Johnny Depp wins right to proceed with libel case against Amber Heard

The 'Pirates of the Caribbean' star is suing his ex-wife for $50 million after an op-ed she wrote labelling him a violent man

Johnny Depp's libel case against ex-wife Amber Heard is now set to proceed to a trial next year. Reuters
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Actor Johnny Depp has scored a major victory in one of the several cases involving his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard.

A judge in Virginia on Tuesday rejected Heard's request to throw out Depp's libel suit of two years. Depp is demanding $50 million from the actress after an op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post titled: "I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change".

In the suit filed in 2019, Depp claimed he had suffered financial losses because of the accusations in the article, including being dropped from his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the money-spinning Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Fairfax County Chief Judge Penney Azcarate rejected Heard's motion to dismiss the case on various grounds, according to documents obtained by USA Today.

Heard cited a 2020 London court ruling, which Depp lost, for grounds to dismiss the US libel suit. Depp, 57, had earlier sued News Group Newspapers, publishers of The Sun, and one of its journalists, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 story which stated he had been violent towards Heard, 34, and which labelled him a "wife beater".

One Tuesday, Judge Azcarate said the two cases were not the same.

"Upholding English libel judgments in the United States would create the chilling effect and could create a dangerous precedent. Accordingly, this Court is unpersuaded by Defendant's argument," the judge opined, as reported by USA Today.

The case is now set to proceed to a trial next year.

Depp and Heard married in 2015 after meeting on the set of the 2011 film 'The Rum Diary'. EPA

Last month, Depp scored a rare victory in his lengthy and bitter divorce case against Heard when a New York judge partially granted him a petition to determine if Heard had followed through on her promise of donating her $7 million divorce settlement to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

As per the ruling, the ACLU must release documents that confirm whether or not Heard had made the donation, which has become a point of contention in the former couple's legal saga.

“Mr Depp is most gratified by the Court’s decision," the actor's lawyer Benjamin Chew then told USA Today.

Depp and Heard married in 2015 after meeting on the set of the 2011 film The Rum Diary. Heard filed for divorce in 2016, alleging that the actor had been verbally and physically abusive throughout their relationship. Their divorce was finalised in 2017, with Depp asked to pay $7 million in settlement, which Heard pledged to donate to charity.

Last week, Depp claimed he is being boycotted by Hollywood, in one of his first interviews since losing his London libel lawsuit.

The comments come as the US remains the only territory yet to release his latest film, Minamata, in which Depp stars as photographer W Eugene Smith, who helped expose the mercury poisoning scandal in the Japanese town of Minamata.

Earlier this month, Spain’s leading group of women filmmakers condemned the San Sebastian film festival after it announced its decision to award Depp its highest honour.

Cristina Andreu, the president of Spain’s Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media, said she was “very surprised” by the decision.

“This speaks very badly of the festival and its leadership, and transmits a terrible message to the public: ‘It doesn’t matter if you are an abuser as long as you are a good actor’,” Andreu told The Associated Press.

The association, which has close links to the San Sebastian festival, was “studying next steps,” she added.

The 69th San Sebastian film festival, the highest-profile cinematic event in the Spanish-speaking world, will take place from Friday, September 17 to Saturday, September 25.

Updated: August 19, 2021, 3:11 AM