Johnny Depp Testifies About Drugs, Abuse: Amber Heard Trial

Johnny Depp Testifies About Drugs, Abuse: Amber Heard Trial

Photo: JIM WATSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Johnny Depp compared himself to Cinderella on Tuesday afternoon while testifying that his ex-wife Amber Heard’s abuse allegations and Washington Post op-ed allegedly damaged his career. “One day you are Cinderella, so to speak, and then in 0.6 seconds, you’re Quasimodo,” said Depp, referring to the main character of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Depp’s testimony comes a week into his defamation trial against Heard, whose eyes remained fixed on Depp throughout the testimony. Depp said he was in court because he had an obligation to his children to clear his name. “They were in high school,” Depp continued. “I thought it was diabolical that my children would have to go to school and have their friends and people in the school approach them with the infamous People magazine cover with Ms. Heard with a dark bruise on her face.”

“So it was my responsibility, I felt, to not only attempt to clear my name for … many reasons, but I wanted to clear my children of this horrible thing that they were reading about their father.”

“My goal is the truth. My goal is the truth,” said Depp in a gravelly voice with a vaguely British accent. “Truth is the only thing I’m interested in,” Depp said, adding that “lies will get you nowhere.” He then said: “I’m obsessed with the truth.” Depp said that he had an abusive upbringing, claiming his mother Betty Sue Depp was “quite violent” and that his father, John Christopher Depp, abandoned his family. “She was quite cruel,” he said; “there was physical abuse … which could be in the form of an ashtray being flung, it hits you in the head, or you get beat with a high-heeled shoe or telephone, whatever’s handy.” When his father finally left, “I was very disappointed because I started to believe that his exit was sneaky, cowardly.”

During his testimony, Depp’s depiction of his childhood as abusive and humble extended into his journey of becoming an actor. He moved to California with his band. When they broke up, he was scrambling to survive. He was filling out job applications in “video stores, clothing stores, anything … just to be able to pay the rent.” Depp said that his friend, actor Nicolas Cage, told him, “I want you to meet my agent.” Cage told Depp he thought he could act. Depp took Cage up on his offer, and the agent sent him to read a script for the casting director of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. He was then asked to read for Craven, who cast him in the film. Depp said he was “by no means an actor.” “I didn’t have any desire to be an actor. I was a musician, but the fact that these people were going to pay me what I found to be a ludicrous sum of money … I had never seen that kind of dough in my life.”

Depp said he picked up other parts to cover his bills. “Then suddenly I found myself on that road. I had been placed on that road, as an actor.” As Depp continued to discuss his career, he revealed he has never seen Pirates of the Caribbean, but acknowledged that “the film, I mean, did pretty well, apparently, and they wanted to keep going, making, making more, and I was fine to do that.” Depp described preparing for the role of Captain Jack Sparrow: He approached it “the very same way that I’ve ever approached any character,” looking for a “back history.” He then explained: “Edward Scissorhands, for example, was based on a dog that I’d had and newborn babies.”

As the afternoon continued, Depp continued to talk extensively about his career until switching to the topic of substance abuse, which has repeatedly come up at trial. Depp said that he first abused drugs at 11, when he took one of his mother’s “nerve pills.” Depp claimed he didn’t take drugs for enjoyment. “So, as we were all growing up, it was always those kids who would say, ‘Let’s party! Let’s go party. I want to party!” Depp explained. “I’ve never used the word ‘party’ in my life. I’ve never taken any substance for a party.”

“I have taken these substances over the years on and off to numb, to numb myself of the ghosts, the wraiths that were still with me from my youth.”

At the same time, Depp rejected the idea that he was always under the influence. “I’m not some maniac who needs to be high or loaded all the time,” Depp said, claiming that he had periods of sobriety through his adult life. Depp said that he became addicted to the opioid Roxycodone after suffering an injury while filming the fourth Pirates of the Caribbeanand detoxed during his relationship with Heard.

Depp, once again wearing a dark three-piece suit, kept his highlighted hair tied back in a ponytail during court, removing and replacing his tinted sunglasses during witness testimonies. Heard wore a white shirt with a bow around the neck and her hair up.

Depp’s testimony has been one of the most awaited moments of this trial, which has become increasingly grim on both sides. Before Depp took the stand, Keenan Wyatt, his longtime sound engineer and friend, tested. Wyatt described Depp glowingly, saying he was “great to work with on films” and “always comes prepared,” making for a “fun” day. Wyatt was asked to describe interactions between Depp and Heard. He recalled being on a flight with them to Boston in 2014 and said that Heard “was giving Johnny the cold shoulder, being quiet, and seemed pouty.”

“At one point, I went up to her and said something to the effect of ‘He cares about you,’ and all of a sudden she snapped and said, ‘How dare you talk to me? Get away from me!’” Wyatt said he “went back to my seat and minded my own business.” Heard, he said, “was abruptly loud. It was a quiet plane. All of a sudden it got very loud.” When asked if he had ever seen any violent or physical altercation between Depp and Heard, he responded: “I’ve never seen Johnny be violent toward anybody.” Heard’s attorney tried to ask Wyatt about Marilyn Manson, who is also an alleged abuser and suing his ex Evan Rachel Wood for defamation over her allegations against him detailed in her documentary, Phoenix Rising. They had previously brought up Manson during opening statements, describing him as Depp’s “good friend.”

Sean Bett, Depp’s longtime security guard, testified before Wyatt. Bett has said that he saw Heard throw a water bottle or plastic cup at Depp. Bett was pressed on whether he ever saw Heard do anything he would consider abusive. He recalled the alleged water-bottle incident and remarked: “In California, it’s assault if you attempt to swing or throw something at somebody, even if you don’t hit them.”

During opening statements on April 12, Heard’s lawyer made the new claim that Depp sexually assaulted her with an object in Australia; the alleged assault was purportedly in 2015 or 2016. Depp’s team has cast him as a long-suffering spouse, subject to Heard’s unpredictable rage. Testimony from their onetime marriage counselor claimed that they engaged in “mutual abuse.”

Depp is suing Heard over a 2018 op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post. In this op-ed, Heard argued that there needed to be additional help for women who step forward with domestic-violence allegations. Heard touched on personal experience in making her case for more support.

“Like many women, I had been harassed and sexually assaulted by the time I was of college age. But I kept quiet — I did not expect filing complaints to bring justice. And I didn’t see myself as a victim,” Heard explained in the op-ed. Heard did not identify her alleged abuser by name, but the op-ed’s timing strongly suggested Depp. Heard claimed that Depp abused her in 2016. Depp filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard in 2019 over the piece. “The op-ed’s clear implication that Mr Depp is a domestic abuser is categorically and demonstrably false,” his civil claim maintains.
Depp alleged that Heard’s column smeared his reputation and derailed his career. Depp, who vehemently denied abuse allegations, accused Heard of being the actual abuser. Heard, in turn, filed counterclaims against Depp, maintaining that his denials were defamatory. Depp and Heard met while working together on The Rum Diary in 2009.

The first day of Depp’s testimony concluded with him looking back at his relationship with Heard. He said the relationship began when they filmed a shower scene for The Rum Diary. “I think there was something with the kiss in the shower that was very real,” Depp said. When they started dating, Heard “seemed to be the perfect partner.” “She seemed to be very knowledgeable about this obscure blues music I listened to and really liked,” Depp said, calling her “literate,” as well as “sweet, funny, nice, all those things.”

Depp said he became close with Heard’s family once they started dating. Her mother, Paige, was an “angel.” Heard’s father, David, struck Depp as outrageous, “kind of like a cartoon cowboy.” Depp described taking care of Heard’s parents — covering costs for her parents, paying for their wedding-anniversary dinners at a friend’s restaurant and bringing them on vacations. Depp also described his relationship with Heard’s friends. Some lived in Depp’s penthouses rent free, he claimed. His testimony resumes Wednesday morning, April 20.

This is a developing story and has been updated with additional details throughout.