Last week, celebrity and lifestyle media were riveted to the ongoing legal disputes between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Now divorced, the two are in court, each claiming the other was abusive during their short, turbulent marriage. Early in the proceedings, Depp and other witnesses testified that Heard was mentally and physically abusive. Finally, Heard, who initiated all of this by repeatedly accusing Depp of violence, took the stand.
Over multiple days of testimony, Heard dismissed any accusations of abuse made against her. While admitting that she had lashed out at Depp, it was only, in her words, to “defend her sister” who, Heard says, was going to be “thrown down the stairs.” That, Heard says, was the first time she hit Depp, saying: “He was about to push her down the stairs and the moment before that happened, I remembered information I had heard that he pushed a former girlfriend down the stairs…”
The testimony came as part of a libel case Depp filed against a British tabloid that labeled the Hollywood star as a “wife beater.” And, during cross-examination, Depp’s attorney cast doubt on Heard’s testimony, asking the witness why she had not brought up these specific allegations prior to this moment, stating that it appears that Heard is “making this up as you go along.”
Depp continues to “strongly deny” ever abusing Heard or anyone else. That’s the lynch-pin of his libel case, that he is, in fact, not a wife beater. Further, Depp and others have claimed Heard was the actual abuser in their relationship. Heard denies this, and she pushed back strongly against the allegations that she is “making all this up” adding, “I can just tell you after everything I had been through… I had been strangled, punched, sexually assaulted, among other things…”
After this testimony, Depp’s attorneys played a video showing Heard in an elevator on a day in which police were called to their home. The attorney noted that Heard had no injuries that would have been consistent with her testimony, thus calling it into doubt. That specific allegation was that Depp “threw a phone at me like he was a baseball player…” Heard said the phone hit her on the right cheek and eye. However, there was no evidence of any injury that would have come from a hard object being hurled at a person’s face. Heard credited that to “makeup.”
And, so, the he-said/she-said, in this case, marches on. The narratives here will likely have an impact on the future careers of both actors. Who the public believes will affect their box office draw power, which is a factor studios will consider heavily when booking actors. Unless a definitive answer emerges, it will be up to the studios to determine, based on public opinion, who is most likely being believed. That’s a tough calculus, which would be helped by a clear, definitive, and believable narrative.