The Real Reason Why Johnny Depp And Amber Heard Split

The following article includes allegations of domestic abuse.

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp were not a Hollywood couple that went on to stand the test of time. While many A-lister relationships fade into the ether and fizzle out over time, some have the capacity to create full-blown media storms. In the case of Heard and Depp, the latter couldn't be more true — and unless you've been living on a remote island, you know just how messy their relationship and divorce became.

Heard and Depp found love while on set, as many actors do, but it didn't last. No, the couple instead found themselves on the chopping block just a year and a half into their relationship, and things were only going to get more complicated from there.

Many tuned in to Depp and Heard's defamation trial like it was a daytime soap opera unfolding in real time — watching the intense body language and listening to conflicting accounts. But between the couple filing for divorce and the defamation case hitting the court, what happened between these two actors? What information about Heard and Depp's relationship came to light in the time that followed the divorce, and what insights can we glean from their time together that could somehow explain the legal charade we found ourselves tuning into? Here's what led to Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's demise.

'Irreconcilable differences' were to blame for the split, according to the divorce filing

It seemed as though Johnny Depp and Amber Heard were the Hollywood "it" couple that made everyone else cower — they dazzled at movie premieres, encouraged each other's art, and seemed to be the spouse that the other was looking for. But that facade came crashing down just a mere 15 months after Depp and Heard tied the knot, and the news left many fans and followers alike confused as to what happened between them.

As noted by NBC News, Heard was the one to file for divorce, claiming in the initial paperwork that "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for their split. The "Aquaman" star also indicated at the time that she'd be pursuing spousal support from Depp amid their divorce proceedings.

The news of Depp and Heard's divorce came just days before Depp's film, "Alice Through the Looking Glass," was set to hit theaters. As noted by Metro, the "Alice In Wonderland" sequel was on track to rake in about $70 million over opening weekend in the United States alone, but instead, that figure crumbled to $28.1 million. In fact, the film's international debut weekend even came in under the anticipated U.S. number, with "Alice Through the Looking Glass" making about $65 million worldwide. And — if you can believe it — the drama between the two now-separated actors was only just getting started.

Calls to the police and claims of violence were made in 2016

As Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's dirty laundry started to flap in the post-divorce-filing wind, we started to learn just how complicated their union was — and ultimately what led to its demise. About a week after Heard filed for both a divorce and a restraining order against the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star, the Los Angeles Police Department responded to a call from Heard (via People). Heard sought help from law enforcement, claiming that ongoing domestic abuse was occurring at the hands of her soon-to-be ex-husband. However, an investigation conducted by the LAPD showed no such evidence.

"On May 21, 2016, officers responded to a domestic incident radio call," LAPD Sgt. Marlon Marrache said at the time (via People). "The person reporting the crime [Heard] did not insist on a report and no report was warranted. There was no evidence of any crime. A crime did not occur so the officers left the scene and left a business card."

The LAPD sergeant went on to say that if there had been evidence of such a domestic crime or indications of abuse, police officers would have stayed on the scene to conduct an investigation.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

The Aquaman star claimed that Johnny Depp was abusive throughout their relationship

While no evidence of domestic abuse was found in the May 2016 incident involving Amber Heard and Johnny Depp, more and more detail about their marriage started coming to light. By August of that same year, Depp had hired highly sought-after Los Angeles attorney Blair Berk. The hot shot lawyer sat down with Heard to get to the bottom of her allegations. As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, Heard didn't just join the attorney for a chit-chat; she was "grilled" by Berk.

"Johnny and I refer to his other personality, the part of him that is present when he beats me up — we call that the monster and have called [that] the monster for many years," the "Pineapple Express" actor said during a deposition, as noted by The Hollywood Reporter. "I was petrified of the monster."

Here's where things started to get more and more tricky. Depp's lawyer, Adam Waldman, weighed in and denied — on every level — that Depp had ever abused Heard or beaten her in any way. In fact, Depp's legal team claimed at the time that they had evidence supporting the claim that Heard both "faked" her abuse allegations and "severely injured" Depp amid their relationship (via The Hollywood Reporter). 

The couple finally settled their divorce

After about four months of abuse allegations, photographs of a seemingly bruised Amber Heard walking out of court, denials from both parties, and more drama, the actors finally came to an agreement in their divorce. As noted by The Guardian at the time, Heard abandoned her previously filed domestic violence restraining order, and the ex-couple moved on to a monetary component of the divorce.

After deciding on a $7 million settlement, Heard and Depp seemingly wiped the slate clean and walked away from each other, announcing in a statement that they were consistently bonded by affection during their relationship. "Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love," the statement from the ex-couple read (via The Guardian). "There was never an intent of physical or emotional harm. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains."

Of course, a lot of damage had already been done to both Heard and Depp's careers and public perceptions. The Guardian noted in a separate report that Hollywood insiders, fellow actors, and fans alike were divided into "warring factions," each taking a different side amid conflicting stories. The likes of Paul Bettany, Gloria Allred, researcher Joanna Pepin all weighed in, with Pepin noting, "Reports from Depp's previous girlfriends, people that know him, that 'he's a great guy', 'he didn't abuse me', 'he's a great father'; these things are pretty typical in the articles I coded. The other thing was the victim-blaming in the articles against Heard — that she's a gold-digger, somehow responsible for the violence."

Heard pledged to donate her divorce settlement but has not done so

After the dust settled around Amber Heard and Johnny Depp's divorce settlement, the "Justice League" star pledged to donate all $7 million, with a large portion of her settlement to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles and was listed among the other top donors to the facility.

"My philanthropic efforts have always been centered around medical care, especially with women and children," Heard told People of the decision to pledge her settlement money to the cause. "Medical care always struck me as a basic human right and necessity. I have been doing this type of work for the last 14 years with children's hospitals and bringing, hopefully, laughs and alleviation and distraction to kids that are severely ill."

Heard made a point of explaining that she was never after Depp's money for her own gain, but rather so that she could "donate it to charity." "In doing so, hopefully [I can] help those less able to defend themselves," Heard said. However, as time proved, Heard's money wasn't where her mouth was. In June 2022, Heard said she was still planning to donate the money. However, as of this writing, it has not happened (via People).

Johnny Depp took The Sun to court in the U.K. over Amber Heard's allegations

At the crux of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's divorce existed the claims of domestic and physical abuse (via NBC News). On the surface, it seemed to be the reason they called it quits on their marriage and, for some time, that narrative stuck. Despite Depp's efforts, Heard's account of the relationship remained in the zeitgeist of pop culture, and was only confirmed when the "Edward Scissorhands" star lost a libel case in the United Kingdom.

As noted by The Guardian, Heard purportedly gave the U.K.-based publication The Sun evidence to support her claims of domestic violence. Soon after, the newspaper released an article calling Depp a "wife-beater." Determined to clear his name. Depp took the newspaper to court to prove his side of the story, his lawyers maintaining that he was innocent throughout the relationship. Despite this, however, Depp lost the libel case as the judge presiding — Justice Nicol — ruled that the article in The Sun was "substantially true." On the heels of the decision, Heard's lawyer, Elaine Bredehoft, said, "Very soon, we will be presenting even more voluminous evidence in the U.S."

Of the ruling in The Sun's favor, Depp's attorneys said that decision was "perverse" and maintained that they had every intention to appeal, per the BBC.

Despite their initial agreement, Heard broke her silence in an op-ed

One crucial aspect of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp's divorce settlement took the form of an NDA. As noted by Variety, both actors agreed not to speak about the other in the press, and if both had stuck to this arrangement, the future would've looked very different for the ex-couple. In their agreement, Depp and Heard settled on never making "derogatory, disparaging, critical or accusatory statements, either directly or indirectly, express or implied" about the other, which makes sense given the high-profile nature of their marriage, divorce, and its aftermath. However, as many of us know, said NDA was not adhered to.

In 2018, about two years after Depp and Heard settled, the "Zombieland" actor wrote an op-ed column for The Washington Post, writing that she had witnessed how institutions "protect men" when they've had heinous allegations lodged against them. While she didn't name Depp specifically, Heard alluded to the timing of her marriage, writing that she felt the consequences of speaking out against such a famed actor.

"Two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture's wrath for women who speak out," Heard wrote in the now infamous opinion piece. "I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse." The column would quickly become the center of the highly watched trial between the exes.

Depp quickly filed a lawsuit against his ex-wife in the state of Virginia

When Johnny Depp quickly filed a lawsuit against Amber Heard given the bombs she dropped in her column for The Washington Post, the reasoning behind the couple's initial split got even fuzzier. While we thought we would never know what happened behind closed doors, Depp made it clear that his side of the story had not been told on the record, and his filing in the state of Virginia indicated that he was ready for a fight.

As noted by The Hollywood Reporter at the time, Adam Waldman, Depp's attorney, stated that Heard's column served as an "abuse of the #MeToo movement" and that the actress herself "masquerades as victim rather than abuser." Clearly acknowledging that there was a battle to be had, the court filings in the Circuit Court of Fairfax, Virginia, claimed that any and all allegations of abuse on Depp's part were "categorically and demonstrably false."

Further bolstering his case, Depp claimed in his filing that his career had suffered greatly in the aftermath of his divorce from Heard, going as far as saying that he lost his coveted role as Captain Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, of which he had become synonymous with. The claims made by Heard, in Depp's perspective, "were part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Ms. Heard and advance her career." Her legal team asserted, "She is the perpetrator."

Heard wanted to avoid having her case tried in Virginia, but her efforts were in vain

As Heard looked down the barrel of the case, her legal team asserted that it should not be tried in the state of Virginia — where the paperwork on Depp's behalf was filed — as neither of the actors had ever lived there. Heard's attorneys wanted the case to be fought in California, going as far as filing a motion to dismiss the legal complaint in its entirety, calling it "meritless," per The Hollywood Reporter.

So why the state of Virginia, then? Heard claimed to have never even "stepped foot" in the state, let alone have a career or life there. As it turns out, there are a couple of reasons why Virginia was chosen by Depp's team. As noted by NBC affiliate NECN, Fairfax, Virginia is home to The Washington Post's printing press and online server. As Heard's 2018 column was at the heart of the case, this element stands within reason. An additional element came in the form of Virginia's SLAPP laws – Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation – which are not as far reaching as California's.

The ex-couple went to court, and the highly publicized trial was damning

It was here at court that we really get to the heart of why Johnny Depp and Amber Heard split all those years ago, as both actors gave their accounts as to what happened behind closed doors. While it can certainly be argued that both parties share fault, the high-profile trial in Virginia was one of the first times that the "Pirates of the Caribbean" actor presented evidence that bolstered his side of the story (via E! Online). With that said, some of the evidence was shocking.

As noted by Newsweek, a number of damning examples were presented on the stand, including audio recordings of Heard confessing that she had hit Depp. "I was hitting you, I was not punching you," Heard said in a recorded conversation played in court. While asserting that she did not "punch" the actor or "deck" him, the audio was certainly chilling. As it carried on, the "Aquaman" actor was heard once again taunting her ex-husband. "I don't know what the motion of my actual hand was, but you're fine. I did not hurt you. I did not punch you. I was hitting you," Heard said. "Grow the f*** up, Johnny. I did start a physical fight," she can be heard saying. "Tell the world, Johnny. Tell them Johnny Depp: 'I, Johnny Depp, a man, I'm a victim too of domestic violence.'" Things only escalated from there.

Even more evidence of abuse at the hands of Heard came to light during the trial

While the audio of Amber Heard confessing to hitting Johnny Depp was immensely disturbing, more evidence came to light as to the couple's ongoing turmoil amid their relationship. Broken down by Newsweek, Depp further confessed — while a photo of his face was on display — that his ex-wife "came at [him] with her nails 10 days before Christmas," dating back to 2015. Categorizing the scratches as "yet again another confrontation" with Heard, Depp went on to share more previously unknown information that ultimately led to the couple's divorce.

Perhaps one of the most talked about details of the case regarded the "fecal" incident, wherein Heard reportedly defecated in the bed she shared with Depp before leaving for Coachella. Depp also recounted being hit in the face, twice, by Heard before he left their home. As he intended to head back to the residence, he was told not to, as fecal matter had been left on "his side of the bed." Accompanying the retelling was photo evidence. This point, in particular, was widely talked about on social media. In fact, the entire Depp/Heard trial turned into a social media sleuthing episode the likes of which we haven't quite seen before, with TikTok users breaking down "evidence" in real time.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard are not backing down from their legal fight

It's safe to say that the high-profile trial between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp shed plenty of information on the couple's contentious relationship. And while the evidence presented in court was rather damning, it arguably painted the portrait of a toxic relationship that eventually came to a dramatic end — as to who's to blame, the public is most likely forever torn on the subject. Even the jury found both parties liable in the end, though the verdict was more favorable to Depp – with Heard being ordered to pay $15 million to him and Depp being ordered to pay $2 million to her. 

But despite going through the wringer during the Virginia trial, neither actor is backing down from their legal fight. As noted by Reuters, Heard filed s bid to have a new trial conducted, as one of the jurors' identities had been brought into question. Despite her efforts, Judge Penny Azcarate maintained that there was "no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing" on behalf of the jury, throwing Heard's bid out. That didn't stop Heard, however, from filing an appeal, per People.

In response, Depp's legal team filed an appeal of their own, with a source close to the actor reportedly telling People, "If Ms. Heard is determined to pursue further litigation by appealing the verdict, Mr. Depp is filing a concurrent appeal to ensure that the full record and all relevant legal issues are considered by the Court of Appeal." Talk about ongoing drama.