Actor Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court in London on July 7, 2020.
Actor Johnny Depp arrives in the court Image Credit: Reuters

Oh dear. If court testimony could be adult rated, then the ongoing civil trial underway in a Fairfax courtroom in Virginia is colourful enough to test every level of a censor’s beep box. It’s enough to make most adults blush — and it is making for some very high viewing numbers indeed on US court networks.

The trial is a defamation case brought by actor Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard is ongoing and will likely take weeks to conclude.

Depp and Heard’s relationship began more than a decade ago, and eventually devolved into what appears to have been a toxic marriage.

The couple split in 2016, but have continued to battle in court over a piece Heard wrote for The Washington Post in 2018, in which she described surviving domestic violence — without mentioning Depp by name.

He is suing for $50 million (Dh183.6 million) in damages and denies ever being physically violent with Heard. She is countersuing for $100 million and claims she was only ever violent with Depp in self-defence or in defence of her younger sister. Depp spent days testifying and the court awaits to see which Hollywood names in legal documents will be potential witnesses.

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Johnny Depp looks on during a hearing at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 3, 2022 Image Credit: AFP

Heard and Depp were married in 2015 in a private ceremony — private, but not private enough. They landed in hot water for sneaking their dogs, Pistol and Boo, into Australia. They later released a sombre apology video which, no doubt, tested their acting abilities. Heard was eventually charged with two counts of illegally importing Pistol and Boo into Australia and one count of producing a false document.

Maybe doggiegate was all too indicative of the trouble between the pair. Within a year of marriage, she filed for divorce and was granted a temporary restraining order against him. She claimed that he had thrown a phone at her, leaving her bruised.

Since then, the pair have duelled in courtrooms on both sides of the Atlantic. As my late mother used to say, never air your dirty linen in public. With Depp and Heard, it’s a prime-time launderette.

The 58-year-old actor is known for his portrayal of eccentric characters in films like Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise — and as eccentric as they are on screen, his personal life seems equally chaotic.

The success trajectory

He landed his first legitimate movie role in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). He began studying acting in earnest, the lessons paying off in 1987 when he landed a role on the TV show 21 Jump Street. He has since become known for his willingness to take on darker roles in films such as Edward Scissorhands and Sleepy Hollow.

His real name is John Christopher Depp II, born in Owensboro, Kentucky, on June 9, 1963, to parents John and Betty Sue Depp. Depp’s father worked as a civil engineer and his mother worked as a waitress and homemaker. The youngest of four children, Depp was withdrawn and a self-admitted oddball.

The family moved frequently to accommodate his father’s job, finally landing in Miramar, Florida, when Depp was seven-years old. The family lived in a motel for nearly a year, until his father found a job. Depp hated his new home and, by the age of 12 began smoking, experimenting with drugs and engaging in self-harm due to the stress of family problems.

At 16, Depp dropped out of high school and joined a garage band called the Kids.

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Actor Amber Heard speaks to her attorney during Johnny Depp's defamation trial against her at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse Image Credit: AP

Depp met and married 25-year-old make-up artist Lori Allison in 1983. That same year, the couple moved to Los Angeles with Depp’s band in the hopes of striking it big. Still living on a shoestring budget, Depp and his bandmates supported themselves by selling pens for a telemarketing firm.

A year later, Depp fell into acting when his wife introduced him to her ex-boyfriend, actor Nicholas Cage. He saw potential in Depp and introduced the hopeful musician to a Hollywood agent. After several small roles as an extra, Depp landed his first movie role in the horror film Nightmare on Elm Street.

By 1985, the Kids had broken up — and so had Depp’s marriage. After his split with Allison, Depp struck up a relationship with actress Sherilyn Fenn, whom he met on the set of the short film Dummies in 1985. They were briefly engaged — but split shortly after.

He then met and proposed to actress Jennifer Grey — and again, their romance was short-lived.

Depp started to study acting in earnest, first in classes at the Loft Studio in Los Angeles and then with a private coach. The lessons paid off in 1987 when landed a role in the popular Canadian-filmed television series 21 Jump Street.

In 1990, Depp received an opportunity to exhibit his versatility as an actor in the titular role of Tim Burton’s fantasy film, Edward Scissorhands. The movie not only established Depp as an A-list actor, but it also grossed more than $54 million at the box office.

It was during shooting for Edward Scissorhands that Depp met co-star Winona Ryder. The two began dating on the set and soon became a Hollywood power couple. They were soon engaged, Depp even had “Winona Forever” tattooed on his right arm. The couple split, however, in 1993 after Ryder’s parents forbade their daughter to marry.

Depp also dabbled with drugs and spiralled into a deep depression. Around this time he started a very public relationship with supermodel Kate Moss. The pair constantly made headlines for their passionate and unpredictable behaviour.

But on the screen, his career was flourishing and he was in demand. In 2004, Depp earned an Academy Award nomination for his starring role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the family adventure Pirates of the Caribbean. The film was a box office smash, fuelling the creation of the Pirates franchise.

His personal woes with Heard, however, means that he is persona non grata with the makers of the franchise. In effect, part of his suit against Heard stems from the fact that he was effectively forced to walk the plank and jettison his proven box office roles.