By Mike Bedigan, PA Los Angeles Correspondent
Johnny Depp was an “obsessed ex-husband hell-bent on revenge”, a court has heard, as the actor’s defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard got under way in the US state of Virginia.
Lawyers on behalf of the Aquaman actress said Mr Depp had sought to “destroy” her and that the situation was “disturbing, but not surprising”.
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 dollar (€46 million) lawsuit in 2019.
But Benjamin Rottenborn, representing Ms Heard, said the actor had brought the suit “rather than take responsibility for his own actions” and planned to turn the trial into a “soap opera”.
“Amber Heard never wanted to offer up to the public who Johnny Depp was, but that is going to come out,” he said, during his opening remarks.
“He wanted to make her life hard, he wanted to ruin her life. He wanted to destroy her. And that is what he did.
“I wish I could say that it’s surprising. It’s disturbing but not surprising.”
“He was an obsessed ex-husband, hell-bent on revenge…as his career was in free-fall and her career was talking off.”
Mr Rottenborn continued: “It’s quite ironic that a piece that briefly discussed Amber moving on from Johnny Depp… is the vehicle that he used to keep her from moving on, rather than take responsibility for his own actions.”
Elaine Bredehoft, also representing Ms Heard, detailed a number of alleged abusive incidents triggered by “crushing” drug and alcohol problems.
These included a “drug binge” with his “good friend” Marilyn Manson and a “blackout” in Australia, which Ms Heard had previously described as a “three-day hostage situation”.
But Mr Depp’s lawyers argued that the allegations by Ms Heard were false and the actress was “preparing to give the performance of a lifetime” during the proceedings.
Camille Vasquez, representing Mr Depp, said the actor would “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 said.
“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, where both actors are attending the trial in person and are due to give evidence.
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.