Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's turbulent relationship: From intense love to bitter court battle

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Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s troublesome relationship is once again under the spotlight as the pair begin a multi-million dollar defamation case in the US.

The Pirates of the Caribbean actor, 58, is suing his former wife, 35, over a 2018 opinion piece she penned for the Washington Post in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic violence.

Johnny is claiming she defamed him throughout the piece. Amber has since issued a $100m counterclaim, suing him back.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
The troublesome details of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's relationship are being aired in a multi-million lawsuit. Source: Getty Images

The $50 million lawsuit has already begun in a Fairfax County, Virginia court, and will see a long list of high-profile celebrity witnesses take the stand including actors James Franco, Ellen Barkin and Paul Bettany, along with entrepreneur Elon Musk.

So how did this once loved-up couple end up in such a bitter legal battle? We break down the pair’s tumultuous past.

How it all started

After meeting on the set of The Rum Diary in 2011, the pair seemingly hit it off after playing love interests in the film.

They started dating in 2012 after Johnny and his long-term partner Vanessa Paradis ended their relationship. The pair quickly became a popular Hollywood power couple.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's marriage lasted only 15 months. Photo: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty Images.

In February 2015 they were married in a small, romantic ceremony on Johnny’s 33-acre private island in the Bahamas.

But the marriage didn’t last long.

A bitter divorce

After just 15 months, Amber filed for divorce citing "irreconcilable differences".

It was the first time she publicly accused him of domestic violence, seeking a restraining order against him and claiming she had been physically and emotionally abused.

Appearing in a US court with a picture of herself with a bruised cheek, she stated she had been "violently" attacked and detailed in court filings that she was the victim of "excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse."

Her claims were denied by Johnny.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
Amber Heard has accused Johnny Depp of abusing drugs during their relationship. Source: Getty Images

Despite being awarded a temporary restraining order, the couple seemingly left on amicable terms, deciding to settle their divorce out of court just hours before their civil case was set to begin.

At the time, the pair released a joint statement with Johnny giving Amber $7 million, which she vowed to donate to the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” their joint statement said.

“Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm."


How did they end up back in court?

For a time it seemed that the pair had amicably gone their separate ways, however, in 2018 Johnny filed a lawsuit against News Group Newspapers Ltd, after British newspaper The Sun published an article referring to him as a "wife-beater".

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp has denied claims that he abused his ex-wife Amber Heard. Source: Getty Images

In December that year, Amber penned an opinion piece for The Washington Post claiming to be a victim of domestic abuse. While her piece, titled I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture's wrath. That has to change, didn't mention Johnny by name, he launched a $50 million defamation lawsuit against her.

He claims her piece cost him a return role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and damaged his career.

Claims of abuse

When Johnny’s 16-day trial against News Group Newspapers Ltd kicked off in 2020, the troublesome details of their relationship resurfaced.

Amber issued a statement in court saying “we fought on our wedding night over his drug use” and said he repeatedly went missing throughout the night.

“I tried to smile through it and entertain our guests. But I had never felt more lonely in my life,” Heard said in the statement.

Amber Heard
Amber Heard says she is paying the price for speaking out against a man in power. Photo: Getty Images.

“He had lost weight and he would disappear into the bathroom for long periods during the wedding.”

The pair also accused each other of violent behaviour.

A British judge ruled against Johnny in the case and last year his appeal to the high court was denied.

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp's stuck by him throughout his libel case against The Sun newspaper. Source: Getty Images

What’s happening now

Due to Covid-19, the pair’s defamation cases against each other were delayed, until now.

Johnny’s lawyers claim that Amber’s ongoing claims of domestic abuse against him are "categorically and demonstrably false".

Meanwhile, Amber’s $100 million counterclaim states that he has built up a smear campaign against her.

Ahead of the trial which started on April 11, Amber took to her Instagram to address the case with her fans.

"Johnny is suing me for an op-ed I wrote in the Washington Post, in which I recounted my experience of violence and domestic abuse," she wrote.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard will both soon take to the stand in court in multi-million cases against each other. Photo: Getty Images.

"I never named him, rather I wrote about the price women pay for speaking out against men in power. I continue to pay that price, but hopefully when this case concludes, I can move on and so can Johnny. I have always maintained a love for Johnny and it brings me great pain to have to live out the details of our past life together in front of the world."

Both actors are expected to take the stand during the trial, which could continue for months, with the full trial being televised.

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