The toxic divorce back-and-forth between Hollywood stars Johnny Depp and Amber Heard continues with the latest legal front shifting to Depp’s reported lawsuit against his ex, seeking $50 million for allegedly defaming him with “hoax” allegations of domestic abuse.
The Blast, Deadline and People reported Depp filed the suit against Heard over an opinion column she published, but didn’t say when or where or in what court the suit was filed.
Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman of Washington D.C., did not respond to emails from USA TODAY. But he and Depp, 55, have long vigorously denied allegations Depp ever abused Heard, asserting that she faked the abuse claims in 2016 and that Depp was the real victim in their dispute.
“First she abused him physically, then she abused his reputation,” Waldman told USA TODAY in December.
Heard’s lawyer, Eric George of Los Angeles, told USA TODAY he had not yet seen the lawsuit, only the media reports about it. But he issued a statement condemning it as “frivolous” and vowed it would not stop Heard from speaking out further about domestic violence.
“This frivolous action is just the latest of Johnny Depp’s repeated efforts to silence Amber Heard,” George said in a statement emailed to USA TODAY. “She will not be silenced.
“Mr. Depp’s actions prove he is unable to accept the truth of his ongoing abusive behavior. But while he appears hell-bent on achieving self destruction, we will prevail in defeating this groundless lawsuit and ending the continued vile harassment of my client by Mr. Depp and his legal team.”
In December, Heard, 32, who had accused Depp of beating her before their 2016 divorce was finalized, wrote an opinion column in the Washington Post lamenting the consequences she paid for speaking out about the need to curb domestic violence.
Two years ago, she wrote, “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”
She never mentioned the “Pirates of the Caribbean” star by name but it was clear who and what she was talking about, according to Depp’s lawsuit. Her column “depends on the central premise that Ms. Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Mr. Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her.”
These are “false” allegations, Depp’s lawsuit argues, “part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity” for Heard to advance her career. “Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse; she is a perpetrator,” the suit says.
The Depp-Heard divorce, after less than two years of marriage, was one of Hollywood’s most toxic in 2016, an ugly affair featuring allegations of physical abuse, restraining orders, media-mobbed court hearings, leaked texts and cellphone pictures of facial bruises, plus dueling lawyers and publicists.
Heard claimed the Los Angeles police went to their downtown loft the night of an alleged beating and documented the abuse. But the cops instead told reporters they found no evidence of a crime when they arrived.
After a summer of sniping, Heard withdrew her allegations that Depp abused her and the two settled their divorce out of court in August 2016. They issued a joint statement to the media.
“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” the statement said. “Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm. Amber wishes the best for Johnny in the future.”
Heard eventually donated her share of the divorce settlement, about $7 million, to a charity focused on fighting domestic abuse of women. In addition to her thriving acting career (“Aquaman”), she is now an ambassador on women’s rights for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Depp has been enmeshed in several lawsuits in recent years, including one against his former managers and another against his former attorneys. He’s also pursuing a libel case against The Sun tabloid in London, where libel suits are easier for plaintiffs to win, for calling him a “wife-beater” based on Heard’s allegations.