A life in the spotlight does not come without controversy: this is no exception for high-profile celebrity Johnny Depp. After a five-month long libel trial, the actor lost his case against ex-wife Amber Heard –– all because of a 2018 newspaper article. Under a ruling of 14 allegations of physical assault against Depp, the courts found the article’s usage of the term ‘wife beater’ to be substantially true.
Libel trials refer to the defamation of an individual through public slandering. In this case, Depp used a 2018 article posted by The Sun titled “GONE POTTY: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” The use of the term ‘wife beater’ was held viable in the courts to be tried in London. This saw Depp and Heard’s first meeting since their divorce in May 2016.
The trial required both Depp and Heard to appear in court for 16 days as they examined the evidence of the assault allegations. Judge Justice Nicol released a 585-paragraph ruling on Nov. 2, 2020 in The Sun’s favor. This was not the only loss that Depp received as, days later, Warner Bros. released a statement on the matter. “We thank Johnny for his work on the films to date. ‘Fantastic Beasts 3’ is currently in production, and the role of Gellert Grindelwald will be recast.”
As a prominent actor from the past three decades, Depp made himself known for roles in movies spanning from “Edward Scissorhands” to “Pirates of the Caribbean.” His name is no stranger to the film industry, so the news that Depp would lose his role in the next Harry Potter film took fans by surprise.
Inspired by the #MeToo movement, a feminist action against unspoken male abuse, many cases regarding physical assault have been brought to the public eye causing large corporations to take action immediately.
Sydney Spears, a freshman forensic science major, said, “The way viewers perceive [physical assault cases] and their want to speak out against them can go as far as people not supporting the company that supports an alleged abuser. Scandals like Depp’s would take a while for a company’s reputation to go back to normal.”
Regardless of Depp’s resignation to the role, he still obtained $10 million per his contract. Although there was no monetary loss, his reputation was lost to the libel case. This was something, Depp implied, that would last him far longer than a loss of millions ever would.
“Women on average are more likely to be abused in relationships than men, and since Heard had been the initial person to cite abuse in the relationship, it did not seem all that outlandish,” said junior political science major Jess Schmitz. “At that time when stories about Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose were starting to make headlines, it made sense that those allegations were made against Depp.”
Many fans took to looking into the Depp and Heard case after the verdict, and this resurfaced evidence of phone calls between the two from their divorce in 2016. According to the leaked evidence, Heard admitted to throwing a vodka bottle at him unprompted, which sliced off the tip of his finger, landing him in the hospital to contract MRSA as a result. Upon Depp asking if Heard believes that she is an abuser herself, her response was that she was “a 115-pound woman.”
After stating that no one would believe Depp because he was a man, Heard said, “No one is going to believe that I am in a fight club or that I used makeup and hair to create fake bruising.” Because Depp never brought these claims to the public himself, many fans felt it was implied that Heard’s statements of defense were preconceived notions set to corroborate Depp.
The Nov. 2 ruling was not the end of the case, however, as Depp made plans to appeal the case within U.S. courts in the near future. Reactions to the verdict of the case only asserted this. Whereas the 2016 court case was met with criticism against him, the revival of their phone call garnered enough publicity to do the opposite.
Schmitz said she believes that the phone calls could play a great role in Depp’s appeal as they were not used in the libel case to begin with.
“It is going to be hard to turn that tide back in his favor, especially since there isn’t nearly as much media coverage on it,” Schmitz said. “Regardless, I think the [#MeToo movement] and its values will eventually and should be working in his favor. Abuse is abuse, and all victims deserve justice.”
With many phone calls and interviews coming out that have Heard admitting to physically assaulting Depp, a large turnaround is surfacing not only for the case, but also the movement itself. As most of the allegations of assault are against men, this case is becoming popular enough to broaden the perspective that stands behind abuse.”
“This case is changing around the way that people, more often than not, view men as abusers,” Spears said. “While people know that women can be indicted for this too, it truly opens eyes as people get to see that come into fruition with this case.”
In lieu of the public’s reaction, fans have been petitioning to have Heard removed from the cast of “Aquaman 2”, which is filming in 2021. Regardless of the support gathered to get her resignation, Warner Bros. stated it would be against her contract to do so.
Schmitz said she feels as though the same treatment should be given to Heard if she had abuse allegations against her.
“I highly encourage people to stay and not support her career, just as was done to Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein and other abusers in the industry,” Schmitz said.
With more interviews being conducted on the daily for the upcoming appeal, the final verdict of the case is still unknown.
Until then, fans and the public alike are taking note from Depp and Heard in how allegations can damage someone’s career. The demand for thorough assessments of allegations may be enough of a push to give Depp justice.