Fact check: Amber Heard did not plagiarise 'The Talented Mr Ripley'

Armchair legal experts with social media accounts are scathing and quite wrong in assessment

Actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were married for about 16 months. EPA

CLAIM: Actress Amber Heard plagiarised lines from the movie The Talented Mr Ripley on Wednesday when she first took the stand in a trial over libel allegations by Johnny Depp, her former husband.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. A review of nearly seven hours of footage from Wednesday’s proceedings shows Heard did not make comments that match a specific quote from the movie that was attributed to her online.

THE FACTS: Shortly after Heard took the stand Wednesday to speak for the first time on day 14 of the libel trial in Fairfax, Virginia, social media users falsely suggested that a few lines of testimony Heard passed off as her own actually came from a popular movie.

Users on both Twitter and Facebook shared what they purported to be side-by-side quotes showing Heard’s statements and nearly identical phrases from the 1999 movie The Talented Mr. Ripley.

The claim spread widely in English and Spanish.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by c.Paramount/Everett / Rex Features ( 682641o )
Jack Davenport, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow
'The Talented Mr. Ripley' film - 1999

The psychological thriller stars Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. It follows a millionaire playboy, Dickie Greenleaf, played by Law, and a charismatic manipulator, Tom Ripley, played by Damon.

The posts included lines delivered by Paltrow’s character, Marge Sherwood, in which she says: “The thing with Dickie … it’s like the sun shines on you, and it’s glorious. And then he forgets you and it’s very, very cold … When you have his attention, you feel like you’re the only person in the world, that’s why everybody loves him so much.”

That quote was juxtaposed with supposed statements from Heard at her trial in which she substituted only the name “Johnny” for “Dickie”, while referring to Depp.

“Remember the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley? Well yesterday Amber Heard got on the witness stand & repeated these lines word [expletive] word!” wrote one Twitter user who posted the image, gaining more than 1,000 retweets and nearly 4,000 likes.

Another shared the same side-by-side quotes and said: “Amber Heard used a Talented Mr Ripley quote verbatim on the stand.”

Social media users sharing the posts did not include a link to footage or point to any sources showing Heard delivering the indicated lines.

But the claims are false, and video and news coverage of the trial does not show her making any such comments.

After taking the stand for the first time on Wednesday, she answered questions such as her name, age, where she grew up and how she felt about the lawsuit, according to a nearly seven-hour video of the full proceedings posted to YouTube by several outlets.

Heard eventually described how she met Depp, their relationship and later recounted alleged acts of physical violence by him.

At one point, just over 30 minutes into her testimony, she stated: “We were secretly dating. It was beautiful. I felt like this man knew me and saw me in a way that no one else had. I felt he understood me. I felt he understood where I came from. I felt like when I was around Johnny, I felt like the most beautiful person in the whole world. You know, he made me feel seen. He made me feel like a million dollars.”

She also described their time in a secret relationship as a “bubble”, and said they felt like they were in a “warm glow”. At other points in her testimony, she alleged that when Depp drank alcohol he would often “disappear” and “come back and be different”.

Other social media users shared footage of this actual testimony, and compared it to the quote from The Talented Mr. Ripley. However, these remarks contain significant differences and Heard never delivered the film quote “verbatim”, as claimed.

Depp is suing Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court after she wrote a December 2018 column in The Washington Post describing herself as “a public figure representing domestic abuse”.

The article never mentions Depp by name, but Depp’s lawyers say he was defamed nevertheless because it clearly referred to accusations she made in 2016 during their divorce proceedings.

Much of the trial has focused on whether Heard was abused, a claim Depp denies.

This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organisations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online.

Updated: May 09, 2022, 5:40 PM
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