FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Actor Johnny Depp told jurors Tuesday that he felt compelled to sue his ex-wife Amber Heard for libel out of an obsession for the truth after she accused him of domestic violence.
“My goal is the truth because it killed me that all these people I had met over the years ... that these people would think that I was a fraud,” he said.
Depp flatly denied ever hitting Heard, calling the physical and sexual assault allegations against him disturbing, heinous and “not based in any species of truth.”
“Nothing of the kind ever happened,” Depp said in court.
Alluding to the fall his career has taken since Heard levied abuse allegations against him, the former “Pirates of the Caribbean” star said, “it’s been six years of trying times. It’s very strange when one day you’re Cinderella, so to speak, and then in 0.6 seconds you’re Quasimodo.”
For the first hour-plus of testimony Tuesday, Depp gave long, stream-of-consciousness answers to questions about his childhood and his early movie career, speaking in his signature deep baritone. After one long answer, he admitted: “I forgot what the original question was.”
Indeed, he acknowledged his meandering style, particularly as it relates to his writing style. He mentioned his long friendship and collaborations with the late gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, and said he sought to emulate a style that often incorporated brash language and embellishing thoughts.
He said that led him at times to write text messages that he now finds embarrassing, and he apologized to the jury for the vulgar language he used in text messages introduced as evidence to describe Heard.
“In the heat of the moment, in the heat of the pain I was feeling, I went to dark places,” he said.
But he said he'd been waiting for six years to tell his side of the story after Heard filed for divorce against him in 2016 and sought a restraining order against him.
The trial began more than a week ago, but, prior to Tuesday, jurors had only seen the Hollywood star sitting silently with his team of lawyers as each side has tried to embarrass the other in a trial that Heard's lawyers accurately predicted would turn into a mudslinging soap opera.
After denying Heard's abuse allegations, Depp spoke at length about a childhood in which physical abuse from his mother was “constant.” When he became a father, Depp said, he made sure his children didn’t experience that kind of upbringing.
Depp will continue his testimony Wednesday. In Tuesday's session, he testified primarily about the early years of his relationship with Heard, saying she seemed “too good to be true” at first.
“She was attentive,” Depp said of the woman he married in 2015. “She was loving. She was smart. She was kind. She was funny. She was understanding … We had many things in common, certain blues music … literature.”
He said there were little things, though, that gave him indications of a rocky relationship ahead. She became upset, he said, when he broke an established routine in which she took off his boots for him when he came home. And he said she was angry when he wouldn't go to bed when she was ready.
“I didn't understand why, as a 50-some-year-old man, I couldn't go to sleep when I wanted to.” he said.
Depp, 58, said he was cognizant of the age difference between him and Heard, 35.
“I acknowledge the fact I was the old, craggy fogey and she was this beautiful, creature,” he said.
But Depp said that within a year and a half, it was as if Heard had become another person.
So far, Depp's friends, family and employees have testified that Heard was the aggressor in the relationship, physically attacking him on multiple occasions. Heard's former personal assistant testified that Heard spit in her face in a fit of rage.
Heard's lawyers have said Depp physically and sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions, often in situations where he drank so much he later blacked out.
Depp said Heard’s allegations of his substance abuse have been “grossly embellished” and that there have been no moments where he’s been out of control.
“I’m not some maniac who needs to be high or loaded all the time,” Depp said, though he admitted to doing “a line or two” of cocaine with Heard's sister, Whitney.
The actor said he was addicted to pain medication, which stemmed from an injury on the set of the fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. He also said he took his mother’s “nerve pills” when he was a kid.
But Depp said he detoxed from the pain medication and has experienced long periods of sobriety over the years.
“The characterization of my ‘substance abuse’ that’s been delivered by Ms. Heard is grossly embellished,” Depp said. “And I’m sorry to say, but a lot of it is just plainly false. I think that it was an easy target for her to hit."
The lawsuit itself is supposed to be over whether Heard libeled Depp when she wrote a 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Post about domestic violence. In the article, Heard referred to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”
She never mentioned Depp by name, but Depp and his lawyers said it was a clear reference to accusations Heard made in 2016 when the couple divorced and she sought a restraining order against him.
Heard's lawyers, who have filed their own countersuit against Depp, said nothing in the article libels him. They say the abuse allegations are true, and that the damage to Depp's reputation — which he says got him booted from the lucrative “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie franchise — came from his own bad behavior.
Associated Press writer Ben Finley in Norfolk, Virginia, contributed to this report.