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Johnny Depp seeks delay to US defamation trial due to Fantastic Beasts 3 filming

Johnny Depp

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Johnny Depp has requested a delay to a defamation trial due to take place early next year.

The actor is suing his ex-wife Amber Heard for an article she wrote in The Washington Post which Depp says implied he was violent towards her.

Heard has not yet commented on his request for a delay.

This is a separate trial to the one currently taking taking place in London, where the actor is suing the publisher of The Sun.

A hearing on Mr Depp’s request for a postponement is currently set for 11 September.

Depp and Heard were married for 15 months before their split in 2016.

What did Amber Heard write?

In December 2018, The Washington Post published an article written by Heard with the headline: “I spoke up against sexual violence – and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change.”

The article called for institutions to be more protective of women who have been abused.

She specifically voiced her opposition to proposed measures which would weaken protection for sexual assault victims on college campuses.

In the article, Heard said she had become “a public figure representing domestic abuse”, but did not mention her ex-husband by name.

She said she has had the “rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse”.

Why is Johnny Depp able to sue?

Despite not being mentioned by name, Depp is able to file a claim because in Virginia – where the Washington Post is printed – plaintiffs can pursue claims for defamation by inference, implication or insinuation.

The actor filed a $50m (£37.2m) defamation suit against Heard in March 2019, three months after her article was published.

Why does he want the trial delayed?

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PA Media

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Amber Heard (centre), pictured outside the High Court in London in July

The coronavirus pandemic has delayed the filming and release dates of countless films and TV shows around the world.

As a result, shooting of the latest instalment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise has been extended into early 2021.

This overlaps with when Depp’s defamation suit against Heard was scheduled to start.

He has now filed a motion for continuance asking the court to delay the trial until sometime between March and June 2021.

“When the Court set the current trial date in this case, Mr. Depp understood that Warner Bros planned to shoot Fantastic Beasts 3 in London long before 11 January, 2021,” states the filing, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

“Covid-19 disrupted the studio’s plans, causing repeated postponements. With conditions in London having improved somewhat, Warner Bros has now set a shooting schedule that conflicts with the trial date in this case.”

Depp says he was notified on 19 August that he would be required for filming between early October and mid-February, which clashes with the proposed trial dates of 11-28 January.

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Getty Images

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Heard and Depp finalised their divorce in January 2017

“Mr. Depp would face potential liability for breach of contract should he fail to comply with the schedule contractually dictated by Warner Bros,” the filing states. “Though Mr Depp is eager to proceed to trial, he faces an untenable situation over which he has no control.”

The actor argues Heard won’t be prejudiced by a postponement.

Heard is expected to film Aquaman 2 sometime in 2021 ahead of its scheduled release in late 2022, but the production schedule for the film has not been made public.

What else does Depp say?

Depp also says that Heard’s recent $100m (£74.4m) counterclaim justifies a postponement.

In a filing earlier this month, the actress accused Depp and his team of trying to get her fired from the film Aquaman and as a spokesperson for L’Oreal.

The actress says Mr Depp and his team co-ordinated a harassment campaign via social media and other online platforms.

She alleges there are “dozens if not hundreds” of inauthentic Twitter accounts that exist only to damage her reputation.

Mr Depp says these claims “vastly expand the scope of necessary discovery”.

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