Johnny Depp took the stand on Tuesday afternoon in his defamation trial against ex-wife Amber Heard, saying he was focused on “clearing the record” regarding allegations that he engaged in domestic violence.
“Truth is the only thing I’m interested in. Lies will get you nowhere, but lies build upon lies and build upon lies,” Depp said. “I’m obsessed with the truth.”
Under questioning from his own lawyer, Depp denied that he had ever been violent with Heard, or with any other woman.
Heard has accused Depp of striking her, choking her and kicking her on several occasions over the course of their relationship. She has also alleged that Depp once sexually assaulted her during a fight in Australia in 2015. Depp and Heard divorced in 2016.
In December 2018, Heard published an opinion piece in the Washington Post in which she alluded to her prior allegations, though she did not identify Depp by name. Depp sued her for $50 million.
“I felt it my responsibility to stand up not only for myself in that instance, but stand up for my children,” Depp testified, speaking very deliberately on the witness stand. “I thought it was diabolical that my children would have to go to school and have their friends or people in the school approach them with the infamous People magazine cover with Ms. Heard with a dark bruise on her face.”
Depp said the allegations against him were “quite heinous and disturbing,” and “not based in any species of truth.”
“It’s very strange when one day, you’re Cinderella and in 0.6 seconds you’re Quasimodo,” he said.
Depp also testified about physical abuse he endured at the hands of his mother when he was growing up in Kentucky, saying she would throw things at him and beat him with a high-heeled shoe.
He also spoke about the beginning of his relationship with Heard, saying “it was as if she was too good to be true.”
“She was attentive. She was loving. She was smart. She was kind. She was funny. She was understanding,” he said. He added that they shared a common interest in blues music and that Heard would often take his boots off when he returned home.
But within a year and a half, he said, “it was as if she had become another person almost.”
Depp also spoke about his acting career, and about how he developed the character of Captain Jack Sparrow for the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. He said he drew inspiration from Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, saying he felt that cartoon characters could push boundaries while appealing to all ages.
“It’s like making a soup, y’know,” he said. “It’s just ingredients. There’s some Pepe Le Pew in there. There’s some Keith Richards in there.”
After the success of the film, he said his fame became more intense. Fans would try to enter his property dressed as Jack Sparrow, and he felt the need to hire more security to deal with paparazzi.
Depp also address text messages that have been introduced in the trial, in which he spoke in violent and vulgar language about Heard, referring to her as a “c—” and discussing her “rotting corpse.” He noted that he had been influenced by Hunter S. Thompson and Monty Python, and that he was prone to “dark humor.”
“I am ashamed of some of the references made,” he said. “I am embarrassed that at the time — the heat of the moment, the heat of pain — what I was feeling went to dark places.”
He was asked to address his drug use, which has also come up repeatedly during the trial. He said he did not take drugs to “party,” but rather to escape.
“I’ve taken these substances on and off to numb myself — to numb myself of the ghosts, the wraiths that were still with me from my youth,” he said. “It was essentially self-medication, one of those ‘get me out of here’ moments, where what you want to escape from is your own brain, your own head.”
But he recoiled at Heard’s depiction of “my quote unquote substance abuse,” saying that her account is “grossly embellished,” and a lot of it is false.
“I am not some maniac who needs to be high or loaded all the time,” he said.
Depp did acknowledge that he became dependent on Roxicodone — a prescription pain killer — after injuring himself while throwing a chair on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” the fourth installment in the franchise. He described the addiction as a “monkey on your back,” and said he was on the pills for four to five years, or more.
Depp and Thompson had become friends in the years preceding Thompson’s suicide in 2005. Depp spoke of first meeting Heard during casting of “The Rum Diary,” the 2011 film that Depp produced that was based on Thompson’s novel.
“I thought yep, that’s the Chenault that Hunter wants,” Depp testified, referring to his character’s love interest in the film. “That’s the one. She could definitely kill me.”
When they became a couple, Depp said that they likened themselves to Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, a celebrity couple that also had a wide age gap. They called each other “Steve” and “Slim,” after Bogart and Bacall’s characters in the film “To Have and Have Not.”
“I acknowledged the fact I was the old craggy, Bogey and she was this beautiful creature — this stunning creature,” he said.
In discussing their relationship, he said that it was good at first, but that after a while, “things started to reveal themselves.” He said that Heard would react badly if he wanted to stay up to watch TV and she wanted to go to bed.
“I didn’t understand why I as a 50-something-year-old man was not allowed to go to sleep when I wanted to, as opposed to when she wanted to,” Depp said.
Depp’s testimony will continue on Wednesday.
The trial is set to run through the end of May, and Heard will also have an opportunity to testify in her defense.
Depp also testified at length in his libel trial against The Sun newspaper in the United Kingdom in July 2020. Depp sued the publication after it described him as a “wife beater.” The judge ruled against Depp in that case, finding that Heard’s allegations were “substantially true.”