Former spouses Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are entrenched in another heated legal battle, stemming from an op-ed Heard wrote for The Washington Post last year about being a public survivor of abuse.
Though she didn’t mention anyone by name, Heard wrote about feeling “the full force of our culture’s wrath” after going public with physical abuse allegations a couple of years prior — a thinly veiled reference to those she had brought forward against her estranged husband during their very public divorce. On Monday, Depp reiterated his denial of the allegations in a court document stemming from a $50 million defamation lawsuit he filed in March over the op-ed, arguing that the piece had negatively affected his career.
The ensuing back-and-forth, during which each party has accused the other of perpetrating abuse, has been contentious, to say the least. Below is a timeline of the legal happenings.
May 23, 2016: Heard files for divorce after 15 months of marriage, citing irreconcilable differences
Four days later, a judge issued the actress a temporary restraining order against Depp.
The proceedings played out publicly over the next few months, with tabloids publishing several videos and photographs related to Heard’s allegations. Court documents detailed, among others, an instance of domestic violence that Heard said took place two days before she filed for divorce. (The Los Angeles Police Department responded to a 911 call at the actors’ penthouse but told media that there had been no evidence of a crime.)
"During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me,” Heard said in the documents, per the Associated Press. “I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.”
In June, People magazine published a widely circulated photo of Heard with bruises on her eye and lip. Depp’s team vehemently denied all allegations of abuse against him.
Aug. 16, 2016: Heard and Depp reach a $7 million divorce settlement
Heard also retracted her allegations against Depp a day before a restraining order hearing was set to begin. In a joint statement, the actors described their relationship as “intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love.”
“Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain,” they continued. “There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm. Amber wishes the best for Johnny in the future.”
The Hollywood Reporter stated that the actors negotiated a nondisparagement agreement as a part of the divorce. Heard reportedly donated the money she received from the settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Dec. 18, 2018: The Post publishes Heard’s op-ed
The op-ed, which identified Heard as an actress and ambassador on women’s rights at the ACLU, urged readers to support women who come forward with allegations of abuse by taking them seriously and electing politicians who will fight for “changes to laws and rules and social norms.”
Though Heard didn’t name Depp or any specific allegations, her piece was widely interpreted as being in reference to him because of the media coverage of their tense split. She touched upon the death threats, overwhelming paparazzi attention and career hits that followed her coming forward.
“Two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” Heard wrote. “Friends and advisers told me I would never again work as an actress — that I would be blacklisted. A movie I was attached to recast my role. I had just shot a two-year campaign as the face of a global fashion brand, and the company dropped me. . . . I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.”
March 1, 2019: Depp files the defamation lawsuit in Fairfax Circuit Court in Virginia
Depp’s lawyers stated in the complaint that the op-ed “depended on the central premise that Ms. Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr. Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her,” a premise they described as “categorically false.” They argued that Heard was the one who had actually abused Depp, referring to an incident she previously referred to as self-defense.
The complaint also blamed Heard for Disney announcing that it had dropped Depp from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise four days after the op-ed was published.
Depp’s attorney, Adam Waldman, told The Post on Tuesday that Depp brought the defamation lawsuit because of “newly available evidence” — witness testimonies and more than 80 surveillance videos that Waldman said show Heard without injuries in the days after she said she had been hurt.
Waldman also clarified that the lawsuit was filed in Fairfax County instead of Los Angeles County, where both Depp and Heard reside, because the op-ed was printed at The Post’s plant in Springfield, Va. Heard’s attorney, Eric George, has criticized this decision and argued for the litigation to take place in California, where much of the alleged abuse took place.
April 10, 2019: Heard files a motion to dismiss the complaint, detailing alleged abuse
Heard stated in her declaration that Depp began to hit her about a year into their relationship, when she began to witness him “abusing drugs and alcohol or would notice that he was drunk or high.” She detailed more than a dozen instances of alleged abuse, ranging from late 2012 to the May 2016 incident that directly preceded the divorce filing. She sometimes referred to Depp as “the Monster.”
One of the alleged incidents took place in March 2015, when Depp was in Australia shooting “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” Heard said that Depp’s attack left her “naked and barefoot, covered in alcohol and glass.” He severed the tip of his finger during this visit, temporarily shutting down production. Heard said he wrote her messages around the house by mixing oil paint with his blood.
Heard recalled fearing for her life the following December when she said she was going to leave Depp, after which he allegedly hit her and pushed her face into a mattress: “For a while, I could not scream or breathe,” she wrote. “I worried that Johnny was in a blacked-out state and unaware of the damage he was doing, and that he could actually kill me.”
Regarding the heavily publicized 911 call from May 2016, Heard wrote that she was “afraid to give the police a statement that would create an international media incident.”
May 20, 2019: Depp accuses Heard of faking her injuries
On Monday, Depp filed an opposition to Heard’s motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit. His team argued that the litigation would have to take place in Virginia because of a law there that requires libel claims to be sorted out in the “place of publication” (Virginia) rather than the “place of harm” (California).
Depp filed his own declaration alongside the opposition, stating that Heard fabricated domestic violence allegations against him and that she arrived to court in May 2016 with “painted-on bruises that witnesses and surveillance footage show she did not possess each day of the preceding week.” He also accused Heard of abusing him throughout their relationship, often while under the influence.
“I will continue to deny them for the rest of my life,” Depp said of Heard’s claims against him. “I never abused Ms. Heard or any other woman.”
George, Heard’s attorney, denied Depp’s allegations in a statement to The Post: “The evidence in this case is clear: Johnny Depp repeatedly beat Amber Heard. The increasingly desperate attempts by Mr. Depp and his enablers to revive his career by initiating baseless litigation against so many people once close to him — his former lawyers, former managers, and his former spouse — are not fooling anyone.”