- Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were married from 2015 until their split the following year. Their divorce was finalized in 2017.
- Following their split, Amber accused Johnny of abuse, and he sued her in a very high profile legal battle.
- Johnny won a defamation case against her on June 1, 2022.
- Netflix’s documentary ‘Depp V. Heard’ premiered on Aug. 16, 2023.
Amber Heard and Johnny Depp‘s relationship has been nothing short of tumultuous. Throughout their four years together, the pair went through it all, from the infamous dog smuggling incident to Amber’s shock divorce filing. Of course, since the pair called it quits there have also been allegations of abuse, multiple defamation lawsuits, and countless court appearances for the two actors, with the 2022 defamation trial, which Johnny won.
Johnny and Amber’s legal battle captured public interest as millions watched along with the livestreams of the trial. Over a year after the verdict came in, their defamation trial is the subject of a new documentary on Netflix Depp V. Heard, which premiered on August 16, 20203. Read on for everything you need to know about the former couple, how it all went so wrong, and the new documentary about them.
Who Is Amber Heard?
Actress Amber Heard is certainly no stranger to the spotlight. While she got her start in Hollywood with small roles on shows like The O.C., and made her film debut in Friday Night Lights, her high-profile relationships have been in the headlines just as much as her career triumphs. The Zombieland and Pineapple Express actress’ tumultuous relationship with Johnny Depp is among her most infamous, however she also dated the likes of Cara Delevingne after coming out as bisexual in 2010.
At GLAAD’s 25th anniversary event in 2010, she said, “I don’t label myself one way or another—I have had successful relationships with men and now a woman. I love who I love; it’s the person that matters.” When asked why she decided to officially come out, Amber said she wanted to use her platform and fame to be a good role model for other young people. “I think when I became aware of my role in the media, I had to ask myself an important question ‘Am I part of the problem?’ And I think that when millions and millions of hard-working, taxpaying Americans are denied their rights and denied their equality you have to ask yourself what are the factors that are an epidemic problem and that’s what this is.”
Johnny Depp & Amber Heard Relationship Timeline
Amber and Johnny first met in 2009, on the set of the film The Rum Diary. At the time, Amber was dating painter and photographer Tasya Van Ree, while Johnny was with his ex, French actress Vanessa Paradis. After the Pirates of the Caribbean star confirmed his split from his partner of 14 years, he began dating Amber. The couple got engaged in January 2014, announcing that they, “Couldn’t be happier to be engaged and excited to share the rest of their lives together.” The pair eventually tied the knot on February 3, 2015 in a private ceremony at the Johnny’s Los Angeles mansion.
What began as apparent marital bliss quickly descended into chaos months later when the incident dubbed “Terriergate” occurred. In July 2015, the actress failed to declare the couple’s Yorkies “Pistol” and “Boo” when visiting Johnny on the Australian set of Pirates of the Caribbean 5. That infuriated the nation’s agriculture minister who charged her with two counts of illegally importing the dogs and one count of producing a false document. Many would likely recall the super awkward apology video Amber and Johnny filmed in April 2016, when she pleaded guilty to the latter count after smuggling the pooches in to the country.
After two short years of marriage, the actress filed for divorce, but that was just the beginning of what would become a years-long legal saga. Amber obtained a temporary restraining order against her ex in 2016, after alleging he had been physically and verbally abusive during their relationship. After their divorce was finalized, they issued a joint statement saying, their “relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.” Then, in 2019, Johnny sued Amber for defamation after she wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post in 2018 about leaving an abusive relationship.
In the article, which never named Johnny, she wrote, “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” The actor’s suit claimed that his ex-wife “is not a victim of domestic abuse, she is a perpetrator,” and denied that he ever abused her. Instead, the suit said that Amber’s allegations were part of an “elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity” for the actress. The case will go to trial in 2022.
Naturally, the pair headed to court yet again, this time in 2020 after Johnny sued The Sun and its parent company for libel. The British outlet published a story in 2018 that called him a “wife beater” which Johnny vehemently denied. Amber took the stand during the trial, and claimed that her ex would often accuse her of cheating on him with her co-stars. “He accused me of having affairs with each of my co-stars, movie after movie: Eddie Redmayne, James Franco, Jim Sturgess, Kevin Costner, Liam Hemsworth, Billy Bob Thornton, Channing Tatum; even women co-stars like Kelli Garner,” the Aquaman star revealed.
Moving Forward From ‘The Sun’ Trial
After the fallout of the 2020 defamation suit against The Sun, Johnny and Amber don’t appear to be on friendly terms, by any means. On the professional front, Johnny was forced to step back from his role as the dark wizard Grindelwald in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts film — which is part of the the Harry Potter universe. In a statement posted to his Instagram on November 6, 2020, four days after the conclusion to his libel case, he wrote, “I wish to let you know that I have been asked to resign by Warner Bros. from my role as Grindelwald in ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and I have respected and agreed to that request … Finally, I wish to say this. The surreal judgment of the court in the UK will not change my fight to tell the truth and I confirm that I plan to appeal. My resolve remains strong and I intend to prove that the allegations against me are false.
Meanwhile, in Amber’s life, she announced in July 2021 that she had welcomed a baby girl, named Oonagh Paige Heard. In a sweet pic, Amber held Oonagh tight, as the newborn bub rested on a kitchen counter, surrounded by all sorts of fruits and vegetables. She first revealed that Oonagh had been born on July 1 by surrogate. “She’s the beginning of the rest of my life,” Amber wrote in an IG caption. “I wanted to [have a child] on my own terms. I now appreciate how radical it is for us as women to think about one of the most fundamental parts of our destinies in this way. I hope we arrive at a point in which it’s normalized to not want a ring in order to have a crib.”
Although the former couple are evidently leading very separate lives, the pair met again in court for Johnny’s defamation case against Amber for her 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post. The trial began in Fairfax, Virginia on April 11, 2022.
Ahead of the trial, Amber had shared that she was taking a social media hiatus while it unfolded, and she shared that she was looking to move past it. “I continue to pay that price [for speaking out], but hopefully when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny,” she wrote. “I have always maintained a love for Johnny and it brings me great pain to have to live out the details of our past life together in front of the world.”
The 2022 Defamation Trial
The trial following Johnny’s defamation lawsuit began in 2022, with his legal team arguing that Amber’s op-ed damaged his reputation and cost him lucrative movie deals, including Pirates of Caribbean 6. Johnny sued Amber for $50 million, and she countersued him for $100 million, also citing defamation, citing statements made by Johnny’s former lawyer Adam Waldman. The trial was livestreamed in its entirety on the internet. While Amber’s attorneys fought against trial being aired, Johnny’s lawyer Camille Vasquez also admitted that the trial was an opportunity for the Ed Wood star to share his story. “These are horrific allegations that were made against him. He needed to be able to tell his story. So, it was important,” she told CBS Mornings in June 2022.
Johnny began his testimony on April 19, and he shared his experience with many of the incidents where Amber claimed that Johnny had been abusive towards her. Johnny admitted to feeling “ashamed” and “embarrassed” by some of the texts he sent where he called his ex-wife obscene names. The Black Mass actor also admitted to abusing alcohol over the course of their relationship. He denied allegations of abuse from Amber, and he detailed different episodes in their relationship, including one where he alleged that Amber threw a vodka bottle at him, and it severed a piece of his finger.
As part of Johnny’s side presenting their case, his lawyers called various members of his security team to testify to incidents that they saw between the former couple. At least one security guard testified to seeing Amber punch Johnny, and another said that Amber had admitted to defecating in Johnny’s bed as a “joke.” The actress denied this claim during her testimony. Besides security teams recounting alleged incidences of abuse, Johnny’s agent and other advisors testified that they believed that Amber’s op-ed had cost the actor movie deals.
As the defense presented their case, Amber began her testimony on May 4. During her testimony, the actress also made claims of times that Johnny had been physically abusive to her, including a time she alleged that he kicked her because he was jealous of James Franco, whom she was filming a movie with. Other than physical abuse, Amber also gave graphic accounts of alleged instances of sexual abuse. She also detailed times that Johnny had supposedly threatened her.
Before the trial took a week-long break, Johnny’s lawyers issued a statement reacting to Amber’s testimony as the hiatus began. His attorneys seemed eager to begin their cross-examination once court resumes. “While Ms. Heard’s stories have continued to grow new and convenient details, Mr. Depp’s recollections have remained exactly the same throughout the six painful years since her first allegations were made,” Johnny’s legal team said in a statement. “His truth — the truth — is the same no matter the environment in which it is has been presented. The upcoming cross-examination from Mr. Depp’s team will be most telling, and will certainly highlight the many fallacies Ms. Heard has now attempted to pass off as fact throughout her convoluted testimony.”
After a week-long break, Amber was cross-examined and given a redirect. During those lines of questioning, she explained that she didn’t seek medical attention after alleged abuse from Johnny. She also explained that James Franco had offered her friendship during the difficult times with her ex-husband.
Other than Amber’s testimony, various people close to her were called to testify as part of the defense’s case, including her sister Whitney Henriquez and a former makeup artist, who said that she helped Amber cover bruises. Johnny’s ex Ellen Barkin was also called, and she said that the actor was “jealous” and “controlling” during their relationship in the 90s. Another lady that Johnny had a romantic relationship was called to the stand during the rebuttal: Kate Moss. During her brief testimony, she denied Johnny had pushed her down the stairs after Amber said she heard a rumor that he had.
During final rebuttals, both Johnny and Amber spoke about what going through the trial had been like for them. Johnny continued to deny the allegations made by Amber, but he explained that he was glad to share his side. “No matter what happens: I did get here, and I did tell the truth, and I have spoken up for what I’ve been carrying on my back reluctantly for six years,” he said. When Amber took the stand once more, she got emotional while speaking about the death threats she’s received over the course of the trial.
Johnny Wins The Defamation Trial
After a long and tiresome 6-week trial, it was announced on June 1 that Johnny Depp won the defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard after the jury came to a verdict, following three days of deliberation. Johnny was awarded $5 million in punitive damages, as well as $10 million in compensatory damages. The judge capped his punitive damages at $350,000. Amber was awarded $2 million after the court ruled that a statement made by Adam Waldman was defamatory.
What Have Johnny & Amber Said After The Defamation Trial?
Following the verdict, Amber took to her Twitter to release a statement, saying she was worried about the implications of the verdict. “The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband,” she tweeted.
Amber continued by saying she was worried what the loss would mean for victims of domestic abuse. “It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously,” she said. “I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American — to speak freely and openly.”
After the verdict came in, Johnny also released a lengthy statement, both saying why he pursued the case and thanking those who supported him. He concluded by showing that he’s looking to the future. “The best is yet to come and a new chapter has finally begun,” he wrote. “Truth never perishes.”
In the aftermath of the trial, there have been a variety of documentaries that have focused in on the couple’s legal battle. Tubi also released a film version of the trial, titled Hot Take: The Depp/Heard Trial in September 2022. Over a year after the trial came to an end, Netflix announced that it would produce a three-part docuseries about the trial, via Tudum. The streaming service announced that the Emma Cooper-directed docuseries would also examine the public reaction to the trial. “Ultimately, Depp v. Heard interrogates the role social media played in the trial, raising provocative, uncomfortable questions about how the conversations happening outside the courtroom may have influenced the outcome,” they said in an announcement.
The first trailer was released on July 26, 2023, and it featured clips of testimony from Johnny and Amber, as well as clips of news coverage, podcasters, and TikTokers speaking about the trial. The docuseries was released on August 16, 2023. The short series was composed of different clips from the trial, as well as news footage and online videos reacting to the trial.
While very little new information was released as a part of the documentary, it did include some archived interviews from after the trial that shed light on some details that may have gone under-the-radar for people who tuned out shortly after the trial. It also included some information showing how some TikTokers doctored different clips to frame Amber in a negative light. It also detailed how there was evidence that was left out of the trial that was only unsealed after the fact, including a text from Johnny’s assistant Stephen Deuters, where he referenced an alleged assault during the “plane incident.”
One of the points that the documentary makes is that while the jury was instructed not to view any content relating to the trial outside of the courtroom, they were not sequestered. While there’s no evidence as to whether or not members of the jury viewed outside materials or let it sway their judgment, the documentary does show how hard it is to avoid learning about the trial. Amber’s lawyer said that they went home spoke to family members who are “on social media,” despite being instructed not to discuss outside the court. “They had a ten-day break in the middle because of the judicial conference. There’s no way they couldn’t have been influenced by it and it was horrible,” she said in a post-trial interview, per ET Canada.
The documentary also focused on how Kate Moss’ testimony, as well as Amber’s pledges for charity donations were key factors that seemed to influence the jury in Johnny’s favor.