LONDON – A lawyer for British tabloid The Sun claimed Monday that Johnny Depp was “a hopeless addict” whose violence toward ex-wife Amber Heard was fueled by misogyny and a toxic combination of drink, drugs, jealousy and anger.
Attorney Sasha Wass was summing up at Depp’s libel case against the newspaper over an article alleging he physically abused Heard — a high-stakes celebrity trial in which the reputations of both former spouses are at stake.
Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the newspaper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, at the High Court in London over an April 2018 article, which called him a “wife-beater.” He strongly denies being violent to Heard.
The case is due to end Tuesday, but judge Andrew Nicol is not expected to deliver his ruling for several weeks.
“There is no doubt that Mr. Depp regularly and systematically abused his wife,” Wass said in her closing argument. “The characterization that he is a wife beater is entirely truthful.”
She said Depp was “a hopeless addict who repeatedly lost his self-control and all ability to restrain his anger.”
“Permeating all of the evidence in this case is the character of Mr. Depp himself -- his well-documented evidence of violence and destruction over his adult life which have occurred when he was under the influence of drink and drugs.”
Depp, 57, and Heard, 34, met on the set of the 2011 comedy “The Rum Diary” and married in Los Angeles in February 2015. Heard filed for divorce the following year, and the divorce was finalized in 2017.
The former spouses have both been in court throughout three weeks of testimony at the grand neo-Gothic court building, though Depp did not attend on Monday.
Lawyers, journalists and members of the public, spread across several video-linked courtrooms to allow for social distancing, have heard lurid details of the couple’s tempestuous relationship. The evidence has revealed prodigious drinking and drug consumption, furious arguments, hurled objects and a deposit of excrement left in a bed — whether by dog or human is disputed.
The Sun’s defense relies on 14 allegations made by Heard of Depp's violence between 2013 and 2016, in settings including his private island in the Bahamas, a rented house in Australia during filming of a “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie — where Depp’s finger was severed in contested circumstances — and the couple’s downtown Los Angeles penthouse, which was trashed during one altercation.
Wass said that the first year of the relationship, during which Depp was sober, was “idyllic,” but that the violence started in 2013 after he relapsed.
During four days in the witness box last week, Heard claimed Depp flew into jealous rages over her co-stars, including James Franco and Billy Bob Thornton, and turned into a violent alter ego he called “The Monster” under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She accused him of slapping and hitting her and throwing bottles at her “like grenades,” and claimed that she often feared for her life during their relationship.
Wass said that for Depp the "combination … of drink, drugs, jealousy and anger was lethal.”
Depp, who gave evidence for almost five days, branded he allegations a “hoax” and claimed Heard was the aggressor during their volatile relationship. He acknowledged using a wide variety of drugs including marijuana, cocaine and opioid painkillers, but denied the substances made him violent.
Depp’s former romantic partners Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder signed written witness statements saying he had never been violent to them, and several current or former employees gave evidence supporting Depp.
Wass said those witnesses were “tainted” because they relied on Depp for their livelihoods and had “come to court to lie for their boss.”
Summarizing the defense case, Wass said that “a deep misogyny … lay at the root of Mr. Depp’s anger.”
“He created a misogynistic persona of (Heard) as the stereotype of a nagging woman,” Wass said. She said Depp branded Heard “a gold-digger, a shrew and an adulterer” in order to discredit her. He also used crass language about women in texts to friends that were read out in court — despite his stated aspiration to be a “Southern gentleman.”
Wass said the couple were driven apart by “a clash of cultures and a clash of generations.”
She said Depp glamorized drug culture and had a “clique of aging male rabble-rousers,” but also aspired “to be the Southern gentleman with a young and beautiful wife.”
Wass said a Southern gentleman required “a supplicant wife” — and Heard, a “modern and ambitious woman” almost a quarter-century younger than Depp, was not prepared to fulfill that role.
“Ms. Heard tolerated the violence and the abuse because she loved Mr. Depp and she believed she was capable of getting him better,” the lawyer said.
“He grew to resent her for telling him how he could kick his addiction, telling him how he could banish 'The Monster," she added.
Depp's lawyer is due to deliver his closing speech on Tuesday.