amber Heard sat idly by during 10 days of Johnny Depp’s $50 million defamation against her for their volatile 15-month marriage. Next week, the 36-year-old actress will present her version of events in support of a $100 million counterclaim for inconvenience.
Regardless of the winner in the end, and perhaps not, the trial between the pair was an unsettling spectacle of a terrifying relationship that only Depp has so far had a chance to bring to court.
The damage done to both of them by their marriage, divorce, and subsequent epic public legal battles is clear. Heard walked away from a $14 million settlement under California’s community property divorce laws, using the threat of a restraining order to negotiate more, but little in the way of a film career. Depp also lost business, having been dropped by the Disney Pirates franchise when Heard made allegations of domestic abuse against her in 2016.
For both, the long days of recent testimony have dulled any sense in the audience that either of the actors’ lives of apparent wealth and glamor were in any way enviable. Instead, it was a heartbreaking tale of drug abuse, a deeply dysfunctional marriage, career woes, and conspiracy.
While Depp consoled himself as he toured with his band, the Hollywood Vampires – a group that Christian Carino, the couple’s former talent agent, testified last week – wasn’t a commercial show – Heard became an ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who specializes in gender-violence existing.
The court was told that the esteemed civil rights group had written a draft of the infamous Washington Post article on which this legal action was based, and put it in the outlet to coincide with the release of Heard’s Aquaman superhero movie. The ACLU General Counsel, in his testimony, testified that Heard lobbied to move forward, identifying herself as an abuse survivor, but that her attorneys removed the passages out of fear that it would violate her divorce nondisclosure agreement.
Depp’s generalized argument — that he was malleable as a prescription opioid addict, but wrestled with a “monster” when he drank — was coupled with Friday’s observations that family spending on alcohol had fallen from $160,000 a year during their marriage to “almost nothing” today. Depp’s accountant testified that a portion of that spending went toward Heard’s taste for $500 a bottle of Vega Cecilia wine.
A grim plaque presented to court reached its climax this week with photos of Depp’s exploding finger after a quarrel at a rented home in Australia that was redecorated in blood and broken glass, causing $50,000 in damage.
The unexplanatory testimony, given by a series of assistants, agents, concierge doctors, psychoanalysts, housekeeper, janitor, and bodyguards, left the impression of a horrific lifestyle environment that would have been brought to account sooner if few resources and supporting factors were he-she.
“I would have each of them be on an abstinence-only program with random drug tests confirming the level of sobriety, and I would have both of them do a 12-step work,” said Dr. Darcy Stirling, a therapist in New York. from E! Famously single network.
“Step action is action that deflates ego — arrogance, a tendency to see oneself as a victim who has no part in the consequences of their lives — so that they can come together without pointing fingers at the other.”
But the trial provided insight into how celebrity justice has been distorted. Expert witness Dr. Shannon Curry refuted the suggestion that her psychiatric diagnosis of Heard’s disease was tainted by being taken to dinner by Depp and his attorney, a conclusion she rejected.
At times, what the court looked at was odd as lawyers sought to prove undue influence. For example, Heard attorney Elaine Bredehoft pressed Curry about who brought the donuts to her clinic the day Heard came in for an examination. Carrie testified that it was her husband, but her husband didn’t know that a celebrity client was coming.
“May I explain what happened so we can stop talking about donuts?” Carrie said on the podium. “What happened is that I was getting ready that morning, often bringing cupcakes into the office.”
In the absence of Heard’s testimony, public opinion so far appears to be on Depp’s side. According to a Rasmussen Reports telephone and internet poll, 40% of those surveyed said Depp might be telling the truth. 10 percent think Heard might be telling the truth. 51% are undecided.
Some famous people also stood with him. Joe Rogan, host of Spotify’s controversial The Joe Rogan Experience, said watching the trial was a “cautionary tale” about “belief in bullshit” and offered that the case was good for Deb, but not for Disney. “You got rid of the best damn pirate I’ve ever been to! Crazy lady!”
Others worry that the trial, which came shortly after Will Smith-Chris Rock’s Oscar slap, had bought the entirety of the Hollywood celebrity in disrepute — a treatise on fame as a personal curse — re-enacted in a suburban courtroom.
“Culturally, movie stardom is less important than it once was due to the fact that the media landscape is fractured and everyone is building their own personal garden of interest,” said Derek Long, associate professor of media and film studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Under Hollywood’s old studio system, somewhat rebuilt in the era of Netflix streaming, stars and their images were closely managed and protected by studio heads and advertising departments. There have been scandals, from Fatty Arbuckle to Charlie Chaplin, or any other number detailed in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, but the moral clauses and studio infrastructure had ways of managing them in the first place or at least recounting them in the press once they’ve happened.
“In the pre-MeToo era, there was a greater understanding that terrible things were going to happen and that most of their efforts went into harm control, not prevention,” Long said. Celebrity bad behavior, or scandal of any kind, is now much more public, and scandal has become a public part of popular discourse.
“Stardom has always been about selling the feeling that stars are just like us. Implicit in this commodification has been good behavior – that stars are just like you at home, they bake cakes and use this or that brand of household cleaner. When all the bad behavior that accompanies stars is human beings. It annoys people.”