One of the most dramatic legal battles of the 21st century (so far) is only getting more so, as Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s trial draws in a bunch of famous names. The situation between the two former spouses is complex, but basically, there have been a lot of lawsuits by both against each other and third parties. The current lawsuit in question is a $100 million defamation suit brought by Aquaman actor Amber Heard against Johnny Depp, which itself is in response to a $50 million defamation suit the Pirates of the Caribbean actor filed against Heard in 2019. The trial is set to take place before Virginia Judge Penney S. Azcarate, and a wide range of people are going to be called to testify. Among them are Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk, Marvel Cinematic Universe star Paul Bettany, Dune star Jason Momoa, Pineapple Express star James Franco, and representatives of Warner Bros, Disney, the Los Angeles Police Department, and many others. It’s a whole lot.
As mentioned before, the case between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is a complex, long, and extremely acrimonious one. The two were married in 2015 after starring together in Depp’s second Hunter S. Thompson adaptation, The Rum Diaries. The following year, Heard filed from divorce from the Edward Scissorhands star and got a temporary restraining order against him. She alleged that Depp had been both emotionally and physically abusive during their relationship, and was frequently under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Depp denied that allegations and the divorce was eventually finalized with a multi-million dollar settlement paid to Heard, who pledged to donate it to various charities. Unfortunately, that was not the end of things.
After the United Kingdom tabloid newspaper The Sun (part of FOX mogul Rupert Murdoch’s media empire) described Johnny Depp as a “wife beater,” he brought a defamation lawsuit against them. UK defamation law famously requires the publisher to prove their statements (rather than the alleged injured party), and the case was brought to trial in which both Depp and Amber Heard testified. The court ruled against Depp, which further tarnished his increasingly toxic reputation to the point that he was dismissed (or resigned, depending on your perspective) from his role in the Harry Potter-adjacent Fantastic Beasts spin-off. He has since been replaced in the character of evil fascist wizard Gellert Grindelwald by Mads Mikkelsen.
Following that case (and a failed appeal by Johnny Depp), the Dead Man actor sued Amber Heard for defamation after she published a lengthy op-ed about his alleged abuse in The Washington Post. At this point, Depp counter-accused Heard as an abuser. The current lawsuit is in response to that suit. Elon Musk and James Franco are being brought to testify after Depp accused them of having affairs with Heard, while Paul Bettany is testifying because of a notorious series of communications describing Heard in unpleasant ways between him and Depp. The case is currently set for a summary judgment motion on March 24.