FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Amber Heard has spent the past three weeks sitting beside her lawyers, listening to witnesses tell the court under oath that she berated her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, chunked a can at him, put poop on his bed and lied when she said he hit her.
But Wednesday, she took the witness stand to tell her story to a jury in Virginia, where she has been accused of defaming Depp.
“I’m here because my ex-husband is suing me for an op-ed I wrote,” she began. "This is the most painful and difficult thing I've ever gone through, for sure."
Before a packed courtroom, she recounted a marriage to a man who was at first wonderful and later horrifying.
Heard, 36, is in Fairfax County testifying in the defamation case brought by Depp, 58. The actor filed a lawsuit against her in 2019, three months after she described herself as a public figure representing domestic abuse in an op-ed that appeared in The Washington Post. The piece didn’t mention Depp but referred to a period when she was married to him.
The "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor denies ever raising a hand to her and is demanding $50 million in damages. Heard has filed a counterclaim contending that Depp orchestrated a smear campaign against her. She is asking for $100 million in damages.
During her first day on the witness stand, the “Aquaman” actress spoke haltingly, her voice cracking. At intervals, she became emotional and could hardly get the words out. Even so, she directly answered questions put by her attorney Elaine Bredehoft.
Heard said she met Depp while auditioning for the movie, “The Rum Diary." At the time she was 22 years old, a Hollywood up-and-comer bouncing from audition to audition in search of bigger roles.
For “The Rum Diary,” she was called back. Depp met her in his office and the two began to talk. He was well read, charismatic and among the most famous celebrities in the world. They discovered a common love of books and music.
''I left there feeling like, wow,” she recalled.
She used the word “surreal” to describe the experience of filming the movie. Depp was kind to her, although he once playfully pushed her onto a couch. Afterward, he sent her gifts, including a dress she had worn in the movie. Two years later, they went on a press tour for the film. Both were in the process of ending relationships with other partners, and they fell in love.
"I felt like this man knew me and saw me in a way that no one else had. I felt he understood me," Heard testified. "When I was around Johnny, I felt like the most beautiful person in the whole world."
But as the relationship developed, Depp became critical of the way Heard dressed, particularly when she wore a low-cut dress. She began to notice a pattern of escalation.
"He'd throw glass or turn over a table. Then he would hit the wall," Heard testified. "He'd hit the wall really close to my head."
Afterward, he would disappear, get clean and sober and return, announcing that he had changed. At such times, he was warm, generous and funny. But it didn't last. Heard described violent swings in the relationship.
At one point, she asked him about a tattoo on his arm. When he told her that the tattoo said wino, she thought he was joking and laughed. He slapped her across the face. Then he slapped her again. She lost her balance and ended up on the carpet. Confused, she thought, "God, did he just hit me?"
Heartbroken, she thought about leaving. But Depp began crying, got down on his knees and apologized, telling her, "I thought I put the monster away.''
During three hours on the stand, Heard recounted violent episode upon violent episode: The time Depp became convinced that Heard was hiding his cocaine, then ripped off her clothes and put his fingers in her vagina. The time he held a small dog outside a car window while driving. The time he tried to burn a painting given to Heard by a former girlfriend. The time he threatened to break the wrist of a woman who had taken drugs and was leaning against Heard.
Depp sometimes lost control of his bowels or got sick and passed out, she testified. And no one in the actor's orbit calls him on it. But in time, she could see the connection between his behavior and substance abuse.
"Johnny on speed is very different from Johnny on opiates. Johnny on opiates is very different from Adderall and cocaine Johnny, which is very different from Quaaludes Johnny,'' she said. ''I had to get good at paying attention to the different versions of him."
Her testimony continues Thursday.
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