Johnny Depp trial: What we know about Amber Heard’s career, background and family life

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While Amber Heard’s tumultuous relationship with Johnny Depp has made headlines, the 36-year-old is an actor, activist, and model in her own right.

Currently, the two are embroiled in a legal battle, with Depp suing Heard for $50m (£38.2m) for implying he abused her in a 2018 Washington Post op-ed.

Below is an in-depth look into who Amber Heard is, including her early life, film and television career and everything in-between.

Early Life

Amber Laura Heard was born on 22 April 1986 in Austin, Texas, to David Heard and Paige Parsons. She has one younger sister Whitney Heard, who is now 34 years old. The two were raised in a conservative Catholic household with modest finances. In her younger years, Heard competed in beauty pageants. At the age of 16, her best friend died in a car accident, and as a result, Heard became an atheist. At 17, she dropped out of school to pursue a modelling career in New York, until later switching gears to try acting in Los Angeles. She eventually earned her high school diploma through a home-study course.

Acting Career

Amber Heard in Kenny Chesney’s “There Goes My Life” (YouTube/Kenny Chesney)
Amber Heard in Kenny Chesney’s “There Goes My Life” (YouTube/Kenny Chesney)

In 2004, Heard appeared in two music videos; country artist Kenny Chesney’s “There Goes My Life” and rock band Eisley’s “I Wasn’t Prepared”. She also landed small supporting roles on a number of TV shows, including Jack & Bobby (2004), The Mountain (2004), and The OC (2005).

She made her film debut with a minor role in the 2004 sports drama Friday Night Lights, which later inspired the TV show of the same name. Heard received her first leading role in the thriller All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. Though, due to distribution issues, it wasn’t released until 2008 in Europe and 2013 in the US.

In 2007, Heard had cameos in teen drama Hidden Palms and sitcom Californication. That same year, she appeared in the short film Day 73 with Sarah, and the indie film Remember the Daze.

Best Acting Roles

It wasn’t until Heard’s 2008 role in the comedy-action film Pineapple Express, starring alongside Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Danny McBride, that she gained mainstream recognition.

Later, she appeared in 2009’s Zombieland and in 2011 appeared opposite Depp in The Rum Diary, based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Hunter S Thompson. Another prominent role was in the 2015 comedy-drama Magic Mike XXL.

Her portrayal of Mera in the DC-verse in 2017 film Justice League is perhaps her most notable role and one that she reprised in 2018 film Aquaman with Jason Momoa and its sequel, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which is expected to premiere in 2023.

Amber Heard in ‘Aquaman' (Warner Bros)
Amber Heard in ‘Aquaman' (Warner Bros)

Personal Life

In 2020, Heard posted an Instagram photo announcing her mother’s death.

Nearly a year later, she shared news of her first child, daughter Oonagh Paige Heard, born on 8 April 2021, through a surrogate.

She captioned the photo, explaining: “Four years ago, I decided I wanted to have a child. I wanted to do it on my own terms. I now appreciate how radical it is for us as women to think about one of the most fundamental parts of our destinies in this way. I hope we arrive at a point in which it’s normalised to not want a ring in order to have a crib.”

The father’s identity has not been made public.

Heard has since been private about motherhood, typically posting photos with Oonagh’s face covered or looking away from the camera.

Dating History

From 2008 to 2012, Heard dated photographer Tasya van Ree, and came out as bisexual in 2010.

In 2012, Heard and Depp are believed to have started dating. The pair supposedly met on the set of The Rum Diary. They became engaged in 2014 and got married in 2015, with Heard filing for divorce five months later in 2016.

It’s rumoured that Heard dated actor and model Cara Delevigne in 2016. Although it was never confirmed, Depp’s friend Josh Drew reportedly testified in a 2019 deposition – in preparation for the current defamation suit – that Heard had an affair with Delevigne throughout her marriage to Depp.

Heard is believed to have dated billionaire Elon Musk on and off between 2016 and 2018. Depp suspected the pair were having an affair, and during his lawsuit with The Sun, text messages between Heard and Musk were read in court.

Subsequently, she began dating art dealer Vito Schnabel in 2018, with their relationship lasting less than a year.

Her latest relationship was with cinematographer Bianca Butti from 2020 to 2021. The pair quietly dated, with Butti even accompanying Heard to many of her court cases. It’s reported that the two broke up due to distance.

Amber Heard and ex-girlfriend Tasya van Ree (Getty Images)
Amber Heard and ex-girlfriend Tasya van Ree (Getty Images)

Legal Past

During Depp and Heard’s 2016 divorce proceedings, it was publicised that Heard had been arrested in Washington State in 2009 on misdemeanour domestic violence charges. She had allegedly grabbed Van Ree and hit her arm, but she was never charged.

After which, Van Ree issued a statement that the incident had been “misinterpreted and over-sensationalised” and Heard had been “wrongfully” accused.

In 2018, Depp sued News Group Newspapers, the company that publishes The Sun, for alleged libel over an article published in the tabloid newspaper in April of that year, with the headline: “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”

The case went to trial in 2020. Heard testified as a witness for The Sun.

In August 2020, Heard filed a $100m countersuit against Depp in response to his libel lawsuit, accusing him of allegedly orchestrating a “smear campaign” against her and describing his own lawsuit as a continuation of “abuse and harassment”.

Depp lost the libel battle in November 2020, when Justice Andrew Nicol said the defendants proved that their allegations against Depp were “substantially true,” as reported by The Associated Press at the time.

Heard in court (AP)
Heard in court (AP)

Activism

When Heard isn’t jetting between filming locations, she maintains a significant philanthropic presence. She advocates for women’s and children’s rights. Devoting her time to humanitarian organisations, including Amnesty International and Art of Elysium, which promotes human rights globally, and Syrian American Medical Society, which assists Syrian refugees.

She was also named the Human Rights Champion of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018.

Follow along here for live updates on the Depp v Heard defamation trial.

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