Johnny Depp’s libel trial ends with dramatic flourish

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US actor Johnny Depp leaves the High Court after the final day of his libel trial against News Group Newspapers (NGN), London, July 28, 2020. (AFP)
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Actor Amber Heard delivers a statement outside the High Court in London, Britain, July 28, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 July 2020

Johnny Depp’s libel trial ends with dramatic flourish

  • The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise hero was mobbed by fans chanting “Justice for Johnny”
  • The odds favor Depp because England’s strict libel laws place the burden of proof on the media

LONDON: Johnny Depp clutched a teddy bear and Amber Heard made an emotional appeal on Tuesday as the Hollywood actor’s three-week libel trial against The Sun newspaper’s “wife-beating” claim ended with a flourish.
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise hero was mobbed by fans chanting “Justice for Johnny” and trying to pass him bouquets and toys as he struggled to make his way into London’s High Court for the last time.
Heard made a low-key entrance through a side door.
But the 34-year-old model and actress seized the stage moments after the biggest libel case to hit London in decades ended without a firm date for when the verdict will be read.
“It has been incredibly painful to relive the breakup of my relationship, my motive, my truth,” she told reporters outside court in a breaking voice as a Depp supporter tried to shout her down.
But she added: “I stand by my testimony. And I now place my faith in British justice, although I did not bring up this lawsuit.”
Depp rejects accusations of repeatedly hurting Heard while battling a drug addiction over a stormy three-year span that ended with her 2016 decision to get a restraining order and file for divorce.
The 57-year-old star’s lawyer David Sherborne called The Sun’s 2018 allegation a “disservice” to the #MeToo movement the article was trying to support.
Depp “was cited in the same breath as disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein,” Sherborne said in a closing statement.
“That is why he has come here — to clear his reputation.”
Some legal experts say Depp’s reputation will have trouble recovering even if The Sun is forced to retract its claim.
“I think the damage is done,” said London PR agent and crisis consultant Mark Borkowski. “Even if he wins, it’s going to be a Pyrrhic victory.”
The odds favor Depp because England’s strict libel laws place the burden of proof on the media.
That puts one of Britain’s most popular newspapers in danger of having to cover huge court expenses and pay damages in the middle of a media industry crisis made even worse by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Sun’s defeat could also imperil Heard’s Hollywood career.
“If The Sun wins, Heard will likely be viewed as a brave crusader in the domestic violence and #MeToo arena,” said defamation case lawyer Emily Cox.
“If The Sun loses, Heard could well find herself ostracized by those movements and by Hollywood.”
The trial kicked off with three days of gruelling cross-examination in which Depp admitted only hazily recalling some episodes because he was high and drunk.
Depp revealed at one stage that he started snorting cocaine to kick his addiction to prescription painkillers.
He argued that he was suffering “uncontrollable spasms” during withdrawal and was in “no physical condition” to hurt Heard in one alleged incident.
The Sun’s lawyers also produced a statement from Depp’s doctor concluding that the actor “romanticizes the drug culture” and was only going through rehab for show.
“We are a crime scene waiting to happen,” Depp told Heard after one fight.
But he also portrayed his wife as a manic aggressor who was making up the allegations for money and personal fame.
Depp said Heard’s claims turned him “from Cinderella to Quasimodo in 0.6 seconds.”
Heard countered that Depp’s drug habit made him an unrecognizable “monster” who would go on days-long binges in which he lost control.
She accused him of throwing bottles at her “like grenades” and striking her in the face with a phone.
“Some incidents were so severe that I was afraid he was going to kill me, either intentionally or just by losing control and going too far,” she said in a witness statement.
Yet both Heard and Depp acknowledged loving each other deeply on their good days.
“We had had a wonderful year together where he was sober,” she said. “I loved him and I didn’t want to lose that.”
Depp conceded that Heard did her best trying to get him off drugs in 2014.
“She does have a heart and she understands the pain I was experiencing,” he told the court.


Gerard Butler talks family and high-octane action films

Updated 30 September 2020

Gerard Butler talks family and high-octane action films

LOS ANGELES: Hollywood’s latest disaster movie offering, “Greenland,” sees humanity threatened by a comet on a collision course with Earth — Arab News sat down with stars Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin to find out more about the high-octane film.

While many disaster movies focus on experts in big-picture attempts to stop the disaster, “Greenland” keeps the stakes personal by following the Garrity family as they journey to find shelter before it’s too late.

“This story is so relatable because this guy, he’s not a Secret Service agent. He’s not a superhero,” Butler said of his character, John Garrity. “He’s just a dad and he’s not even a perfect dad.”

“Greenland” follows the Garrity family as they journey to find shelter before it’s too late. Supplied

As meteorites decimate cities and people give in to panic, the estranged Garrity family grows closer, mirroring Butler’s real-life relationships with his parents, who despite having not seen him in months due to COVID-19 restrictions, are still just as doting as ever. 

“It’s very sweet that they still care and you’re still their little boy,” Butler said, adding that he mined his relationship with his parents for insight on how to play a caring father. “That definitely helped me in the role, to play that father who will do anything in these trying times to try and protect his family in the midst of this craziness.”

The film was directed by Ric Roman Waugh. Supplied

And while their characters were growing closer, the actors formed a tight knit group as well. Co-star Morena Baccarin told Arab News that she coached and comforted the actor playing the family’s young son — Roger Dale Flloyd — and that she and Butler became good friends on set.

“There are days where you’re just so tired and you’re not in the mood or you don’t want to put yourself through the ringer emotionally,” Baccarin — who plays estranged wife Allison Garrity — said, adding “we just could check in with each other and be there for each other and that was really nice.”

Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, the film has faced repeated delays in the US, but has already hit the big screens in some international markets — including Saudi Arabia and the UAE — where COVID-19 regulations have been amended.