Actor Johnny Depp and his legal team have suffered a major setback in their case against Depp’s ex-wife, Hollywood actress, and DC Expanded Universe star, Amber Heard.
The latest ruling from Judge Penney Azcarate left Heard and Heard’s lawyers able to invoke a very specific law in order to block her ex-husband from using certain evidence against her.
Since their marriage and subsequent divorce, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have had one of the most prolific relationships in Hollywood history. After meeting on the set of The Rum Diary (2011), and after Depp’s split from Vanessa Paradis three years prior, the two actors married in 2015 but were divorced by 2017.
Their divorce and the aftermath of the breakdown became a worldwide affair when Heard wrote an OpEd for The Washington Post, detailing herself as a survivor of domestic assault. While the Aquaman (2018) actress never named Depp in the piece, dots were connected, leaving Depp to sue his ex-wife for defamation in a $50 million lawsuit over the alleged abuse.
Allegations of domestic violence were further ignited when British tabloid The Sun printed that Depp was a “wife-beater”. The Pirates of the Caribbean star went to court against The Sun, executive editor Dan Wootton, and News Group Newspapers in a libel trial that he would eventually lose, despite support from ex-partners Winona Ryder and Paradis. In 2020, Justice Andrew Nicol refused Depp’s appeal plea of the libel case outcome at the London High Court.
In a turn of events, the defamation suit — which Heard counteracted with her own — has been favorable to Depp over the last few months. Depp and Depp’s lawyer, Benjamin Chew, managed to secure phone records from Heard, as well as important receipts from the Mera actress’s alleged donations to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Heard claimed that her $7 million divorce settlement was being split between Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the ACLU but a sizeable portion of the money has not been proven as of yet.
In a most recent court ruling, Judge Azcarate has ruled in favor of Heard, stating that the actress is able to argue to a jury that she should be protected from a libel lawsuit due to the fact her 2018 article about domestic abuse deals with “a matter public interest”. As The Guardian reports:
At a Fairfax County court house on Thursday, Depp’s lawyers sought a ruling that Heard could not, in her defence, invoke a Virginia law designed to protect people from nuisance lawsuits when they speak about matters of public concern.
Depp’s lawyer said the law, known as an anti-Slapp (strategic lawsuit against public participation) provision, is not designed to interfere with private disputes. Heard’s lawyer said the article in question does not mention Depp by name and it addresses a serious issue of public concern: preventing domestic violence.
The judge ruled against Depp, who had sought to bar Heard’s lawyers from claiming immunity. The ruling does not mean Heard has immunity for what she wrote but simply that she can make that argument to a jury as part of her defence.
The lengthy defamation case is due to begin in Fairfax County, Virginia in April. Actor James Franco and Tesla CEO Elon Musk will be involved in the trial, as well as texts between Marvel actor Paul Bettany and Depp being used as part of Heard’s evidence.
The events of 2020 left Depp removed from his role as the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise from Harry Potter creator, JK Rowling; Mads Mikkelsen will replace Depp as Dumbledore’s nemesis. It also saw the actor cast out from The Walt Disney Company’s billion-dollar Pirates of the Caribbean franchise where he carved out his most commercial and beloved role of Captain Jack Sparrow.
However, recently, Depp’s turn as W. Eugene Smith in Minamata (2020) has been well-received overseas, with the actor even being bestowed prolific honors at both the San Sebastian Film Festival and from the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vučić. Minamata has also received support online from #JusticeForJohnnyDepp fans who have voted it for the Academy Awards’ #OscarsFanFavorite category, where it goes up against blockbusters like Tom Holland’s Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021).
For Heard, the actress will next appear in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023) from director James Wan. She will reprise her role as Mera alongside Jason Momoa’s Arthur Curry/Aquaman in the next installment of the Aquaman DCEU franchise of films.
Will you be following the legal battle when it begins in April? Let us know in the comments down below.