Johnny Depp’s lost libel trial: How will it affect his net worth?
In a new development in the case of Johnny Depp against his ex-wife Amber Heard, Depp lost his libel suit against the British tabloid The Sun. After calling Depp a “wife beater” in a 2018 article, The Sun found itself in Depp’s legal crosshairs and defending a lawsuit from the Hollywood actor.
The trial began in July and ended November 2, where Johnny Depp lost $1.7 million in legal fees. That’s not the only loss Depp faces. He may lose over $3 million in a lawsuit where he defended himself against Amber Heard. He sought $50 million in damages after he claimed the actress falsified her story and abused him.
While that seems like a lot of money to most people, for Johnny Depp, it’s a drop in the bucket. With a current net worth of $200 million per International Business Times, Depp could pay his lawyers 100 times over before going broke – literally! However, the allegations against Depp are serious enough where it could cost the actor earnings in the future. Let’s take a look.
Johnny Depp’s net worth
From Edward Scissorhands to Pirates of the Caribbean, Johnny Depp’s roles are legendary. His acting career launched in the 80s when he starred in the TV show 21 Jump Street. He became one of director Tim Burton’s darlings and starred in many of Burton’s works, including Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, and the aforementioned Edward Scissorhands.
However, the film franchise that skyrocketed Johnny Depp’s career & net worth the most was Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean. Playing the chronically drunk, witty, and weirdly dashing Captain Jack Sparrow, Johnny Depp became a household name. The franchise has grossed over $4.5 billion worldwide. Thanks to royalties, Depp brings in an estimated $60 million a year per Variety.
However, Johnny Depp’s net worth took a big hit when his ex-wife Amber Heard filed for divorce, alleging Johnny Depp violently abused her. Of course, this brings us to the allegations & recent lawsuit.
Amber Heard alleged Johnny Depp was abusive in their marriage when she filed for divorce in 2016, claiming Depp assaulted her on over fourteen occasions per the BBC. Heard said Depp left her with bruises, black eyes, a broken nose, and a split lip. While the claims were from 2015, they were massively publicized in 2017 when the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements became prominent.
In their divorce settlement, Johnny Depp & Amber Heard settled for $7 million, releasing a public statement claiming neither one of them made financial statements for public gain, nor were they abusive to one another. Depp also denied any & all claims he abused Amber Heard. However, Heard became an outspoken activist during #MeToo, partnering with the United Nations and the ACLU to advocate for women’s rights.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Amber Heard spoke out about being a domestic abuse survivor. “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” she wrote. While she never mentioned Johnny Depp by name, he initiated a $50 million defamation statement against her for the article.
Presuming The Sun guilty
While Johnny Depp was filming the Fantastic Beasts series, JK Rowling’s Potterverse spinoff focusing on the Wizarding World during World War II, The Sun published an article with a byline calling Johnny Depp a “wife beater”. Depp sued The Sun, its executive editor Dan Wootton, and The Sun’s parent company, News Group Newspapers.
Because Johnny Depp filed the lawsuit in London, UK libel laws actually favored him as the plaintiff. From an article in University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review, “In England, the falsity of a defamatory statement is presumed, and truth is a defense to be pleaded and proved by the defendant.”
The BBC put it more succinctly: “if you write something defamatory in London, the burden is on you to prove it is true.” Essentially, UK libel laws presume the defendant’s statement was libelous and the defendant must prove their claims to be true in court. Therefore, the defendants in Johnny Depp’s case had to prove their statements were true.
Judge Nicol, in his ruling, declared the following statement true: Johnny Depp “headbutted Amber Heard, repeatedly hit Amber Heard, and tore out clumps of Amber Heard’s hair”. Nichol also stated Heard’s ordeal “must have been terrifying” and he was certain “Mr. Depp put her in fear of her life.”
The case dove deeply into the lives of Johnny Depp & Amber Heard, revealing embarrassing and gruesome details about their short marriage. The New York Post reported the case blew the lid on Johnny Depp’s personal life. The case revealed Depp “snorted coke with a tampon applicator”, wrote hateful messages to Amber Heard using his own pee, and used the broken-open stub of his finger to scrawl hate in blood.
The high court even ruled on poop. The New York Post divulged poop found in Johnny Depp & Amber Heard’s bed in Australia was ruled to be from the couple’s dogs, not a spiteful spouse.
Plans to appeal and future
Johnny Depp’s legal team called the ruling “as perverse as it is bewildering”, adding “It would be ridiculous for Mr. Depp not to appeal.” Since Johnny Depp’s reputation is on the line, and after being humiliated in a court that favored him as a plaintiff, the only way to protect the reputation he has is to appeal the ruling.
Johnny Depp still had an army of supporters when the case began. Crowds gathered around the courthouse in July, chanting “Johnny, Johnny” as he walked past per BBC News. Fans pointed to a released 2020 phone conversation between Johnny Depp & Amber Heard where Heard admitted to hitting Depp for their continued support.
Meanwhile, Depp’s lawsuit in Virginia will go to trial in Virginia next year, as will Amber Heard’s countersuit against Depp per Forbes. He’s currently filming the next installment of the Fantastic Beast series in Britain.