In court testimony, Johnny Depp alleges that Amber Heard became ‘this other person’

A side view of a man wearing a suit and a small ponytail in a courtroom.
Johnny Depp waits for the jury to return from a break Monday at a courthouse in Fairfax County, Va.
(Steve Helber / Associated Press)

Actor Johnny Depp testified Tuesday that his $50-million defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard was motivated by his desire to clear up “heinous and disturbing” allegations of abuse that his ex-wife made against him six years ago and to prevent his friends and acquaintances from thinking he was a liar and a “fraud.”

“My goal is the truth,” he said in a Virginia court. “My goal is the truth.”

In his lengthy testimony, which will continue Wednesday, Depp opened up to the court about various topics. He touched on his abusive childhood, detailed his creative endeavors and his approach to them and explored his relationship with drugs and alcohol, which began when he was 11 and included a years-long addiction to the opiate Roxicodone.

He also described Heard’s transition from a person who was “too good to be true” to “this other person.”

Depp is alleging that Heard, also an actor, defamed him in a 2018 essay she wrote for the Washington Post in which she represented herself as a victim of domestic abuse. Though Depp was not mentioned by name in the essay, his lawsuit contends it clearly referenced him. Heard has countersued, also for defamation, seeking $100 million.

Wearing a suit and with his hair pulled back in a ponytail, Depp spoke at length on the stand about how his world turned on a dime in 2016 after Heard filed for divorce and then sought a restraining order against him, alleging physical abuse.


Depp’s testimony came during the second week of the civil trial, which kicked off April 11 with jury selection at Virginia’s Fairfax County Circuit Court. The trial, which is being broadcast live via Court TV, is unfolding there because servers used to publish the Washington Post website are located in Fairfax County.

Actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are back in court to determine whether Heard libeled her ex-husband in 2018 when she wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post.

Heard was also present in court and listened to her ex-husband’s testimony with a neutral expression on her face. The trial is currently calling witnesses on Depp’s behalf, though they are being questioned by the defense attorney as well. Heard’s witnesses will come later.

“It’s very strange when one day you’re Cinderella, so to speak, and then in 0.6 seconds you’re Quasimodo,” Depp said on the stand, speaking in halting but thoughtful tones. “I didn’t deserve that, nor did my children, nor did the people who have believed in me for all these years.”

Depp said that while his and Heard’s relationship had included “arguments and things of that nature ... never did I myself reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way, nor have I ever struck any woman in my life.”

(In late 2020, Depp lost a libel case against a U.K. tabloid that had called him a “wife beater.” In that case, the court found that “the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms. Heard by Mr. Depp have been proved to the civil standard.”)

In court Tuesday, Depp described a chaotic childhood and a mother who was physically and emotionally abusive. His father didn’t join in, he said, but did administer whippings with a white leather belt as ordered by his mom.

“There was one time when my father, I kept telling him that I did not do [what his mother said he’d done], I kept swearing to him, but he went through with the punishment anyway,” Depp said. “And then, not long after, he found out that I had been telling the truth and that I hadn’t done what my mom had said that I’d done, and he came to me and apologized to me for having gone through with the whipping, the belt. I have to say, my mom never did that. She couldn’t.”

Amber Heard has begun giving testimony at Britain’s High Court against ex-husband Johnny Depp, whom she has accused of abusing her.

His father eventually walked out on the family. After his dad left, Depp said his mother attempted suicide by overdosing on pills, but paramedics arrived in time and her stomach was pumped. After that, he said, she sank into a deep depression and rarely strayed from the couch.

Depp said his childhood taught him how to raise his own children: in exactly the opposite way he’d been raised. He said he and former longtime girlfriend Vanessa Paradis never raised their voices around their children and tried to have conversations with them rather than yelling “no” at them when they made a mistake.

As he described his career and the effects of his global fame, Depp appeared to be establishing a basis for his damages in the case. Depp described the staff of security guards that has surrounded him for the last 20 years or so, since the success of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise propelled his notoriety as Capt. Jack Sparrow.

Depp described Heard in the early part of their relationship as someone who was “too good to be true. She was attentive, she was loving, she was smart, she was kind, she was funny, she was understanding.” But he said he noticed that when he broke certain behavior patterns she’d established, she got very upset.

“Within a year, year and a half, she had become this other person, almost,” he said.

A representative for Heard did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.

A woman listens intently to her female attorney in a courtroom
Amber Heard listens to her attorney in a Virginia courtroom on Tuesday.
(Jim Watson / Pool via Associated Press )

Regarding allegations of his substance abuse, Depp said much of what Heard had alleged was “grossly embellished and ... a lot of it is just plainly false.”

He said his use of substances began at age 11, when his mother regularly asked him to get her “nerve pills” from her purse. He said he realized those pills calmed her down and decided to try them for himself. By age 15, he said, he had tried pretty much every drug he knew of.

However, he said, “There’s been no abuse of substances on film sets. There’s been no moments where I would’ve been considered out of control. Never.”

The one bout he had with addiction came after he injured his back doing a stunt on a “Pirates” sequel and was prescribed Roxicodone. He wound up using it for four or five years just to avoid withdrawal, he said, detoxing finally during his relationship with Heard. Depp said he hadn’t touched an opiate since then.

“No, I can’t. No,” he said with a smile. “Once you’ve been bit, you’ll be bit again.”

Finally, Depp described meeting Heard while they were working on the 2011 film “The Rum Diary.” Upon sight, he said, he decided she was the character his writer friend Hunter S. Thompson wanted to play the character of Chenault.

Winona Ryder says she isn’t sure how to process the allegations of domestic abuse being directed at former longtime beau Johnny Depp.

Their initial interactions were few, he said, but he noted one scene where nudity was required of Heard’s character. He said he realized that the nudity was unnecessary if they simply showed her in a surging crowd, holding her red bra overhead. “I can remember telling Ms. Heard, ‘Hey, you don’t have to take your clothes off ... everything’s cool. She was appreciative,” he said.

The romantic attraction was sparked later during filming, he said, and they commenced dating after he and Paradis split. In the beginning, Depp said, Heard was “wonderful.” Then things “began to reveal themselves.”

Depp talked about meeting Heard’s family and friends and allowing some of her friends to live rent-free in various properties he owned, including penthouses adjacent to the one they made their home. Then court wrapped up for the day.

Depp’s statements followed testimony from his friend and sound engineer and his former security chief, neither of whom said they witnessed any abusive behavior by the actor. The sound engineer said Heard “snapped” at him on a plane flight, abruptly yelling, “How dare you talk to me. Get away from me,” after he tried to tell her Depp cared about her.

A British court has refused permission to Johnny Depp to appeal a judge’s ruling that he assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard.

Depp, 58, and Heard, 35, began dating in 2012 after meeting on the set of “The Rum Diary,” which filmed in Puerto Rico. That same year, Depp separated from Paradis, the mother of his two adult children, Lily-Rose and Jack.

Depp and Heard married in February 2015; Heard filed for divorce in late May 2016. Days after filing, Heard accused Depp of abuse and was granted a temporary restraining order. Depp attorney Laura Wasser alleged at the time that Heard was “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.”

Heard claimed in her court filing that during the “entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me. I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.” She said the actor had “a short fuse” and an “exceptionally scary” temper.

Heard’s court filing came after an alleged domestic dispute on May 21, 2016, in Los Angeles, a day after the death of Depp’s mother. A friend of Heard’s called police in New York, who then alerted the LAPD. Officers who arrived on the scene found no evidence of a physical altercation and reported that Heard told them the altercation was only verbal. “At this point, we have no crime,” an LAPD spokesman told The Times in 2016.

At Heard’s court hearing on May 27, 2016, she produced a photo showing herself with a bruised face.

Depp’s trial against Heard resumes Wednesday and is expected to last several weeks.

Times staff writer Nardine Saad contributed to this report.