The actor Johnny Depp has forcefully rejected allegations he was abusive toward his ex-wife, Amber Heard, describing them as “sick” on the first day of his libel action against a UK newspaper group.
Depp, who arrived at the High Court in London wearing a face mask for the hearing on Tuesday, admitted long-term problems with drugs and alcohol but said a newspaper’s claims that he was violent to Heard were “completely untrue.”
The actor is suing News Group Newspapers and Dan Wootton, the executive editor of one of its tabloids, the Sun, for libel after the paper claimed in a 2018 story that Depp was an abusive husband.
Heard was also present in court; she is expected to give evidence later in the case.
Court papers show the newspaper group alleges that Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive” towards Heard, “particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.” Depp has always denied allegations of physical abuse against his former wife.
Lawyers for News Group Newspapers (NGN) told a high court judge that its description of Depp is “entirely accurate and truthful,” the PA Media news agency reported.
Citing evidence, including photos, audio recordings and Depp’s own text messages, which are to be presented at the trial, lawyers for the newspaper group argued in court filings that Depp “beat his wife Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury, and on occasion leading to her fearing for her life,” PA reported.
The newspaper group claims there were 14 alleged incidents of domestic violence, PA said, including what Heard describes in court papers as a “three-day hostage situation in Australia in March 2015”. Depp denies all the allegations.
Giving evidence in court, Depp described accusations that he subjected her to “torture and other abuse” as “sick” and “completely untrue,” PA reported, and he claimed that Heard was physically abusive to him.
“The claimant’s position is clear – Ms Heard’s allegations are complete lies. The claimant was not violent towards Ms Heard, it was she who was violent to him,” Depp’s barrister David Sherborne said in a written outline of the actor’s case, PA reported.
On Tuesday Depp was questioned over his relationship with alcohol and drugs. Depp told the court that he had started taking drugs at a “very young age, when it was not a particularly stable or secure or safe home life, and there was quite a lot of unpleasantness in the house,” PA reported.
The actor later said he had been in “an internal fight… in terms of alcohol and drugs and other numbing agents throughout my life, from the age of 11 on through.”
Court documents show that Depp’s former companions Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder are also expected to give evidence in the case, who both say that he was never violent to them.
Depp admitted on Tuesday to spending more than $30,000 a year on red wine during his relationship with Paradis, though he pointed out that not all of the wine was for himself, according to PA.
The actor said he “got sober off alcohol” for a “long while” after splitting from Paradis.
Heard and Depp, who met on the set of “The Rum Diary” in 2009, married in 2015 and were later involved in a months-long, contentious split, with charges of bad behavior alleged by both sides.
Depp denied he was abusive to Heard at the time, and through his representatives, claimed Heard had made up the abuse.
The estranged couple settled their divorce months later, releasing a statement saying they “have agreed to resolve their divorce proceeding privately.” Heard initially obtained a restraining order against Depp, but then withdrew a petition to extend it.
The UK trial is scheduled to last 15 court days.
Lisa Respers France contributed reporting.