Toby Emmerich‘s 2020 decision to fire Johnny Depp from the Fantastic Beasts franchise is looking prescient. (Why he hired Depp in the first place, given the well-known behavior issues, is another question.) Secrets of Dumbledore may not light up the box office next weekend—overseas, it’s already way down from 2018’s Crimes of Grindelwald—but imagine marketing a family movie when your star is on Court TV debating whether he abused his wife. Nightmare scenario.
Depp’s televised $50 million defamation trial against Amber Heard is set to kick off tomorrow in Fairfax, Virginia, and if that sounds familiar, it’s because this is the second public airing of these sordid claims. Depp already lost a U.K. case against Murdoch’s The Sun, which called him a “wife beater.” The judge there issued a brutal ruling, finding “overwhelming evidence” that Depp assaulted Heard many times during their 15-month marriage—not exactly the outcome Depp envisioned when he sought to take advantage of Britain’s stricter libel laws.
Instead of moving on, however, Depp sued again, this time over a Washington Post op-ed that Heard wrote in 2018, in which she didn’t name Depp but referred to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” I won’t get into the detailed back-and-forth here, but in short, Heard attorneys Elaine Bredehoft and Ben Rottenborn have claimed Depp punched Heard and hit her in the face with a cellphone; Depp’s lawyers, Kathleen Zellner, Camille Vasquez and Ben Chew, call her allegations an “elaborate hoax” to boost her career by becoming a “darling of the #MeToo movement,” and Team Depp says she’s the abuser, once throwing a vodka bottle at him that smashed and severed his finger. The Times has a good preview of the case here, and the details are ugly.