By Mike Bedigan, PA Los Angeles Correspondent
Johnny Depp fans have praised his “sincerity and humility” as they queued outside a US court from the early hours of the morning to support the actor in his latest legal battle.
Mr Depp, 58, was hailed as a “genuine, heartfelt lover of his fans”, who described his “goofy” behaviour as “endearing”.
The actor is suing his former partner, actress Amber Heard, for libel over a 2018 article she wrote in the Washington Post in which she discussed her experiences of domestic abuse.
Mr Depp’s lawyers say the article falsely implies Ms Heard, 35, was physically and sexually abused by him when they were married.
He says the accusations have made it difficult for him to get the sorts of roles he used to, and launched the $50 million dollar lawsuit in 2019.
Both actors appeared in person for jury selection on Monday and are expected to give evidence during the six-week trial alongside other high-profile figures including James Franco, Paul Bettany and Elon Musk.
Mr Depp wore a grey suit and glasses, and wore his long hair down, while Ms Heard wore a black jacket and white blouse.
Around 50 fans gathered outside Fairfax County District Court in Virginia, some from 5am, hoping to catch a glimpse of Depp and hear him “speak his truth”.
Bekka Fontanilla, 35, told the PA news agency: “He’s a totally genuine, heartfelt lover of his fans.
“His fans are attracted to his sincerity and humility. He’s a kind soul, and you can tell that.
“He likes to connect and always makes it a point to do that. He seems goofy and genuine, it’s endearing.”
Yvonne De Boer, who had travelled from Los Angeles for the trial, said: “I’ve been a fan for 36 years, I’ve met him many times.
“I love him. I want to be here for him and hear him speak his truth. He is treasured and he’s cherished.”
Kayla Gauthier, 19, who arrived at court with her mother, said: “I’ve been a fan of him my entire life and I want to support him in any way I can.
“Being here in person is the best way I can do that. He’s my favourite person, I was raised on his films, and he’s one of my heroes.”
Ms Gauthier added the claims were “obviously not true” but she would be “very disappointed” if they were.
Ms Heard’s Washington Post article was titled: I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.
It did not mention Mr Depp by name.
The actress’s lawyers are expected to argue she should be immune from the libel suit because of a Virginia law known as an anti-Slapp provision (strategic lawsuit against public participation).
The provision is designed to protect people from nuisance lawsuits when they speak about matters of public concern.
Ms Heard’s lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, has argued the article addresses a serious issue of public concern: preventing domestic violence.
The actress has also filed a counterclaim for defamation against Mr Depp because of statements his lawyer made about her.
The case is being brought in Virginia rather than in California, where the actors live, because the Washington Post’s online editions are published through servers located in Fairfax County.
Mr Depp’s lawyers say one of the reasons they brought the case in Virginia is because the state’s anti-Slapp law is not as broad as the one in California.
It comes after he lost a similar defamation case in the UK, which he brought against the publishers of The Sun, News Group Newspapers (NGN).
An article also written in 2018 by The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton referred to Mr Depp as a “wife-beater” in the headline.
Following a 16-day trial in July 2021, a judge found the content of the article to be “substantially true”.
Mr Depp was refused permission to appeal against the decision at the Court Of Appeal.