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Depp takes witness stand in defamation trial against ex-wife Heard

Testifying before a packed courtroom, actor Johnny Depp asserted that he never assaulted his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard.

FAIRFAX, Va. (CN) — Actor Johnny Depp told a jury Tuesday that he never struck his ex-wife, Amber Heard, and that her allegations of domestic abuse are “not based on any species of truth.”

Taking the witness stand Tuesday afternoon, the actor used the word “diabolical” to describe Heard’s assertions that he was abusive.  “I had to clear my name for the sake of my children," he said, referring to Lily-Rose Depp, 22, and Jack Depp, 20, whose mother is Vanessa Paradis.

Depp said his children, teenagers during his marriage to Heard, were confronted with "this horrid thing they were having to read about their father that was untrue.”

Depp, 58, and Heard, 35, have spent the past week flanked by their respective teams of lawyers and paralegals at the Fairfax County Judicial Center. He sued Heard for defamation in 2019, three months after The Washington Post published an op-ed in which she wrote that she had become a public figure representing domestic abuse. She never mentioned Depp but referred to a time two years earlier, when the two were married. Heard subsequently filed a counterclaim asking for $100 million.

In his lawsuit, Depp is asking for $50 million in damages and asserts that he wants to clear his name.

Heard’s claims first surfaced in 2016, when the couple’s 15-month marriage was coming to an end. The “Aquaman” actress alleged abuse and took out a restraining order against Depp. She was photographed leaving a California courthouse, her face bruised.  

The couple had arguments, Depp said. “Never did I myself reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way, nor have I ever struck any woman in my life.”

During three hours on the stand, Depp spoke slowly, his voice low and at times inaudible as he answered questions from one of his attorneys, Jessica Meyers of Brown Rudnick. He wore a dark gray suit, a dark shirt and a yellow tie, his shoulder-length hair pulled into a ponytail. Heard sat with her lawyers on the opposite side of the courtroom, listening as he described becoming an industry pariah.

“It’s very strange when one day you’re Cinderella so to speak, and in zero point six seconds, you are Quasimodo. I didn’t deserve that, nor did my children, nor did the people who have believed in me for all these years.”

At one point, he spoke of a troubled childhood and his mother, who unsuccessfully attempted suicide. He said her physical abuse could be in the form of “an ashtray being flung at you or you get beat with a high-heel shoe or a telephone or whatever is handy. So in our house, we were never exposed to any type of safety or security. The only thing that one could do was to try to stay out of the line of fire.”

HIs father was not abusive, Depp said, but on several occasions punched a wall in frustration. During adolescence, Depp began using drugs — first trying his mother's pills. “I had done all the drugs I was aware of by the time I was 15 years old.”  

Even so, there have been periods of sobriety, he said. He kicked an opioid addiction. On film sets, “I never appeared loaded or high. Even if I felt a little spinning, no one would ever know.”

As the testimony continued, Depp lapsed into actorly anecdotes about his method and how he has developed characters. Edward Scissorhands was based on a dog and newborn babies. “Edward would see things from a place of innocence,” he explained. Captain Jack Sparrow was a mix of Pepe Le Pew and Keith Richards. “His brains may have been scrambled by the sun.”

For the most part, attorneys for Heard seldom interrupted, letting Depp have his say and taking note of the actor’s words.

Most of Depp’s witnesses so far either are or have been on Depp’s payroll, including his bodyguard, a personal nurse, a concierge doctor, a longtime friend who lives rent-free on his property, his sister and the wife of his assistant, whose testimony was stricken from the record after it was learned that she had watched part of the trial online.

Depp's testimony will continue Wednesday.

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