Actor Johnny Depp has filed documents at the Fairfax Country, Virginia, court to delay the defamation trial against his ex-wife Amber Heard, so that he can proceed with filming for his role in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3” in London.
Depp sued Heard in March, 2019, over an op-ed piece she wrote for the Washington Post titled “I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change” where he is not named. Under Virginia law, where the Post is printed, plaintiffs can sue for defamation by inference.
The court’s current dates for the trial are Jan. 11 through Jan. 28, 2021. However, Warner Bros. is planning to commence principal photography for “Fantastic Beasts 3” from October in London and will finish only by the end of February 2021. Depp has requested the court to delay the hearing to a period between March and June, 2021.
The film is based on characters created by controversial “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling. Depp is due to reprise his character Gellert Grindelwald.
“When the Court set the current trial date in this case, Mr. Depp understood that Warner Bros. planned to shoot ‘Fantastic Beasts 3’ in London long before January 11, 2021,” Depp’s filing states. “COVID-19 disrupted the studio’s plans, causing repeated postponements. With conditions in London having improved somewhat, Warner Bros. has now set a shooting schedule that conflicts with the trial date in this case.”
Productions are restarting at a rapid rate in the U.K. as the threat of coronavirus appear to have receded for the time being.
“Mr. Depp would face potential liability for breach of contract should he fail to comply with the schedule contractually dictated by Warner Bros.,” the filing continues. “Though Mr. Depp is eager to proceed to trial, he faces an untenable situation over which he has no control.”
A hearing on the filing will take place Sept. 11.
Meanwhile, a verdict on Depp’s libel suit against Rupert Murdoch’s U.K. tabloid The Sun is expected this week.