Emily Hill

The absurd theatre of Amber Heard vs Johnny Depp

The absurd theatre of Amber Heard vs Johnny Depp
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Johnny Depp, a Hollywood star whose career currently consists of a perfume advert, is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard, a Hollywood actress who didn’t star in anything before she met him, for defamation. He says that she destroyed his career by telling the world he’s a wife-beater – and he wants $50 million in compensation. She says he is destroying her career by denying it – and wants $100 million ‘for nuisance’. Unfortunately, only one of them is any good at acting – which makes this trial a real nail biter for the folks back home drenched in Dior Sauvage who feel the only crime Johnny Depp ever committed was breaking up with Winona Ryder.

What is clear to anyone paying attention to this drama is that Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s marriage was abusive. When he sued the Sun for libel in London in 2020, he lost and was not allowed to appeal – leaving the Daily Mail free to print headlines such as ‘Wife beater Johnny Depp helps sales of Dior cologne to INCREASE despite ruling which saw the star, 58, “cancelled” by some in Hollywood’ with impunity. But what is not clear to anyone following this American court case is who was abusing whom. The difference between the two trials is that this one is being broadcast – we can see it all for ourselves and make up our own minds.

These days, we must believe all women; women cannot tell a lie and I am a woman, which silences me on the subject of Amber Heard. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t tell you what I think – my sex makes me schizophrenic. But I agree with many of the comments on the trial clips, some viewed millions of times, especially one that noted: ‘this whole court hearing has been funnier than any garbage comedy that’s come out in the past decade.’

Amber Heard’s lawyers are giving award-winning performances. On Monday, Depp’s housekeeper was recalling an incident in which the actor’s finger had been severed before another of Heard’s lawyers cut him off with a ‘hearsay objection’. ‘But you asked the question,’ the judge responded. To date, two reports have gone viral on TikTok. The first suggests that the make-up that Heard’s female lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, states she used to cover up her bruises wasn’t on the market at the time she claimed to be using it. The second is a theory that Bredehoft is making such detectable errors because she is a closet Johnny Depp fan: her likeness has been spotted in a crowd at a 2013 premiere for The Lone Ranger.

In London, text messages Depp sent to fellow Hollywood star Paul Bettany (‘Let’s burn Amber!!!… Let’s drown her before we burn her!!!… I will fuck her burnt corpse afterward to make sure she is dead’) seemed damning to his assertions of innocence. In America, yet another of Heard’s representatives – the unfortunately named Ben Rottenborn – read them out one by one, asking Depp to confirm that he had read them correctly. 'You certainly did,' Depp replied, amiably. 'You wrote that about the woman who would later become your wife?' Rottenborn demanded. ‘Yes,’ Depp answered, as if he were confused in such a way that viewers, too, will start to feel confused: sticks and stones may break your bones but these text messages were sent two years before they married.

Depp’s version of the drama – that he was drunk and he may have been on drugs but he never laid a finger on her, actually she cut the tip off one of his – is lent credence by a succession of walk-on parts, including a police officer (who denies she saw any signs of physical abuse), Amber Heard’s personal assistant (who denies she saw any signs of physical abuse) and a doorman (who denies he saw any signs of physical abuse) who vaped and drove his car without a seatbelt while being deposed on video by Amber Heard’s lawyers. ‘You sent me the papers to review, and I didn’t even want to review it,’ Alejandro Romero complained. ‘I’m not agreeing to testify against anyone of domestic violence because I was not there, I didn’t see anything, I didn’t hear anything… I was probably hundreds of miles away and got no idea what happened. That’s it.’

Then there is the evidence that will never be submitted at trial. As far as I can tell, Johnny Depp is unique among the Me Too’d men of Hollyweird – because no other woman has come forward with any allegations against him. When Harvey Weinstein was outed as an abuser there were so many accusations of rape that jail quickly seemed inevitable. When one woman accused Social Network star Armie Hammer of being a cannibal, scores more came forward providing apparent screenshots of messages from him stating he was ‘100% a cannibal’. Depp’s ex-partners insist he wasn’t physically abusive – no matter how foul his language may have been. In fact, considering how mild-mannered and even-tempered Depp is in dealing with Heard’s legal team, if he is a violent man then someone ought to hand him Will Smith’s Oscar.

That is not to say he’ll win his trial and get his acting career back. When the jury reaches a verdict, it may be like the O.J. verdict without the riots. Black people believed O.J. was innocent, white people believed O.J. was guilty; if you believe all women, Amber Heard is a saint, if you don’t, Johnny Depp is a martyr. When it comes to actual abuse, it seems like a classic case of six of one and half a dozen of the other. The Depp-Heard case will be an interesting litmus test: in the 1990s, when Depp did his best work, O.J. was exonerated for murdering his wife. The only thing that suffered was his career so it is hard to see how Depp wins even if Heard loses. Still, his performance – playing himself – is his most compelling in years. Now you’ll have to excuse me, I need to revisit Edward Scissorhands.

Written byEmily Hill

Emily Hill is the author of the short story collection Bad Romance.

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