Depp accuses ex of lying in UK libel case

Johnny Depp is suing The Sun's publisher over claims he abused his ex-wife, US actress Amber Heard.
Johnny Depp is suing The Sun's publisher over claims he abused his ex-wife, US actress Amber Heard.

Hollywood star Johnny Depp has accused his ex-wife Amber Heard of conducting extramarital affairs and lying about him beating her up when he appeared in a London court to pursue legal action against a British tabloid newspaper.

Depp, the 57-year-old star of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, is suing The Sun's publisher, News Group Newspapers, and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, for libel over an article Wootton wrote in April 2018 calling him a "wife beater".

Lawyers for Britain's Sun tabloid said they would demonstrate the accusation was accurate and the actor's recollection may be affected by his excessive drug use.

Depp took the stand at the beginning of the case on Tuesday. Heard was also due to give evidence.

"For the avoidance of any doubt, I have never abused Ms Heard, or, indeed, any other woman, in my life," Depp said in a witness statement.

Depp's lawyer David Sherborne said in a written opening statement to London's High Court that Heard had first aired abuse allegations in May 2016 when she obtained a restraining order against Depp and appeared to have bruises on her face caused in an incident six days earlier.

"There is a substantial body of evidence ... which clearly demonstrates that this was a lie manufactured by Ms Heard and her friends," Sherborne said.

"The claimant's position is clear: Ms Heard's allegations are complete lies. The claimant was not violent towards Ms Heard, it was she who was violent to him."

In papers submitted to the court, Depp's team also said the actress had begun an affair with Tesla chief executive Elon Musk in early 2015 shortly after they had married and had engaged in at least one extramarital relationship with her co-stars, with actor James Franco named.

Depp's lawyers also said he was the victim of attacks from his ex-wife and had himself sought to avoid confrontation.

The couple met on the set of the 2011 film The Rum Diary and married in February 2015. Heard filed for divorce after 15 months and days later obtained a restraining order against Depp.

Their divorce was finalised in 2017 when the restraining order was dismissed.

Lawyers for The Sun said they would suggest Depp was either a "pathological liar or his excessive alcohol and drug abuse have detached him from any insight into his own conduct".

Cross-examined by lawyer Sasha Wass, Depp agreed he had taken "every drug known to man" by age 14 and said he had had a difficult childhood and struggled to come to terms with his fame and success.

The Sun's lawyers said it was Depp's false accusation of infidelity by Heard that led to the violence.

The case is set to last for three weeks, Justice Andrew Nicol said. Also due to give evidence via video link are Vanessa Paradis, Depp's former partner, and actress Winona Ryder.

Australian Associated Press