Explaining his violent and macabre text messages about his ex-wife Amber Heard, actor Johnny Depp testified on Monday that they were not evidence of any physical or emotional abuse. They were simply a reference to the beloved British comedy film: Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The text exchange happened before Depp and Heard married but after their romance had been kindled on the set of The Rum Diary.
On June 11, 2013, Depp and fellow actor Paul Bettany engaged in a raw thought experiment involving medieval means of determining whether Heard is a witch.
“Lets burn Amber!!!” Depp writes.
Bettany, a Brit, opines that the more “English course of action” would be the drowning test.
“Let’s drown her before we burn her!!!” Depp responsed. “I will fuck her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead…”
Depp and Heard would marry in February 2015, a little less than two years later. They divorced in January 2017. Depp is suing his ex-wife over a 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post, which he claimed defamed him with abuse allegations.
During cross-examination last week in Fairfax County, Virginia, Heard’s lawyer J. Benjamin Rottenborn confronted Depp about the “burn” exchange, which he regarded as a horrendous way of speaking about Depp’s then-girlfriend.
“You wrote that about the woman who would later become your wife,” Rottenborn remarked.
“Yes, I did,” Depp replied at the time.
Depp testified during redirect on Monday that he and Bettany, who has a “dry, obtuse, abstract sense of humor,” met while making a movie. They bonded over dealing with situations, even if “difficult or unpleasant,” using humor, he said.
“In context, it’s important to know that none of it was ever intended to be real, and the language that’s used, which I–yes, I am ashamed that has to be spread on the world like peanut butter,” he testified. “For example, the text that is about burning Ms. Heard, it’s directly from Monty Python in the sketch about burning witches and then drowning the witches. This is a film that we’d all watched when were were ten. It’s just irreverent and abstract humor. That’s what we were referring to in those texts.”
Heard’s attorneys said in trial that Depp subjected their client to extreme physical and sexual violence. In one incident, Depp allegedly started a three-day bender in Australia by taking eight to 10 tablets of ecstasy.
“He has her jammed up against the bar,” Heard’s attorney Elaine Charlson Bredehoft said in court. “He has hurled bottles and bottles at her. He has dragged her across the floor on the broken bottles. He has punched her. He has kicked her. He has told her he’s going to fucking kill her, and he fucking hates her. He’s pounding at her, pounding at her. And then, he penetrates her with a liquor bottle.”
At the center of the defamation trial is an op-ed Heard wrote in the Washington Post in 2018, amid the height of the #MeToo movement. This was two years after she filed to divorce Depp and got a restraining order against him. Though she was oblique about her claims in the article and did not name her ex-husband, Depp sued her for $50 million for defamation, arguing that it made him a pariah.
“So strange when one day you’re Cinderella, so to speak, and then in 0.6 seconds, you’re Quasimodo,” he said during direct examination on Tuesday.
Mutual recriminations have marked the trial. Depp maintained that it was Heard who was the actual abuser, not him. He acknowledged using substances, including abusing the pain medication Roxicodone, but maintained it was not for “the party effect” but to self-medicate his experiences with trauma. Depp and his sister Christi Dembrowski both testified their mother was abusive and that their conflict-averse father, in Dembrowski’s words, “never reacted.”
Depp’s attorney are trying to show that their client actually internalized this dynamic. The actor testified that he, in a sense, entered into a relationship with his mother when he got together with Heard.
“I know that sounds perverse, obtuse,” he said.
Depp testified Monday that Heard considered Bettany as a threat who took Depp’s attention away from her. He recounted one incident in which she and Bettany got into “some debate at lunch.” She became rude, speaking over Bettany when he tried to make a point.
“She got mean, and she got loud,” he said.
Bettany’s 18-year-old son tried to join the discussion with his personal knowledge from studying the subject at school, but Heard “demeaned” the young man until he burst into tears and walked away, Depp testified.
Jurors have seen Depp’s texts, in which he often uses colorful, vulgar language similar to what was in the “burn” message to Bettany. In thanking nurse Debbie Lloyd, who helped treat him over his lost finger, he compared trying to thank her adequately to a “monkey trying to fuck a football.”
“It’s just simply impossible,” he wrote.
Other texts showed at trial included language like “idiot cow” and “ugly cunt.”
FOR THE IDIOT COW!! Depp now explaining this text that was shown under cross-examination. #JohnnyDepp says this is between him and Vanessa (mother of his chidren) calling it more “abstract humor” and it is not referring to #AmberHeard. @LawCrimeNetwork pic.twitter.com/wixx94b64i
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) April 25, 2022
Depp said in direct examination last week that his texts were the literary flourishes of a man steeped in the arts, influenced by gonzo journalist and friend Hunter S. Thompson, poet Allen Ginsberg, songwriter Van Morrison and director Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
Depp denied on Monday cutting off his own finger.
“There’s no reason in the world I would literally cut my own finger off to ruin this beautiful opportunity I was given at 12 to learn how to play the guitar,” he said.
Other evidence shown at trial included audio in which Heard taunted Depp as a “fucking baby.” She appeared to admit striking him.
“You didn’t get punched. You got hit,” Heard tells him on the recording. “I’m sorry I hit you like this, but I did not punch you. I did not fucking deck you. I fucking was hitting you. I don’t know what the motion of my actual hand was. But you’re fine. I did not hurt you. I did not punch you. I was hitting you.”
Public responses to the defamation claims have been as divisive as the allegations. The parties paint the other side as the villain in all this, but marriage counselor Laurel Anderson, who worked with the couple when they sought therapy in 2015, said the husband and wife both mistreated each other.
“He had been well-controlled, I think for almost—I don’t know—20, 30 years,” Anderson said about Depp. “And both were victims of abuse in their homes. But I thought he had been well-controlled for decades. And then with Ms. Heard, he was triggered. And they engaged in what I saw as mutual abuse.”
Adam Klasfeld contributed to this report.
[Screenshot via the Law&Crime Network]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]