'Drank All Night Before I Picked Up Amber': Johnny Depp Grilled About Booze and Drug Use in Defamation Trial

During his third day on the stand, Johnny Depp faced a grueling cross-examination from lawyers for ex-wife Amber Heard in his $50 million defamation lawsuit against the actress.

Heard’s attorney Ben Rottenborn grilled Depp — wearing sunglasses and a dark gray suit — over a series of embarrassing text messages and audio clips that depicted heavy drug use by the Pirates of the Caribbean star.

“She didn’t like it when it was her perception that I was high on drugs and alcohol,” Depp explained to the court about his ex-wife’s reaction when she believed he was using.

The testimony capped off a dramatic day in court in which Depp’s sobriety, or lack thereof, was called into question by Heard’s team as well as the actor’s alleged role in sharing drugs with his famous friends. As had been expected, Heard’s lawyers name-checked a number of celebrities, including Avengers actor Paul Bettany and disgraced rocker Marilyn Manson.

Rottenborn asked Depp about “that nice friend that you’ve done drugs with, right?” with regards to Bettany, star of the Marvel series WandaVision. The attorney then ticked off a list of recreational substances that Depp and Bettany were said to have taken together, including cocaine, Xanax, and Adderall.

During his testimony earlier in the week, Depp stated that he had abstained from alcohol for 18 months before he flew to Australia in 2015 to film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Heard’s lawyer struck back by suggesting that Depp had been drunk on a 2014 flight to Boston that fell within the 18-month timeframe.

Depp countered that he’d had a glass of champagne and a double dose of his prescribed opioid medication. The jury was then shown a message to Bettany, in which Depp wrote about taking drugs and alcohol before boarding that Boston flight. The text continued that he was going to “properly stop the booz thing, darling” in reference to the chaotic plane ride. “Drank all night before I picked Amber up to fly to L.A. this past Sunday … Ugly, mate … No food for days … Powders … Half a bottle of Whiskey, a thousand red bull and vodkas, pills, 2 bottles of Champers on plane,” he continued.

Heard’s team also introduced a copy of a February 2015 insurance form provided by Disney and signed by Depp ahead of a Pirates of the Caribbean shoot. Rottenborn, looking to establish that Depp had lied on the form, asked Depp about the form’s question regarding potential consumption of “illegal substances, whether prescribed by a physician or not” in the past 12 months. The actor had checked no.

With the former couple squaring off in a Virginia courtroom, their dirty laundry has been aired, with Tuesday’s testimony from Depp painting Heard as a physically abusive spouse. The actor is looking to upend Heard’s claims of being a victim of domestic abuse in the case, now in its second week. At the heart of Depp’s case is that his career has been irreparably harmed by Heard’s claims that were made in a Washington Post op-ed which did not name Depp, but about which he was widely assumed to be the subject.

Heard’s team referenced a number of film and music stars, including Billy Bob Thornton, who had co-starred opposite Heard in the film London Fields, and whom Depp had messaged after his fingertip was severed during a fight with Heard; and Elton John, who Depp corresponded with about staying sober. As for embattled musician Manson, Depp was presented with text messages in which he seemingly attempted to procure pills from Manson’s assistant while he and Depp were both in Australia (Manson was on tour there at the time).

“Have you heard from Manson’s Ryan…?” Depp wrote to one of his personal assistants. “Yes and yes and of course!!! Yes, please!!! And you will pay Ryan for it!!!?” He also wrote: “I do believe that Ryan (Munson’s), gave you a wee baggage for me??? Where does it reside???” (Depp said on the stand that “Munson” was a nickname for Manson.)

Depp spent the better part of Thursday on the stand, where he kept his composure and even joked as he answered repeated questions about his drug use. At one point, he said with a laugh, “I once gave Marilyn Manson a pill so that he would stop talking so much.” At another point, Rottenborn asked the actor if he had drunk whiskey in the morning. Depp answered with a question: “Isn’t happy hour anytime?” which drew a laugh from the courtroom.  

But the grilling prompted a source close to Depp to release the following statement: “Johnny Depp is a victim of abuse. He has been since Ms. Heard made her very first false allegation in 2016, and has continued to be subject to abuse ever since, as outlined in his testimony. Today’s cross-examination by Ms. Heard’s attorney has proven to be no exception. Mr. Rottenborn’s aggressive and, coincidentally, ‘jack-hammer’ approach toward a man who has suffered extensively over the last six years proves that the mistreatment of Johnny goes well beyond Ms. Heard’s grievous behavior. Colorful texts, which Johnny has already apologized for, do not equate to physical actions and Mr. Rottenborn still has not been able to connect the two, nor will he ever be able to.”

One of the most salacious moments of the day didn’t revolved around drugs or alcohol, instead centering on a seemingly disturbing text that Depp had sent to Bettany. The movie star wrote, referring to Heard, of “burning,” “drowning” and having sex with the “burnt corpse” of “the witch.” A Depp source says the exchange was a humorous play on a scene from the film Monty Python, which Depp referred to earlier in the trial. Bettany, who had texted about the film in numerous exchanges with Depp, previously told People magazine of the witch text, which was introduced in a U.K. 2020 trial in which Depp sued the Sun tabloid for libel and lost: “We live in a world without context. … Can you imagine what it would be like, honestly, to have a bunch of lawyers go through every one of your emails and texts for 10 years?”

Attorney Valentina Shaknes, who has an expertise in cases involving domestic abuse, has been following the trial. “It appears that Mr. Depp’s direct testimony was well received and that he is coming across as candid, sincere and sympathetic,” she says, noting that Wednesday’s photographs of his bloody finger were impactful. “He […] is admitting and conceding what he needs to maintain his credibility. While the text messages with which Mr. Depp was confronted on cross-examination were certainly unpleasant and did not paint a flattering picture of Mr. Depp, there are a couple of reasons why they may not have as much impact as Ms. Heard’s legal team may hope. First, these text messages may well have been taken out of context and the full context, when revealed, may mitigate some of the impact. Second, in today’s age, given the prevalence and the overabundance of electronic communications, everyone on the jury has likely at some point fired off a text out of anger or frustration (or as a bad joke) that they well may have regretted in hindsight.”

The trial will resume on Monday.

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