Ostensibly, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are appearing in London’s High Court of Justice for a libel trial—in 2018, a headline in The Sun referred to him as a “wife beater,” which he disputes—although a layman observing the proceedings may very well conclude that this is all just a curiously formal ceremony designed to ensure that neither of them ever works again.
Because, at least so far, this has been less a lawsuit and more a kind of nightmarish Jackass knockoff. Those following the case will have already seen pictures of physical injury, property destruction, drug paraphernalia, disturbing graffiti scrawled on a mirror and wall in blood and paint, and, most memorably, a dollop of feces plopped on somebody’s bed.
It’s a knockdown, drag-out case engineered to play out in public in the ugliest way possible. It’s the kind of defamation case that tends not to happen anymore, since most well-known people have long since learned that an out-of-court settlement and an NDA is always preferable to having your dirtiest laundry washed in full view of the public. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle—who are suing The Mail on Sunday for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement—must be watching this slugfest unfold with a growing sense of dread.
And, make no mistake, this is dirty stuff indeed. The accusations on either side are absolutely devastating. Heard claims that Depp threatened to murder her. (He denies all allegations of domestic abuse.) Depp claims that Heard threw a bottle at him with such force that it sliced the top of his finger off. (Heard denies this, and says he threw bottles “like grenades.”) There are texts allegedly from Depp suggesting that he should drown Heard, burn her, and then have sex with the corpse. There are audio recordings of Heard apparently admitting to hitting Depp. (Heard claims any contact was in self-defense.) This case is so full of blockbuster moments that, early on, Johnny Depp testified that Amber Heard had said James Franco was a “rapist” or “rapey,” and nobody so much as batted an eyelid.
Depp is coming out of the case badly, with private notes by his own doctor doing much of the damage. David Kipper noted that Depp “has no accountability for his behaviour” and “no understanding of delayed gratification,” something apparently backed up by stories of destroyed properties and hotel rooms. The most notable of these happened in Australia, where he is alleged to have smeared mashed potatoes, raw meat, and blood across his rented villa during a three-day drug bender. Another incident, repeatedly referred to in court, has already been given the shorthand “Disco Bloodbath.”
Perhaps worst of all, however, is the absolute state of Depp’s text messages. It’s a wonder that anyone is available to defend him, given that friendship with him seems to primarily involve having to decode the unreadably dense tracts of grammatically unreliable Nadsat Beat poetry that passes for his communication.
This case is so full of blockbuster moments that, early on, Johnny Depp testified that Amber Heard had said James Franco was a “rapist” or “rapey,” and nobody so much as batted an eyelid.
Amber Heard, too, is suffering. #MeToo activist Amanda de Cadenet was initially slated to testify against Depp, only to drop out after hearing recordings of Heard apparently admitting to assaulting Depp, amid claims that the actress had “misled” her. Heard’s former assistant, a rape survivor, accused her of having “stolen” her tale of sexual assault in order to absorb it “into her own story to benefit herself.” She has been accused of demanding staff to lie on her behalf to Australian authorities and courts.
The main thing, though, is the poo. The takeaway message from the case is that this was a marriage that ended, according to Depp, when Amber Heard apparently defecated in their bed as a joke, causing him to label her “Amber Turd.” Heard claims that the real culprit may be a pet who had been riddled with digestive problems since it ate some of Depp’s drugs. But in Depp’s initial testimony regarding the incident, he noted that a small dog is incapable of doing a human-size poo.
There are some things that nobody can ever come back from, thoughts and images that overwhelm everything you ever thought about a person. In this case, it’s the poo. How can Johnny Depp or Amber Heard ever have a career again after this? The only thing that future audiences will see whenever either of them appears on-screen is a giant turd superimposed over their faces, the same way that cartoon dogs see giant hams walking around everywhere whenever they’re hungry.
Both will suffer as a result of this case—and probably the case that Depp is pursuing in American courts against Heard—because it’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to work with people who are this expressly preoccupied with destroying the life of someone they once claimed to love. However, Heard has by far the most to lose, while Depp has by far the least, largely because Heard’s former assistant described her in court as “the least-known person I’ve ever worked for.”
And this is bound to be reflected in what happens over the coming weeks. Whatever the outcome, vindication or otherwise, it seems reasonable to expect that Depp will not return as Captain Jack Sparrow anytime soon. That is, unless Hollywood loses its mind and hires John Waters or Harmony Korine to direct the next Pirates of the Caribbean film.
Stuart Heritage is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL based in Kent, U.K.