By Mike Bedigan, PA Los Angeles Correspondent
Johnny Depp will “go to his grave knowing that whatever he does there will always be people who believe he abused a woman”, a court has heard.
Lawyers on behalf of the actor said his former wife Amber Heard had been “preparing to give the performance of a lifetime” during the recently begun US lawsuit.
Jury members heard Mr Depp had been cast as a “villain” in the story as the six-week trial at Fairfax County Courthouse, Virginia, opened on Tuesday.
The actor, 58, is suing actress Heard, his former partner, 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 (£38.2 million) lawsuit in 2019.
Addressing the jury, Benjamin Chew, representing Mr Depp, said: “Some of you might recognise Johnny Depp from his portrayal of such characters as Edward Scissorhands and Captain Jack Sparrow.
“For over 30 years he has built a career as one of the most talented actors in Hollywood.
“Today his name is associated with a lie. A false statement uttered by his former wife, Amber Heard.”
Mr Chew said the lie had “cast Mr Depp as a villain, a man who would violently abuse a woman”.
“This is a case about how devastating words can be. Words matter,” he said.
Both actors are attending the trial in person and are due to give evidence.
Camille Vasquez, also representing Mr Depp, said: “Mr Depp will go to his grave knowing that whatever he does there will always be people who believe he abused a woman.
“Ms Heard took on the role of a lifetime, she couldn’t back down.
“She has been living and breathing this lie for years now. She is preparing to give the performance of a lifetime in this trial.”
Scores of people, mostly fans of Mr Depp, crowded into the courtroom on Tuesday as the case was officially opened.
Mr Depp wore a dark blue suit and black shirt with a cream tie, while Ms Heard wore a grey blazer and wore her hair in a low bun.
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 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.
Other high-profile celebrities are listed as witnesses in the trial, including actors James Franco and Paul Bettany, and Tesla founder Elon Musk.