Depp is suing Aquaman star Heard for $50 million for alleged false domestic abuse claims she made against him that he says hurt his career. Heard is counter-suing Depp, also for defamation, for $100 million.
Heard’s 2018 op-ed for the Washington Post, where she describes herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse,” is at the center of Depp’s lawsuit. Heard doesn’t name Depp in the article, but Depp claims the piece nevertheless implied him as the abuser.
According to Jack Whigham, Depp’s agent, the op-ed’s publication coincided with Depp losing a $23 million Pirates sequel deal from Disney, he asserted during testimony in the Fairfax, Virginia courtroom, Associated Press reported.
Also relevant to the discussion overall is the fact that Heard made initial abuse allegations in 2016, something Depp’s lawyers say was clearly referenced in the 2018 op-ed. However, Depp was still able to work after 2016, including in multi-million-dollar roles in City of Lies, Murder on the Orient Express, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald. All those films were produced in 2017, under contracts reached before any allegations were made against Depp.
However, after the 2018 op-ed is when the calls stopped coming in, Whigham testified, calling the article “extremely impactful” due to it being a first-person account.
Whigham maintained a sixth Pirates film was scuttled as a result, after a prior verbal agreement with Disney was made. When grilled under cross-examination about whether the Pirates deal went under prior to the op-ed, Whigham admitted nothing had been written on paper for such a deal.
Heard’s lawyers have argued other factors, not related to the op-ed, are what damaged Depp’s reputation, such as reports of heavy drug and alcohol use, a lawsuit from someone who said Depp punched him on a movie set, and Depp’s separate libel lawsuit in London against newspaper The Sun — which he ultimately lost.
Since the lawsuit Depp is currently leveling against Heard is about the 2018 op-ed, his team must show that the article, specifically — and not the prior 2016 allegations against him by Heard — is what damaged his career.
An intellectual property expert also testified about the turn of Depp’s reputation from positive to negative, saying the biggest negative spike occurred after the 2016 abuse allegations. But the data he used, from Google search trend lines, showed that negative spikes after the Post article were relatively negligible, in comparison, the AP report stated.
It’s obvious the trial itself has caused a reputational hit for Heard, as well, as evidenced by a report that she fired her public relations team because of all the bad press, and a petition to get her removed from Aquaman 2 that surpassed three million signatures this week.
Heard has maintained that Depp physically abused her, while Depp states just the opposite: she was the one who abused him, not the other way around.
Last week, Depp wrapped up his four-day-long testimony. Heard is expected to take the stand, as well, sometime this week.