Washington (Reuters) – Actor Johnny Depp, testifying on Wednesday in a $50 million defamation case against his former wife Amber Heard, said she was the one who became violent when their relationship soured, hurling insults that at times escalated into a slap or a shove.
After detailing their early romance during testimony on Tuesday, Depp returned to the witness stand in a Virginia court and said Heard’s behavior changed. The couple had frequent arguments that included “demeaning name calling” and “bullying” by her, Depp said.
“It seemed like pure hatred for me,” Depp said. “If I stayed to argue, eventually, I was sure it was going to escalate into violence, and oftentimes it did.”
Asked to describe the violence, Depp said Heard would “strike out.”
“It could begin with a slap. It could begin with a shove. It could begin with throwing a TV remote at my head. It could be throwing a glass of wine in my face,” Depp said.
“She has a need for conflict. She has a need for violence,” Depp added. “It erupts out of nowhere.”
Heard “would tell me what a bad father I was, that I had no idea how to parent,” said Depp, who has two children from a previous relationship.
Depp said he would remove himself from the situation, sometimes locking himself in the bathroom, and never struck Heard. “In all of these situations, my main goal was to retreat,” he said.
“The Pirates of the Caribbean” star, 58, is suing Heard, 35, for defamation after she accused him of abuse.
Depp has accused Heard, also an actor, of defaming him when she penned a December 2018 opinion piece in the Washington Post about being a survivor of domestic abuse. He filed a $50 million lawsuit against Heard in 2018.
The article never mentioned Depp by name, but Depp lawyer Benjamin Chew told jurors a week ago that it was clear Heard was referencing the Hollywood leading man.
Attorneys for Heard have argued that she told the truth and that her opinion was protected as free speech under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. In opening arguments, Heard’s attorneys said Depp physically and sexually assaulted her while abusing drugs and alcohol.
A state court judge in Fairfax County, Virginia, is overseeing the trial, which is in its second week and is expected to last six weeks.
Less than two years ago, Depp lost a libel case against The Sun, a British tabloid that labeled him a “wife beater.” A London High Court judge ruled he had repeatedly assaulted Heard and put her in fear for her life.
Depp’s lawyers have said they filed the case in Fairfax County, a suburb of the U.S. capital, because the Washington Post is printed at a facility there. The Washington Post is not a defendant in the case.
The United States is a difficult forum for libel plaintiffs, especially public figures like Depp, who must prove by clear and convincing evidence that Heard knowingly made false claims.
Heard, known for roles in “Aquaman” and “Justice League,” has brought her own libel claim against Depp, saying he smeared her by calling her a liar.
Heard’s counterclaim, seeking $100 million in damages, will be decided as part of the trial.