The trial for Johnny Depp’s defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard is set to begin on April 11, after originally being filed in 2019—and several notable stars, from Heard’s close friend James Franco to her ex-boyfriend Elon Musk, are set to testify in the trial.
Depp is currently suing Heard over a 2018 Washington Post op-ed she wrote about surviving domestic violence. Heard didn’t name Depp but had publicly accused him of domestic violence amid their 2016 split, which Depp denied, so it was pretty clear to everyone that the piece was about him.
In March 2019, Depp filed a $50 million lawsuit against Heard over the op-ed. Heard asked a Virginia judge to dismiss the suit, citing a November 2020 ruling in the UK that tossed Depp’s lawsuit against the tabloid The Sun for calling him a “wife-beater” in reference to Heard’s allegations. But last August, the Virginia judge allowed Depp’s lawsuit to move forward, and the actor has said he hopes it will “bring things to light” and clear his name after a “surreal five years.”
People now reports that Franco, Heard’s co-star in the 2008 film Pineapple Express, will testify virtually on her behalf, as Heard has previously said in court that she confided in Franco at the time about a fight she had with Depp in which she sustained multiple bruises. Musk has also been named as a witness who will testify for Heard, following claims in Depp’s suit that allege Heard had an affair with the Tesla CEO just “one month after” she and Depp married in 2015. A representative for Musk has previously denied the allegations, stating that Musk and Heard “didn’t start seeing each other until May 2016, and even then it was infrequent,” and that “their relationship didn’t become romantic until some time later.”
Actor Paul Bettany will also virtually testify as a witness for Depp, whom he has vehemently defended against allegations of domestic abuse. Bettany will testify about his text messages with Depp in 2013, in which Depp allegedly texted the WandaVision star, “Let’s burn Amber,” and Bettany allegedly replied, “I’m not sure we should burn Amber. She is delightful company and pleasing on the eye. We could of course do the English course of action and perform a drowning test. Thoughts? You have a swimming pool,” per a report from UK outlet The Times.
The trial will also make public text messages between Depp, Heard, and a number of their colleagues and co-stars, according to Deadline. Among these will be text exchanges between Heard and Aquaman co-star Jason Momoa, Aquaman director James Wan, and Justice League director Zack Snyder, while a text exchange between Depp and Fantastic Beasts writer J.K. Rowling will also reportedly be shown to the court. Depp originally starred in the first installment of the Harry Potter prequel movies as the wizard Grindelwald in 2016, but in 2020, he resigned from the role shortly after losing his lawsuit against The Sun. Rowling has publicly and ardently defended Depp.
The trial for Depp’s defamation lawsuit against Heard comes nearly six years after Heard sought a domestic violence restraining order against Depp in May 2016, claiming he had abused her. At the time, about a year into their marriage, numerous photos of Heard’s apparently bruised face, as well as concerning, leaked text messages between her and Depp, began to circulate. The couple eventually settled their divorce out of court in August, and Heard reportedly donated her $7 million divorce settlement to charity.
In the years since Heard and Depp’s split, controversy around the divorce and Heard’s domestic violence allegations has persisted. For years now, Depp has railed against being a victim of “cancel culture,” ostensibly referencing his recasting in Fantastic Beasts, and other supposed lost roles, despite winning several prestigious, international awards since the allegations—including the Donostia Award at the Spanish San Sebastian film festival, just last summer. Heard, meanwhile, has been subject to numerous online harassment campaigns by Depp’s legion fans and defenders who claim that she not only fabricated her domestic violence allegations, but also abused Depp during their relationship.
Depp has notably often cited drugs and alcohol as the source of some of his harmful behaviors, a defense we often hear from men who are accused of abuse. It seems worth noting that a 2018 lawsuit against Depp alleging that he had punched a male crew member on a movie set whilst on a drunken tirade didn’t draw the same speculation that Heard’s allegations drew throughout 2016.
With the first day of the upcoming trial set for early next month, it’s already shaping up to be a dramatic day in court—all the more so when Depp and Heard’s famous witnesses take the (virtual) stand.