by James PHEBY / AFP
LONDON – Hollywood star Johnny Depp’s bid to overturn a high-profile British libel ruling over reports he assaulted his ex-wife Amber Heard will head back to court on Thursday, as the actor seeks formal permission to appeal.
The Pirates of the Caribbean star lost his battle for damages in November over a 2018 newspaper article that branded him a “wife-beater”.
The Court of Appeal in London will on Thursday hear his application to review the libel case against the publishers of The Sun tabloid newspaper.
Depp was ordered to pay News Group Newspapers (NGN) £628,000 ($873,000, 733,000 euros) in legal costs from the trial, which laid bare the actor’s chaotic lifestyle and battles with alcohol and drug addiction.
Judge Andrew Nicol, who heard the case, previously refused him grounds to appeal but said he could apply directly to the Court of Appeal to overturn his judgment, which Depp then did.
In documents since filed with the Court of Appeal, Depp’s lawyer David Sherborne claimed Nicol’s ruling was “plainly wrong”.
He argued the judge had failed to examine the competing accounts of each incident of alleged violence by Depp towards Heard, or “explain whether he found them proved and, if so, on what basis”.
However, Adam Wolanski, the lawyer representing NGN, countered that Nicol had conducted “a painstaking analysis of the evidence”.
“There is no basis to conclude that the judge failed to examine the evidence or provide reasons for his findings,” he added in his submission.
After the November ruling, Depp said he had been asked to step down from his role in the “Fantastic Beasts” film franchise based on the book by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
The case was dubbed “the biggest English libel trial of the 21st century” and the legal odds had appeared to be stacked in Depp’s favour.
NGN relied on the defence of truth, arguing it had a valid basis for the 2018 story by detailing 14 alleged instances of Depp abusing Heard.
But Depp brought the action because he said The Sun’s allegations had done a “disservice” to the #MeToo movement it was trying to support, his lawyer David Sherborne said.
His client was “cited in the same breath as disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein”, he added. “That is why he has come here — to clear his name.”
The 16 days of proceedings in July, which both Depp and Heard attended, exposed the couple’s troubled and volatile relationship in excruciating detail.
Depp released a graphic photo showing a severed fingertip that he claimed Heard caused by throwing a vodka bottle at him during a violent row.
Heard, a 34-year-old model and actress, claimed Depp injured his fingertip, which was later reattached, when he smashed a telephone into the wall during the argument.
Another episode involved faeces found in the couple’s marital bed, which Depp said was left there as a sick joke by either Heard or one of her friends.
Depp admitted laughing about it when a friend texted him photos of the faeces with the inscription “Amber Turd”.
The judge also forced Depp to face days of withering cross-examination in which the star admitted to only hazily remembering some events because he was high on drugs.
Depp vehemently rejected accusations that he hurt Heard while battling a drug addiction over a three-year span that ended with her 2016 decision to get a restraining order and file for divorce.
He is also suing Heard in the United States over a 2018 Washington Post article in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic violence.