The Johnny Depp/Amber Heard Story Just Got Even Crazier, And This Time James Franco Is Involved

By Jaimee Marshall··  13 min read
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The Johnny Depp/Amber Heard Story Just Got Even Crazier, And This Time James Franco Is Involved shutterstock

"Ultimately, the truth will come out in all of this and I will be standing on the right side of the roaring rapids…I will never stop fighting. I’ll never stop. They’d have to f–ing shoot me,” Johnny Depp told British GQ in 2018 about his situation with ex-wife Amber Heard.

In case you’ve been living under a rock the past few years and have no idea that Johnny Depp is suing Amber Heard for $50 million in a defamation lawsuit or that Heard is suing Depp for $100 million in a defamation countersuit, let me bring you up to speed on the current state of the trial. 

Johnny Depp’s Libel Lawsuit against The Sun

Johnny Depp lost his libel suit last year against the UK tabloid The Sun for publishing a story labeling Depp a “wife beater.” The Sun’s defense was that the label was “substantially true.” However, many Depp supporters have accused Judge Andrew Nicol of having a conflict of interest in the case because of his connection to the publication. 

The Sun is owned by the Murdoch family, with whom Nicol has a personal relationship. To add fuel to the fire, the judge's own son, Robert Palmer, is employed at TalkRadio, a sister company of The Sun. Depp fans had found and screenshot tweets made by Palmer, proving his employment with TalkRadio and connection to The Sun. Palmer has since deleted the tweets, but that’s not the end of it. Dan Wootton, the man who originally published the article in question for The Sun, is a fellow associate of Palmer’s, as he also had a radio show on TalkRadio. 

This has raised suspicions about the fairness of the trial’s verdict. It’s worth noting that News Group Newspapers (The Sun’s publisher) only had to prove that Heard's allegations were proved to the civil standard. According to the civil standard of proof, The Sun only had to prove that the story was more likely than not to have happened, as opposed to the standard in a criminal case, which is to prove that the allegations happened beyond a reasonable doubt.

Why Johnny Depp Is Pursuing a Separate Case against Amber Heard

Johnny Depp is now taking a separate case – a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard to a U.S. Virginia court. He is suing her for publishing an op-ed for The Washington Post in which she purports to be a victim of domestic violence. While Heard didn’t refer to Depp by name, as it would have violated their NDA after she divorced him for alleging he physically abused her, Depp claims that the article did significant damage to his career, causing him to lose roles and millions of dollars. Depp is seeking $50 million in damages and claims Heard is part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity to advance her career and has said, "Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse; she is a perpetrator."

"Ms. Heard is not a victim of domestic abuse; she is a perpetrator." – Johnny Depp

Depp’s lawyers originally filed an appeal against the decision in the case against The Sun, alleging Depp did not get a fair trial because fresh evidence shows that Amber Heard never donated the $7 million of the divorce settlement money she pledged to give to the ACLU and Children's Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA). They believe that this played a large role in the verdict because Heard's pledge to donate the money gave her a considerable credibility boost and tipped the scale in her favor. 

This is especially so because Judge Nicol didn't accept Depp's characterization of Heard as a gold-digger, stating, "Her donation of $7 million to charity is hardly the act one would expect of a gold-digger.” The only problem is, she never donated that money. Depp’s lawyers also claimed that they didn’t give enough weight to recordings of Heard admitting to physically hitting Depp on several occasions and mocking him for refusing to fight back. The appeal was denied.

Amber Heard Lied about Charity Donations and the ACLU’s Involvement

Amber Heard testified under oath that the entire amount of the $7 million divorce settlement was donated to charity. The donation was to be split at $3.5 million for both the ACLU and the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. However, after Depp's lawyers subpoenaed CHLA, they responded with documents proving Heard only ever donated $100,000 – despite Heard being listed as a donor in excess of $1 million on their website. Associate Senior VP Candie Davidson-Goldbronn even wrote to Heard inquiring about the donation, saying, "I am inquiring if you have knowledge if CHLA should expect further payment installments on your behalf or if the pledge will not be fulfilled. I appreciate any insights on the matter."

The ACLU was also subpoenaed to provide documents that would prove Heard has failed to donate the amount she originally pledged in writing. However, the ACLU has refused to cooperate. Heard’s lawyer claims that the reason she has not fulfilled the pledge is that she is being delayed by Depp repeatedly suing her which has forced her to spend millions of dollars. Because of the ACLU's non-compliance, Depp filed a motion for the NY Supreme Court to force them to comply with subpoenas that would ask for documents demonstrating how much of the $3.5 million she has actually given, which was approved

The Children's Hospital of Los Angeles showed Heard only donated $100,000 of the $3.5 million pledged.

As for why the ACLU would be motivated to conceal the true nature of Heard's donations, Heard is a Women's Rights Ambassador for the organization. The Washington Post op-ed for which Depp is suing Amber Heard seems to have been the ACLU's creation, according to leaked emails. These emails show that the ACLU approached Heard with the idea of using her story of domestic violence to push back on Donald Trump's administration which "made the U.S. less safe for survivors of gender-based violence." The emails also suggest that the ACLU is the one who drafted the op-ed and interwove some contributions from Heard. The emails show the many revisions the op-ed went through to avoid Heard directly referring to Depp, which is something that she alluded to more explicitly in earlier drafts.

Elon Musk and James Franco Issued Subpoenas

On October 26, 2021, Depp's team issued subpoenas for billionaire Elon Musk and actor James Franco to produce court documents in relation to their involvement with Amber Heard. Both men must "produce the books, records, electronically stored information and tangible things designated and described,” including “verbal conversations, telephone calls, letters, emails, memoranda, and reports." They will be required to provide documentation of conversations they have had with Heard regarding her allegations against Depp. Musk was scheduled to depose on January 24, 2022, while Franco was scheduled to depose on January 26, 2022.

Why Elon Musk and James Franco, you ask? Well, because they both allegedly had a relationship with Amber Heard at key times in her controversial history with Johnny Depp.

Elon Musk’s Involvement

Elon Musk has the bigger involvement in this case, as he dated Amber Heard very shortly after her divorce from Depp and while the lawsuit against The Sun was going on. Because Heard and Musk were dating at the time, it’s likely that she would have confided in him about details relating to the abuse she alleges she suffered. However, Musk’s involvement actually originates much further back than this.

Depp accused Musk of having an affair with his then-wife Amber Heard. Musk has denied these allegations and insisted that his relationship with Heard only began in 2016 when her relationship with Depp was over. However, there’s a lot of supporting evidence that Musk and Heard’s relationship started during Heard’s marriage to Depp. For one, Josh Drew, the ex-husband of Heard’s best friend Racquel Pennington, testified under oath that Racquel had told him Amber had a three-way affair with Elon Musk and Cara Delevingne during her marriage to Depp. 

Alejandro Romero, a concierge at Depp's L.A. home, also testified that Musk was a regular visitor of Heard's, that he would always stop by between 11 pm and midnight a few times a week, and only came when Mr. Depp was not at home. In his written testimony, Romero stated that the visits between Musk and Heard started in March 2015 and that Heard would call Romero asking to give Musk access to the building's parking garage and send him up to the penthouse. She then requested Musk have his own remote to the garage and personal fob to Depp's penthouse after a few visits. Building staff also testified that Heard's "friend Elon" would come to see her late at night and would be seen leaving the building the next morning.

The concierge at Depp's L.A. home testified that Elon Musk was a regular nighttime visitor of Heard’s.

Depp is requesting records of phone calls, emails, letters, and text messages Musk exchanged with Heard from March 2015. It was also in March 2015 that the couple had an altercation in Australia in which Heard claims to have been held in a three-day hostage situation. Meanwhile, Depp’s side of the story is that Heard flew into a fit of rage after Depp suggested they should enter into a post-nuptial agreement.

Depp says Heard put a cigarette butt out on his face and threw vodka bottles at him, which severed the tip of his finger and required reconstructive surgery. Depp contracted MRSA three times because of his severed finger and almost died. On her side, Heard claims Depp attacked her, leaving her with an injured lip and nose and cuts on her arms. If Musk was around her shortly after this incident, he may be asked to testify if he witnessed these markings.

Musk is also being asked to hand over documents related to the $7 million divorce settlement Heard was supposed to donate to charity. Specifically, the ACLU sent Heard a letter to thank her for arranging for an anonymous donor to pay $500,000. This anonymous donor is believed to be Elon Musk, as he mentions “Elon” in the email. In court documents, Depp's lawyers allege that Elon Musk is in fact the anonymous donor and that it's relevant for several reasons. 

"One, Elon Musk is on film as having seen Ms. Heard in the days after May 21, 2016. That's the date where the – all the police, all four police, came to the condominiums, and all testified there was not a sign of damage on Ms. Heard's face, and there was no disturbance to the apartment…But the point is Mr. Musk saw her in the week between the alleged abuse and the time she got the ex parte TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) on May 27th of that week." This is when Heard revealed to Musk that she was planning on filing a restraining order against Depp, at which Musk offered to pay for 24-hour security to protect her, according to texts that were read in the High Court in 2020.

Musk added, "The offer would stand, even if you never wanted to see me again... anyway, sorry for being an idiot. The radio silence hurts a lot. It only matters because I really like you."

James Franco’s Involvement

James Franco, who has been sued by his former students for $2.2 million for sexual misconduct at his acting school, is also being deposed to testify what he knows about the situation between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp. There is reason to believe Heard also had an affair with Franco, as Depp had previously accused Heard of sleeping with Franco when he was her co-star in The Adderall Diaries. The two were also caught on CCTV footage in an elevator leading up to the penthouse Depp and Heard shared together on May 22, 2016, around 11 pm. 

This was one day after the infamous blowout fight in which Heard accused Depp of throwing his phone at her as hard as he could and hitting her in the face. She also said he grabbed her by the hair as she screamed for help. She stated he also broke a lot of glass on the floor, that there was wine, glass, and other damage throughout the penthouse. However, when police officers showed up, they found no evidence of a crime and no bruises on her face. Heard has submitted photos to the court of her alleged bruises, which multiple witnesses have stated were not there in the days following the incident.

CCTV footage shows James Franco and Heard heading to the penthouse one day after the infamous fight.

Since Heard claims that Depp gave her a black eye in this physical altercation and Heard and Franco are seen together one day after the incident, Franco will likely have to testify as to whether he saw any bruises on her face. While Heard's legal team claims that Franco lived in the building around the time of the incident and they happened to take the elevator together, Depp's attorneys have said this is a lie. 

You can watch CCTV footage yourself and draw your own conclusions. Note that Franco and Heard seem to know exactly where the cameras are and make an explicit effort to avoid showing their faces. Heard covers her face with her hair and walks backward to move to Franco, while Franco’s face is obscured by a baseball cap. Both stars look down toward the ground to avoid showing their faces. They then exit the elevator onto the penthouse floor (where Heard resided with Depp). 

Closing Thoughts

While Heard may or may not have had an affair with Elon Musk or James Franco, this is not the information of interest here. If these men are able to divulge sensitive information that pertains to the alleged abuse, possible bruises, or lack thereof, this could be the final nail in the coffin for Amber Heard’s allegations against Johnny Depp. Moreover, if the ACLU proves that she lied under oath, this could pose serious consequences, including potential jail time. One thing is clear – the trial, scheduled for April 11, 2022, is going to be an intense 12 days. 

Depp told British GQ that he would walk away from acting and his entire career if it meant he could clear his name: “Ultimately, the truth will come out in all of this and I will be standing on the right side of the roaring rapids. I hope other people will be too. I know the truth and if I had to walk away from all of it today, the job, the career, all of it, and go toodle-oo, then fine.”

Only time will tell if he’ll be successful, but he certainly has a lot of support already.

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