Expert witnesses have told Johnny Depp’s libel trial of the “devastating” impact of Amber Heard’s domestic abuse allegations on the actor’s career – while his agent claimed he was unable to “rescue” his lucrative Pirates Of The Caribbean role.
During the twelfth day of testimony, the jury also heard from another of Depp‘s security guards – who said he had witnessed Heard punching Depp, throwing things at him and trying to spit on him on one occasion.
Depp is suing his ex-wife for $50m over a first-person article published by the Washington Post in December 2018, and much of the day’s questioning centred around how this column – as well as Heard’s claims first being made public in May 2016 – damaged the actor’s career and reputation.
For the actor’s lawsuit to be successful, he not only needs to show that he was falsely accused, but also that it was the article specifically that caused the damage.
The case resumed on Monday following the weekend break, marking the start of the fourth week of the trial – with Heard expected to take the stand at some point later this week.
Here are some of the key moments from the 12th day of testimony:
• Depp’s talent agent Jack Whigham told the court a $22.5m deal was closed – although there was no contract – for the star to appear in the upcoming sixth Pirates Of The Caribbean film, but said he could not salvage this
• Hollywood got the message in Heard’s article ‘loud and clear’, expert witness Richard Marks, an entertainment lawyer, told the court
• ‘Less people liked him’: Intellectual property expert Doug Bania gave his analysis of the impact Heard’s claims
• Depp’s security guard Travis McGivern said he saw Heard punching Depp – but the actor did not physically respond
• The testimony of registered nurse Erin Falati (formerly Boerum) also began, with the court hearing details of her notes made during Depp and Heard’s relationship
• Catch up on what has been said so far in our live reporting of the trial as it happens
Travis McGivern, a security guard of Depp’s for almost 10 years, was the first to testify on Monday, telling the jury how he witnessed verbal arguments between the two stars.
During one occasion in March 2015, after the couple had returned to LA from their now infamous Australia trip, Mr McGivern said he saw Heard throwing a can of Red Bull at Depp, spitting at him, and then punching him.
‘You name it, she spewed it’
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a fist and an arm come across my right shoulder and I heard and saw a closed fist contact Mr Depp in the left side of his face,” he told the court. “That was Amber Heard’s fist.”
He said that on this night, Depp was angry and threw Heard’s clothing racks about, including one down the stairs. However, he says the actor did not respond to the actress physically – and that he never saw him being violent.
Arguments between the pair had become regular by this point, the bodyguard said. Typically, Heard would shout at Depp as he tried to leave, Mr McGivern told the jury.
“There were times I’ve heard Miss Heard call him a f****** deadbeat dad, if I can say that – I apologise to the court – a f****** washed-up, a f****** c***. You name it, she spewed it.”
‘I was not successful in rescuing Pirates for Johnny’
Next up was Depp’s agent Jack Whigham, who told the court Heard’s first person article was “catastrophic” to Depp’s career and coincided with the loss of a $22.5m deal for the sixth Pirates Of The Caribbean film – although he conceded no contract had been signed.
Heard’s lawyers pushed back against the agent’s assertion during their cross-examination, suggesting the article was inconsequential as it came following a stream of bad publicity for Depp. They have cited a variety of factors – including reports of heavy drug and alcohol use, a lawsuit by a crew member in July 2018 who says he was punched on set by Depp, and the separate libel lawsuit and subsequent unsuccessful trial against The Sun in the UK – as things that damaged the actor’s reputation more than Heard’s article.
Mr Whigham tod the court that Depp was still able to work after the initial allegations were made against him in 2016. He was paid $8 million for City Of Lies, $10 million for Murder On The Orient Express, and $13.5 million for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – all of which were shot in 2017, albeit under contracts reached prior to the allegations made against him – he said.
But the Washington Post piece was “a first-person account, extremely impactful”, Mr Whigham told the jury. After it was published, Depp had to take a pay cut – down to $3 million – to make the independent film Minimata – and the claimed deal for Pirates Of The Caribbean was lost, with producers deciding to make a change and create a leading role for Margot Robbie.
Mr Whigham said he tried to make contact with Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Disney’s Sean Bailey about Depp reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow – “but I was not successful in rescuing Pirates for Johnny”.
Entertainment lawyer Richard Marks and intellectual property specialist Doug Bania testified as expert witnesses, with both telling the court they had looked into the impact of the Washington Post’s article on Depp’s reputation and career.
Describing why Heard’s column was different to previous stories that had been written about her allegations, Mr Marks said it was published in a “flagship journal, if you will, of American news” – not a “trade paper” nor a “rag” and the article was “geared to Hollywood”.
Hollywood got the subject matter “loud and clear”, he said and that the column was “devastating” to Depp.
Mr Bania said his research, based on Google analytics and “Q Scores” – which measure a celebrity’s likeability – showed the article had negatively impacted Depp’s reputation. “Less people liked him,” following Heard’s allegations and the Washington Post article, Mr Bania said, and coverage also became negative.
However, Heard’s team raised questions about Mr Bania’s evidence, saying the impact was greater following the initial allegations being made public in 2016 than after the 2018 column.
Depp v Heard: The background
The former couple started dating after meeting on the set of the 2011 film The Rum Diary and married in Los Angeles in February 2015. They split up in May 2016, with Heard filing for a restraining order.
Depp is now suing Heard for $50m (£38.2m) in Fairfax County Circuit Court, Virginia, over the 2018 first-person article in which she refers to herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”.
Heard’s column does not mention Depp by name, but he argues it is an example of “defamation by implication” because parts of the piece clearly refer to allegations of abuse she made in 2016 when she filed for divorce and obtained a temporary restraining order against him. Heard has issued a counterclaim for $100m (£76.4m).
Depp strenuously denies allegations of abuse – and so far the trial has heard from several witnesses who claim Heard was physically abusive to him. However, Heard and her witnesses are yet to begin their testimony.
The trial has now entered its fourth week and is scheduled to last six weeks in total, with a week’s break next week.
In the opening statements, the actor’s lawyers said his ex was preparing for “the performance of a lifetime” during the trial, while her legal team said the case would expose the “real” person behind the “fame” and “pirate costumes”.