After sitting silently inside a chilly Fairfax County, Virginia, courtroom for three weeks as Johnny Depp and those closest to her ex-husband described her as an abusive manipulator, Amber Heard took the stand on Wednesday to tell her side of the story.
“I am here because my ex-husband is suing me for an op-ed I wrote,” Heard, 36, told Virginia jurors who must resolve a $50 million defamation lawsuit Depp filed against her, and also address at least some claims in a countersuit she filed against him. “I struggle to find the words to describe how painful this is.”
“This is horrible for me to sit here for weeks and relive everything,” she said soon after, before adding: “This is the most painful and difficult thing I have ever gone through, for sure.”
As Heard began her testimony, a sunglasses-clad Depp sat just feet away—declining to look at his ex-wife and instead apparently scribbling at his seat.
The testimony came in the fourth week of the civil trial centering on the allegation by Depp that Heard “devastated” his career with a 2018 Washington Post op-ed calling herself a domestic violence survivor. Heard has denied the allegations and insisted that the editorial—which does not name her ex-husband but was published two years after she sought a restraining order against him—was about her experience more generally. She has since countersued Depp for $100 million after at least one of his ex-attorneys suggested her account was a “hoax.”
Over the course of the trial, Depp’s legal team presented 29 witnesses in an attempt to prove that Heard was not only the abuser in the couple’s short-lived union that officially ended in 2017, but that her op-ed destroyed the actor’s rep and cost him $40 million in acting opportunities.
Heard emphasized the difficulty of revisiting so many painful moments, noting Wednesday that it was brutal to “hear people that I knew—some well, some not” take the stand.
On the stand, Depp spoke out against “heinous and disturbing” allegations that he abused Heard, walking jurors through shocking allegations of abuse on her part, including an infamous incident in which he claimed the actress threw a vodka bottle that severed his fingertip.
One problem for Depp: His version of events about that brutal episode may have been undercut when he appeared to say on audio played in court that he had cut his own finger.
Still, as Depp and his team went to great lengths to suggest Heard essentially canceled an innocent man she herself abused—and legions of online fans mocked her—the testimony directly from Heard offered a chance to reset the narrative after she sacked her PR team.
Her lawyers began offering their version of events a day earlier with their first witness, an expert psychologist who did not see Heard as a patient, but analyzed her to prep for the trial—and said Heard showed clear signs of intimate partner violence by Depp. The witness also recapped an allegedly violent episode in which Heard said Depp had kicked her while in a fit of jealous rage over her work with James Franco.
Jurors must decide whether Heard acted with “actual malice” when she wrote the Post piece—meaning she knew the contents were false—or that the actress published the piece with “reckless disregard” for the truth. While the actress did not mention Depp in her op-ed, she has long accused her ex-husband of abuse, including one incident where Depp allegedly threw a phone at her that left her with a bruised face.
After describing her childhood and the beginning of her acting career, Heard on Wednesday told jurors how she met Depp during a 2008 audition for the Rum Diaries.
“I wasn’t a fan of his work, I wasn’t a fan of him, but I knew who he was—he was one of the most famous people in the world,” Heard said.
The actress noted that the initial conversation with Depp, who was twice her age, was “remarkable” because he was “this world-famous actor, and here we are getting along and talking about obscure books and old blues.”
While on set in Puerto Rico for the movie, Heard said, she felt the professional lines with Depp were soon “blurred.” Specifically, she recalled one moment when the actor allegedly lifted up the back of a robe she was wearing for a scene with his boot.
“I kind of turned around and giggled… [and he] kind of playfully pushed me down on this bed, sofa,” Heard testified, noting that she celebrated her 23rd birthday while on set and was still in a previous relationship herself. “Playful and flirtatious. And he said, ‘Yum.’ And kind of lifted his eyebrows up like that.”
Heard said that the couple did not “fall in love” until 2011, then they were on a press tour for Rum Diaries. Choking up on the stand, Heard described a “whirlwind romance” that was “magic” despite their having to keep it under wraps—because Depp was still publicly involved with the mother of his children.
As their relationship progressed, Heard said, she would often have to visit Depp as he traveled for films—and would make him dinner and wait around for him to finish up long days. It was around this time that Depp started to chuckle Wednesday, as Heard discussed the actor’s allegation that she would not let him take off his own boots during this time period, claiming, “if he wanted to take off his own boots, he certainly could.”
Eventually, Heard said Depp’s behavior began to change for the worse. He would comment on her clothing and her decision to audition for roles—before he “escalated” and got aggressive and began to throw things at her, she said.
The first time Depp allegedly hit Heard, she said, they were “talking on the couch and having a normal conversation.”
“He was drinking and I didn’t realize at the time… but I think he was using cocaine, because there was a jar of cocaine,” she recalled. She went on to claim that a question she asked about his tattoo eventually led to Depp slapping her “across the face.”
“I just stared at him, laughing, still. Thinking he was going to start laughing to tell me it’s a joke,” she said, adding that Depp then called her a bitch “and slapped me again.”
She said she didn’t react to Depp’s alleged turn toward violence, stunned about what had happened and realizing “that the worst thing had just happened to me… and I was wishing so much that he was joking.”
Heard added that Depp started crying on his knees after the alleged attack.
“I didn’t want this to be the reality. I know you don’t come back from that. I know you can’t hit a woman. You can’t hit a man. You can’t just hit somebody. I knew it was wrong and I knew that I had to leave him and that broke my heart,” Heard said through tears, admitting that she stayed and “didn’t stand up for myself.”
In 2015, the pair married before they began to divorce a year later. In November 2020, a London judge found that there was “overwhelming evidence” that Depp had assaulted Heard repeatedly throughout their marriage, and she was “in fear of her life.”
Depp previously denied all allegations of abuse on the stand, stating that he has “never struck any woman” in his life. “My goal is the truth, because it killed me that people that I had spoken with, that I had met with over the years… would think that I was a fraud,” the actor said during his testimony.
The actor also described himself in court explicitly as a survivor of domestic violence. And jurors heard audio recordings where Heard admitted to escalating arguments and even discussed hitting the actor.
Depp said abuse by Heard included aggressive arguments that often turned violent, the actress throwing his phone out the window, and one bizarre situation that involved feces on the couple’s bed.
“The only person that I have ever abused in my life is myself,” he said.