A number of celebrities are at the center of Johnny Depp's defamation trial against his ex-wife in Virginia.
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A number of celebrities have found themselves at the center of Johnny Depp's defamation lawsuit against Amber Heard.

The trial, which began in Fairfax County, Va. on April 11, has so far featured text exchanges between Depp and Marilyn Manson and Paul Bettany (both friends of the actor) that provided insight into his volatile marriage with Heard between 2015 and 2017. As Heard prepares to take the stand for the first time this week, those two won't be the only famous names referenced: James Franco and Elon Musk, as well as reps for Disney and Warner Bros., are named on Heard's witness list.

So, what do Franco and Musk have to do with the case?

Heard starred opposite Franco in 2008's Pineapple Express and 2015's The Adderall Diaries. His name came up during Depp's libel lawsuit against The Sun in 2020, wherein Depp sued the British newspaper over their use of the term "wife-beater" in reporting centered on Heard's domestic violence allegations. In court in London, Heard testified that Franco had asked about her bruised face after an alleged altercation with Depp. "He was saying to me, 'Oh my God, what happened to you?'" Heard testified. "He saw my face and said, 'What the f---?'" (Depp ultimately lost that lawsuit.)

Elon Musk and James Franco
Elon Musk; James Franco
| Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images; Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

And Franco's name came up again last week. During his time on the stand, Depp testified that he suspected Heard was having an affair with Franco, among other costars. Heard's attorney, Ben Rottenborn, cited a "heated discussion" Depp had with Heard about a movie scene with Franco, grilling the actor about his "insecurities" surrounding Heard's relationship with her male costars. In an audio recording shared in court, Depp could be heard telling Heard, "I become irrational when you're doing movies. I become jealous and f---ing weird and we fight a lot more." 

As for Musk, Heard was in a brief relationship with the billionaire in 2017 following her split from Depp. Last week, Depp's former talent agent Christian Carino fielded queries about the Heard-Musk relationship and breakup; emails between Carino and Heard were also shared. An email sent in August 2017 from Heard read, "Dealing with breakup. I hate when things go public. I'm so sad." Carino, who said Heard was referring to Musk in the breakup, replied via email, "You weren't in love with him. You told me 1,000 times you were just feeling space." He wrote in another email, "Why would you be sad if you weren't in love with him to begin with?"

Amber Heard in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, on May 2, 2022
Amber Heard in court during Johnny Depp defamation trial
| Credit: STEVE HELBER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

It's unlikely Franco and Musk will take the stand, but if called, queries would be centered on corroboration of Heard's domestic abuse allegations and the nature of their respective relationships.

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million over her 2018 Washington Post op-ed chronicling her experiences as a domestic violence survivor. Though Heard never mentioned Depp by name in the essay, his lawyers maintain the references to him and her previous abuse allegations were clear, claiming that the op-ed has damaged Depp's career and reputation. Heard filed a $100 million countersuit in response, claiming Depp's legal team defamed her by referring to her allegations as a "sexual violence hoax."

Depp and Heard met on set of the 2011 drama The Rum Diary and married in 2015. Heard filed for divorce from Depp in 2016, obtaining a domestic violence restraining order against the actor and accusing him of physically and verbally abusing her during "violent and volatile" episodes while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Depp has denied the allegations, calling them "heinous and disturbing" and "not based in any species of truth."

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