” and the safety of director Brad Furman. Depp’s team claimed Brooks’s allegations couldn’t stand because the alleged incident was caused by his “own carelessness, recklessness and/or negligence in the matters complained of in the Complaint.”

Does Depp’s trial against Heard affect this case?

Depp’s successful defamation case against Heard involved an allegation that she defamed him in a Washington Post op-ed. Brooks’s lawsuit involved an assault allegation against Depp. According to a report in the U.K. paper The Sun, Brooks’s attorney wasn’t especially worried about the Depp-Heard verdict when a trial was still on the table. “While we respect the jury’s decision, it has no relevance to Mr. Brooks’ case in Los Angeles,” the attorney, Paul Harris, reportedly said. “Brooks’ case is not about two Hollywood celebrities involved in a toxic relationship.” According to The Sun, Harris continued, “It is about the assault of a hard-working film crew member by the star of the production. Mr. Brooks looks forward to his day in court.”

Could Depp go to jail?

The assault case is a civil matter, so it doesn’t involve criminal proceedings. Depp hasn’t been charged with a crime for the alleged assault, so he’s not facing time behind bars.

Why isn’t the lawsuit going to trial?

Lawyers in the case filed paperwork on July 11, 2022, indicating they had reached a settlement agreement. By reaching a settlement before trial, this means they came to an agreement about how to address Brooks’s suit without having to go before a jury.

What do we know about the settlement?

Pretty much nothing at this point other than the fact that it happened. The paperwork says, “This entire case has been settled.”

Has Depp or Brooks said anything about the settlement?

Depp’s rep did not comment on the settlement. Brooks’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

What’s Going on With Johnny Depp’s Assault Lawsuit?