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Fantastic Beasts and Controversial Lawsuits: An Elaborate Timeline

The world was taken by storm a week ago as Oscar-nominated actor, Johnny Depp, was forced to leave the Fantastic Beasts franchise after being asked to resign by the Warner Brothers.


I N T E R N A T I O N A L – E N T E R T A I N M E N T


Ayaan Shams Siddiquee


It all started back in December of 2018, with an Op-ed article published in The Washington Post. What ended as a mutually-agreed termination of a marital relationship back in 2016 would be reignited two years later, only to bring about a plethora of legal cases, court trials, and public defamation.

Johnny Depp, loved globally for his fictional roles: Captain Jack Sparrow, The Mad Hatter, Willy Wonka, etc among others, and Amber Heard, most popularly known as Mera from Aquaman, are ex-spouses, who married in 2012 and divorced in 2016 (finalised in 2017). They are the two lead roles in one of the most highly controversial libel (a published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation) cases in recent times.

As news reports, public opinion, and court rulings perplex anyone trying to involve themselves with the case, biased and shallow level misinformation only add fuel to the already-raging flame. 

Before moving on to the actual case, a small breakdown of what led to the end of such a “high-profile” relationship is much needed. In May of 2016, Heard originally filed a divorce against Depp, alleging that Depp had physically assaulted her multiple times during their “passionate yet volatile” relationship. Depp denied these accusations and strongly suggested that Heard was “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse”. The divorce was finalised in early 2017, under a non-disparagement clause which stated that neither party could say anything negative about the relationship. 

While things among the two individuals may have ended peacefully, it would start to go downhill in December of 2018. Heard wrote an Op-ed article for The Washington Post, wherein she wrote, “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.”


Although Depp’s name hadn’t been exclusively mentioned in the article, he filed a $50 million lawsuit against Heard, which stated Heard’s actions to be an “elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity”. His lawyers asserted that the article was based on the central premise that Amber Heard was a victim of domestic violence and that Johnny Depp was the perpetrator of violence towards her.


That is why the suit claimed that Heard was not a victim of domestic abuse, but rather a perpetrator, and denied that Depp ever abused her. Depp and his legal team would go on to sue News Group Newspapers, the publisher of The Sun, in court over an article they published in 2018. In it, they called him (Depp) a “wife-beater”, in reference to Depp and Heard’s former marriage. Depp sued both the publisher and The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton for libel and the primary trials of the ‘bewildering’ case began in July of 2020.

Evidence of phone recordings and allegations were presented in court, which narrated Heard hitting Depp out of rage. During the three-week-long trial, Depp accused Heard of having extra-marital affairs (owing to elevator footage and more), and Heard accused Depp of physically abusing her, which included throwing a phone at her and leaving her with a resultant bruised face. However, a police spokesman told People that an investigation into the domestic incident radio call found that no crime had taken place. The court finally ruled on the 2nd of November.

Judge Justice Nicol ruled that, under 14 separate incidents of The Sun’s lawyers’ citings to justify referring to Depp as a “wife-beater”, The Sun was correct in reporting that Depp was violent towards his ex-wife Amber Heard. The decision left Depp and his legal team bewildered, owing to the blatant disregard towards the presented evidence in Depp’s favour.

“Most troubling is the judge’s reliance on the testimony of Amber Heard, and corresponding disregard of the mountain of counter-evidence from police officers, medical practitioners, her own former assistant, other unchallenged witnesses, and an array of documentary evidence which completely undermined the allegations, point by point.”

 

“…In the meantime, we hope that in contrast to this case, the ongoing libel proceedings in America are equitable, with both parties providing full disclosure rather than one side strategically cherry-picking what evidence can and cannot be relied upon.”

Things would continue to fall apart for Depp as Warner Bros had asked Depp to resign from JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts franchise, following the results of the trial. What remains hypocritical and highly superficial amongst the followers of the entire franchise and the case is how Warner Bros continues to associate with the notorious transphobe and TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) JK Rowling, and decided to discontinue their contract with Depp. This raised severe questions about the inclusivity of their equity and equality policy. Additionally, Amber Heard has renewed her contract with Warner Bros in their Aquaman franchise, without facing any repercussions. 

Now, what does Depp stand to lose from this case? Johnny Depp is an active advocate for children’s welfare. Being a father of two, Depp has provided regular monetary, humanitarian, and personal aid to Children’s Hospitals, young patients, and those with life-threatening diseases. One of his most significant gestures was during his induction to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where he commemorated Dustin, a young individual with a life-threatening disease, by wearing a commemorative wristband in his honour. “I am honoured to be associated with brave little Dustin by wearing this silver and leather wrist band,” said Depp.

Loved by millions around the globe, Depp has established a name for himself as a person with humanitarian morals of the highest level, being there for kids and adults alike, whenever they needed him, or his infamous fictional characters. However, due to the libel case, Depp has received severe backlash and public defamation. As it stands, there is a clear division amongst the ones associated with the case; one sect aligns themselves with Amber Heard, supporting her for raising her voice against “The Monster” known as Depp, whereas the other group of people stand beside their childhood hero Johnny Depp, knowing that this case wouldn’t be the end of him.

“My resolve remains strong and I intend to prove that the allegations against me are false,” said Depp. “My life and career will not be defined by this moment in time.”

 

References:

  1. A complete timeline of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s tumultuous relationship
  2. Johnny Depp’s lawyers may appeal ‘perverse and bewildering’ libel case ruling
  3. Johnny Depp Charity Work, Events and Causes

 


The writer is a part of TDA Editorial Team.

 

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