Johnny Depp acknowledged on Wednesday that Disney was already wary of working with him before ex-wife Amber Heard wrote an op-ed alluding to her abuse claims in December 2018, as his cross-examination got underway in a Virginia courtroom.
Depp has accused Heard of ruining his career by publishing the piece. He is suing her for $50 million, alleging that her claims were fabricated and that she is the one who beat him. Under questioning from his own lawyer, Depp said that Disney dropped him from the sixth installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean” days after the piece was published. The film has not been produced and is currently in “dangle mode,” he testified.
But on cross-examination, Heard’s attorney, Ben Rottenborn, asked about a Daily Mail article from October 2018, which reported that Depp was “out as Jack Sparrow.”
“I wasn’t aware of that, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Depp testified. “Two years had gone by of constant worldwide talk about me being this wife beater. So I’m sure that Disney was trying to cut ties to be safe. The #MeToo movement was in full swing at that point.”
Heard first accused Depp of domestic violence when she filed for a restraining order in 2016. Those claims were resolved when the couple’s divorce was settled a few months later, and he and Heard issued a joint statement which included the line that “neither party has made false accusations for financial gain.”
Depp said that lawyers had crafted the statement, and that he had wanted to fight the allegations because “there was not a molecule of truth to it.” But in the end, he agreed to pay her $7 million — which she promised to donate to charity — to resolve the divorce.
“The advice I was given was to not fight it,” he testified. “I wasn’t given much of a choice.”
Depp’s suit alleges that he suffered career-ending harm when Heard revived the claims in the Washington Post piece, which alluded to Depp but did not identify him by name. To prevail, he will have to show that the damages came from the 2018 piece and not from the earlier allegations. Depp argued that the piece did have an effect.
“I would be a real simpleton to not think that there was an effect on my career based on Ms. Heard’s words, whether they mentioned my name or not,” he aid.
But he also stated that his career was “done” from “the second the allegations were made against me.”
“Once that happened, I lost then,” he said. “No matter the outcome of this trial, I’ll carry that for the rest of my days… I’m suing her over defamation and the various falsities that she used to bring my life to an end.”
Depp testified that even after Disney contemplated removing him from “Pirates 6,” the company still featured his character at theme parks around the world.
“They didn’t remove my character from the rides,” he said. “They didn’t stop selling dolls of Captain Jack Sparrow. They didn’t stop selling anything. They just didn’t want there to be something trailing behind me that they’d find.”
Rottenborn also referenced something Depp had said in his deposition, in which he indicated that he would not want to work on “Pirates 6” if it were offered to him.
“The fact is, Mr. Depp, if Disney came to you with $300 million and a million alpacas, nothing on this earth would get you to go back and work with Disney on a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film? Correct?”
Depp answered: “That is true, Mr. Rottenborn.”
Depp took the stand on Tuesday, the fifth day of the trial. His attorney, Jessica Meyers, led him through several hours of testimony in which he recounted fights with Heard, including an episode in which his right middle fingertip was severed. Depp alleged that Heard would repeatedly attack him and berate him, and that he would typically hide by locking himself in a bedroom or a bathroom. He denied ever getting violent with Heard.
Meyers concluded her direct examination of Depp on Wednesday afternoon.
Rottenborn’s cross-examination will continue on Thursday. Heard will take the stand later on in the trial, which is expected to last about six weeks. At an earlier trial in the United Kingdom, a judge rejected Depp’s defamation claim against The Sun newspaper, finding that Heard’s abuse claims were “substantially true.”