Netflix series 'Depp v. Heard' revists defamation trial

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's defamation trial is not only cinematic; it's also inspired a Netflix series. How the affair affected the US actors' images?

The Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial came to an end in June 2022 (Photo: DW)
The Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard defamation trial came to an end in June 2022 (Photo: DW)


In June 2022, the Johnny Depp ("Pirates of the Caribbean") vs. Amber Heard ("Aquaman") defamation trial came to an end. Now, the world gets the opportunity to review the highlights of this dispute between the two actors, who were once married to each other, in a Netflix miniseries. Starting Wednesday, August 16, the streaming service will internationally show the three-part "Depp v. Heard," directed by Emmy and BAFTA nominee Emma Cooper ("Mysterium Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes").

The trial, which was broadcast live by the US Law & Crime network, drew social media comments to a degree never seen before, and became a huge media spectacle.

According to Netflix, the documentary is the first to juxtapose key statements made in the trial by the two parties involved. It is also said to be about the truth as such: The truth about who attacked whom in what way during the marriage, which lasted only 15 months, and who simply made up accusations. The docu-series also begs the question as to whether the spectacle of the trial was not also a kind of promotional campaign for the two stars.

The public was overwhelmingly pro-Depp and anti-Heard

The case divided the media-watching public. "Depp v. Heard" also seeks to analyze the extent to which the media hype may have influenced the outcome of the trial. Hashtags like #AmberHeardIsALiar or #JusticeForJohnny seemed to set the direction that the civil trial would take.

In the end, Amber Heard was found guilty of defaming Depp, and was ordered to pay him $10 dollars (€9.2 million) in compensation for lost wages. He, in turn, was orderd to pay her two million US dollars for defamatory statements made by his former lawyer, Adam Waldman.

The lawyers for both parties initially appealed the verdict, but Heard waived her appeal in December 2022.

Can a trial played out before the eyes and ears of the global public, one that illustrates scenes of a toxic relationship — including unsavory details such as messages written in blood and feces on bed linens — ever have a winner? Does anyone emerge unscathed from a trial of that nature?

Post-trial support for Amber Heard

In contrast to last year, in 2023 the hashtag #IStandWithAmberHeard is trending. It unites the voices of those who call the trial unfair, who condemn the social media hate-campaign against Amber Heard, and who still believe Heard's version. Posts using the hashtag also criticize the power imbalance of the situation, pointing out that Depp is the richer, older, and more famous of the two.

Some journalists have likewise sided with Heard. They say that the trial has legitimized an anti-feminist backlash, or that it has resulted in Heard being blamed for the supposed demise of the #MeToo movement.

Amber Heard herself expressed deep disappointment with the June outcome of the trial. "The disappointment I feel today is beyond words,” she tweeted, expressing heartbreak at the fact that the "mountain of evidence” she presented was not enough to sway the jury. She described the verdict as a "setback” for other women in a similar situation.

Amber Heard: Smiling in Taormina

According to the US magazine People, the 37-year-old had not yet taken any new acting jobs. But she did make her first post-trial public appearance at the Taormina Film Festival.

Presenting her film, "In the Fire," made before the trial began, she appeared relaxed. As she shared on her Instagram account, she was warmly welcomed in Italy, and she thanked her fans for that.

Another film starring Heard is scheduled for release in December. She plays the role of Mera in the superhero film "Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom," directed by James Wan and produced by DC Studios. It was also filmed before the trial.

A petition started on is calling for her role to be edited out of the movie completely.

So far, more than 4.5 million people — perhaps many of them fans of Johnny Depp — have signed the petition, but to no avail. Still, it's unclear when Heard may appear in any future productions.

Depp gives up Hollywood for music

The low point of Depp's career certainly came between 2018 and 2022. In 2018, his ex-wife, Heard, wrote a guest article in the Washington Post about surviving domestic violence. Depp was not mentioned by name, but the article is alleged to have damaged his reputation and career.

Depp lost the roles of Captain Jack in a planned sixth "Pirates of the Caribbean" film and Gellert Grindelwald in the "Harry Potter" spin-off "Fantastic Beasts" shortly after the article was published. So he sued Amber Heard in 2019 for defamation, seeking damages. She, in turn, filed a countersuit, arguing her right to free speech. The lawsuits went to court in Virginia starting in April 2022.

In the aftermath of the trial, Depp returned to music, the industry where he had originally wanted to build a career. He toured with the band Hollywood Vampires and with guitarist Jeff Beck, with whom Depp also recorded an album.

It features two songs written by Depp, one of which, "Sad Mother F*ckin' Parade," has been interpreted as a dig at his ex-wife.

Depp, on the other hand, has taken an obvious swipe at Hollywood.
At the 2023 Cannes Film Festival premiere of his first film release following the trial, "Jeanne du Barry," Depp said he no longer needed Hollywood. The movie is a French historical drama. Alongside the titular courtesan, embodied by Maiwenn, who also directed the film, the 60-year-old Depp plays the French King Louis XV.

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