Whatever Johnny Depp and Amber Heard do next, they will be remembered as the bickering divorcees who fought it out in court on both sides of the Atlantic.
The world watched in horror as gruesome details emerged of a two-year marriage riddled with psychosis, drugs, drunkenness, and allegations of abuse, featuring a barrage of wine decanters, champagne and vodka bottles, as well as mobile phones and flower vases.
Curses were shouted, as well as charges of Hollywood’s most dreaded sin — yep, Amber once warned Johnny he was growing fat.
Lit cigarettes were purportedly used as weapons, Johnny drank’mega-pints’ of wine, mashed potato was mysteriously smeared over doors, and fights occurred on private aircraft, hotel rooms, trains, penthouses, and even once in a caravan.
When the tip of Depp’s finger was severed during a fight at an Australian home on the Pimpama River, he used the bleeding stub to write on the walls, an all too graphic depiction of his anguish.
Even the couple’s Yorkshire terriers, Boo and Pistol, were caught up in the chaos. Boo supposedly ate a cannabis lump, while Depp was said to have once held Pistol out the window of a racing automobile. In his latest book, Depp v Heard: The Unreal Story, Nick Wallis deadpans, “causing some distress to its occupants and possibly the dog.”
Wallis was the only journalist who covered both trials in depth, giving him a unique viewpoint on these incredible events. He was in the High Court in London virtually every day in the summer of 2020, watching Depp lose his libel lawsuit against The Sun tabloid over charges of domestic abuse.
He was there every day in Fairfax County, Virginia, two years later, when Depp won his defamation lawsuit against Heard over an article she wrote for the Washington Post in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic violence.
Depp claimed that not only was this false, but that she had mistreated him – and the jury agreed with him. He was given £12 million in compensation, which was eventually reduced to £8.3 million.
Wallis has wrangled the anomaly of these two contradictory verdicts, as well as hundreds of hours of grueling evidence, into a fluid narrative that depicts what happens when a marriage between two desperately beautiful people turns desperately ugly — fatally undermining the popular, fairy-tale belief that perfect beauty somehow equates with moral virtue.
It not only gives us a front-row seat to what became known as the celebrity trial of the century, but it also provides insight into the complicated sexual politics and culture wars that were prevalent at the time, not to mention the online fan fever that surrounded every twist and turn of these court proceedings.
His chapter divisions, The Tattoo Incident, The Disco Bloodbath, The Plane Kick, The Bottle Rape, and The Closed Fist Punch, each tell their own narrative, but Wallis never loses his humanity or feels overwhelmed by the Depp-Heard relationship’s continuous ugliness.
He describes them as “two troubled but fascinating human beings trying to find their way in the world.”
‘They went through an unprecedented procedure that took place on a worldwide scale. I never felt it was shady or depressing.’
Wallis is best known for his book The Great Post Office Scandal, which was the first to disclose the multi-million pound IT fiasco that landed innocent postmasters and postmistresses in prison. He has now produced two Panorama documentaries on the issue, helping to remedy a grave national injustice.
‘People ask, ‘Why bother with Depp-Heard after the Post Office Scandal?’ I respond, “Why not?” ‘Every human life is present,’ he continues.
Wallis does not shy away from delving into the most infamous element of the Depp-Heard affair in his new book. During the first trial, it was alleged that Depp eventually decided to divorce Heard when she defecated in their bed on purpose as a joke, however she denied this and claimed it was Boo.
Whether she is guilty or innocent, it is doubtful that she will ever shake the Amber Turd moniker bestowed upon her throughout the trial.
Wallis forwarded the sole documented evidence available — the feces images presented in court — to Professor Chuka Nwokolo CBE, a distinguished consultant gastroenterologist at the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, in a courageous quest for clarification on this issue.
Prof Nwokolo was unable to tell whether the photographed excrement was from a man, woman, or dog, but he did conclude that whomever was responsible was constipated at the time. You know, sometimes you need a Commander of the British Empire to tell you the truth – but how did we get to this sensitive point?
The omens were favourable when Johnny and Amber met. What possibly could go wrong? They were two lovely individuals living the Hollywood dream, the rays of genius and riches bathing them in a butterscotch light.
He was a renowned Hollywood celebrity who was well-known for his roles as Captain Jack Sparrow and Edward Scissorhands, among many others. She was a modest starlet, but she was already creating a name for herself in little parts in films and on television.
He was strong, well-established, and enormously wealthy, while she had dropped out of high school in Texas only five years before and moved west to make it big in the movies.
Their journey starts in 2008, when Amber, 22, is invited to Johnny’s production offices in Los Angeles after five auditions for the role of Chenault in The Rum Diary.
Later in court, she would claim that she knew who Depp was but “wasn’t a fan of his work”; a deliberate arrogance reminiscent of Meghan Markle telling Oprah Winfrey that she never looked Prince Harry up online before meeting him on a blind date.
The Rum Diary is a film version of Hunter S. Thompson’s book of the same name. This is a passion project and labor of love for Johnny, who is 45 at the time; he not only stars in the film, but also co-produces it. So everything must be flawless, notably the casting of the pivotal femme fatale role. Chenault, according to the literature, symbolizes a ‘dream’ and is the ultimate object of desire.
Author Thompson characterized her as ‘all hips and thighs and nipples and long-haired-charm’ on the page. Amber appears.
The meeting is going nicely. Johnny and Amber seem to have a connection, which may be developed into on-screen charm. Depp discovers an apple-shaped damage on his leather couch as Amber gets up to go.
She was seeing a lady at the time, but he has been married to French singer Vanessa Paradis for 10 years and they have two children together.
Depp, on the other hand, is charmed and so taken by this couch impression that he prevents anybody from sitting there for the rest of the day. He contacts Amber 24 hours later to offer her the role. ‘You’re the one, child. ‘You’re the dream,’ he said. And so it starts.
Depp may not realize it, but this phone call sets in motion a chain of events that will eventually plunge both parties into an emotional and financial spiral; into an unworkable marriage and an even worse divorce; into a celebrity spectacle that will entertain and horrify millions in equal measure.
Johnny Depp has no clue how much of an impact Amber Heard will have on his life.
What the book Depp v Heard illustrates so plainly is the critical role that alcohol and narcotics play in this disastrous relationship.
Although he has not openly confessed to being an alcoholic, we find that Depp has a sobriety team that works with him to keep him off alcohol and drugs, including a personal addiction counselor, his own recovery doctor, and a nurse – all of whom accompany him throughout the globe.
According to his own admission, he has had to detox from narcotics and/or alcohol at least three times, and the condition of his liver has given doctors reason for worry.
Depp is also a habitual marijuana user, has admitted to taking cocaine and MDMA, and has been hooked to several prescription medications.
According to his addiction specialist, David Kipper, Depp has a lengthy history of self-medicating with a variety of substances, including alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and other stimulants.
Kipper writes in the summer of 2014 that Depp “romanticises the entire drug culture and has no accountability for his behavior.” He has a ‘severe’ issue with the pharmaceutical opioid Roxicodone, which he became hooked to after being treated for tooth pain but was able to go off using Clonidine, which he then became addicted to — and so on.
Perhaps the only thing worse than being an addict is being a wealthy addict, since there is nothing stopping you from paying your deepest desires, with or without the assistance of a sober doctor.
When questioned in court in the United States if he drank alcohol in the mornings, Depp responded brilliantly, ‘Isn’t happy hour any time?’ Everyone laughed, although there was absolutely nothing humorous about it.
Heard’s consumption levels were not quite as terrible. She admits to sipping red wine in front of Depp when he was attempting to abstain. Kevin Murphy, his home manager, said she drank two bottles a night, while her former personal assistant claimed she drank “vast quantities of red wine almost nightly.”
Heard has acknowledged to consuming mushrooms and MDMA throughout their relationship, but has denied using cocaine. As the judges saw, she often recorded her husband when he was inebriated or drugged, gathering evidence as meticulously as any investigator.
Whatever they were or were not eating appeared to feed the dreadful ‘he said/she said’ at the core of their strained relationship. She said he punched her in the face at the Met Gala in New York in May 2014, followed by an alleged sexual assault in the Bahamas around Christmas 2015.
He also yanked her hair, knelt on her back, and caused her a nosebleed in a hotel room, she said. They had a romantic journey on the Orient Express across South-East Asia in 2015, but despite the fragrant air and plenty of gourmet dumplings, she claims he attempted to strangle her with a shirt in a sleeping car.
He denied everything and said he was the victim of her assault. That she had spit at him, hurled bottles and cans at him, inflicting injuries, and hit him at least once during their time together. ‘I was striking you, not punching you,’ she said on a tape clip shown in court.
The only possible proof of the train-trip violence is a picture of Depp and Heard standing with Orient Express personnel in the dining car, with Depp wearing what seems to be a black eye – but what does that prove? Nothing.
‘So, who was having physical contact with whom? And why is it so inappropriate to claim they are attacking each other?’ Wallis writes towards the end. ‘What precisely is at risk for either side if they confess to using violence?’
I believe we can all agree on the solution. Nothing but everything.
Celebrity court battles like these are uncommon these days – whose Hollywood stars would risk their reputations for such a high-stakes, painfully public, and costly venture?
Johnny and Amber had everything and nothing, they both won and lost, and now they are forever scalded by their encounter with each other.
From the initial glance to the infamous poop, from the mashed potato to the severed fingertip, no doubt all parties involved would want to forget this ever occurred, but thank heavens Nick Wallis was there to document it all for posterity.
His book is both a chronicle of what may be Hollywood’s worst marriage and a warning about what can happen when a dream dies and falsehoods take control.