EXCLUSIVE: Amber Heard will now be the second witness for the defense as her team shifts tactics in the $50 million defamation trial with Johnny Depp.
The Aquaman star had been set as the opening witness in the defense case, as Deadline exclusively revealed last week. However, as is not unusual in such trials, events have pushed a shift in approach. After the testimony of forensic psychologist Dr. Shannon Curry on behalf of Depp on April 26, Heard’s legal team led by Elaine Bredehoft and Ben Rottenborn have decided to put clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Dawn Hughes on the stand in Fairfax County, VA first on Tuesday.
Heard is now scheduled to follow Hughes’ testimony in the defense’s case this week, we heard. Reps for Heard had no comment on the schedule change when contacted by Deadline today.
Heard’s and Hughes’ respective testimony comes in what is now the fourth week of a scheduled five-week trial that started April 11. Stemming from Depp’s March 2019 lawsuit based on Heard’s late 2018 Washington Post op-ed about domestic violence, the much delayed proceedings will go dark next week as Judge Penny Azcarate has a previously arranged conference to attend.
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Hired by Depp and his attorneys after a meet-and-greet dinner at the former Pirates of the Caribbean star’s Los Angeles home, the non-board-certified Curry told the court last week that in her opinion Heard has Borderline Personality Disorder and Histrionic Personality Disorder. That estimation is primarily based on a single 12-hour session between Curry and Heard late last year.
Pressed hard by Heard’s side, Curry was relatively composed under cross examination. Still, Heard’s team made sure to emphasis that Curry’s Borderline Personality Disorder opinion is word-for-word the same as labels Depp has been heard slamming Heard with on audio tapes played for the jury and Azcarate from arguments between the couple.
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Cited as an expert in “treating victims of intimate partner violence,” Hughes has made her own evaluation of Heard, we understand. On the stand after the Depp side ends their part of the case, Hughes will offer insights on that evaluation in what is expected to be clear contradiction to Curry’s opinion on the actress’ mental health.
The change in the witness schedule comes as Heard moved over the weekend to Shane Communications to handle her media and PR needs out of the contentious trial. Replacing Precision Strategies, as was first reported in the New York Post on Sunday, CEO David Shane comes to this litigation well versed in most things Depp. The well-regarded flack worked with Depp’s ex-business managers The Management Group when the actor sued them in a $25 million fraud suit. That January 2017-initiated action ended suddenly in July 2018 with a confidential settlement mere weeks before it was set to go to trial.
Back in session Monday morning, the Fairfax County Courthouse heard from Depp’s former CAA agent and current talent manager Jack Whigham. Under questioning by Depp’s side via live video link, the suited and booted Whigham outlined for the court how Depp had a $22.5 million deal in place to appear in the as yet still unmade sixth Pirates of the Caribbean film. (UPDATED, 9:10 AM: Waffling under sharp cross examination from Bredehoft, Whigham admitted that “it would be fair to say I have not seen a document” on Depp joining Pirates 6 and “I have not seen $22.5 million written on a page.” At one point, Whigham tried to pass responsibility to Depp’s former lawyer Jacob Bloom. A nice move being that Depp successfully sued the now-retired Bloom a few years a go for millions the attorney had made off the actor’s deals.)
The Pirates 6 figure and statement are particularly noteworthy as Depp is alleging that Heard’s op-ed “destroyed” his career and cost him well-paying roles.
Heard’s team has pressed to prove that Depp had already been sidelined from additional Pirates movies with Disney after his problematic behavior on 2017’s installment Dead Men Tell No Tales. They also confirmed with Depp himself during the actor’s testimony that he wouldn’t go back to the franchise even if Disney paid him “$300 million” and more.
On Monday, now Range Media Partners exec Whigham said the $22.5 million payout optional deal for Depp on Pirates 6 had “closed” with the help of CAA overlord Bryan Lourd and others before Heard’s op-ed was published. Calling the op-ed “catastrophic” to Deep’s ongoing career prospects, Whigham went on to say that in early 2019, he learned that Disney “were going in a different direction” and would no longer be working with the past Oscar nominee on the still not-yet-made film.
Opening the ledger, Whigham also told the court how the supposedly cash-strapped Depp was paid $8 million for City of Lies in 2017, $10 million for his performance in 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, $13.5 million for 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald and $1 million for the 2019 indie Waiting for the Barbarians.
Previously today, as both Depp and Heard sat watching, the court heard from another Depp security guard.
Travis McGivern told the jury and others in attendance of an incident in March 2015 where Heard allegedly threw a Red Bull can at her then-husband in a dispute at their downtown L.A. residence. Later that same night McGiern said Heard hit Depp with a “closed fist” as the dispute continued.
Acknowledging Depp’s frequent drug use a decade or so ago, McGivern remarkably stated that cocaine has an effect on Depp unlike almost anyone else in history. “It levels him out,” the security guard said. McGivern also told the court he had seen Heard “push” Depp, but not necessarily be physically abusive.
Still, in the employment of the Pirates actor, the bearded McGivern spoke to the Virginia court via a sometimes glitchy video link from L.A. The remarks McGivern gave today are similar to what he told a UK court back in 2020 during Depp’s unsuccessful libel suit against Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun tabloid for calling the actor a “wife-beater” in print.
The trial continues Monday with cross examination of Whigham. More witnesses for the Depp side will also participate in the proceedings later today before their case is expected to wrap.
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