The world’s most cursed defamation trial continues on. On Monday, after Johnny Depp concluded his several-day-long testimony in his defamation lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, a man named Ben King, the former house manager of Depp and Heard, testified in the actor’s case in Virginia. King, who lived off-property but alongside Depp and Heard in Australia, bore witness to a great deal of the conflict between the now-divorced actors, who are embroiled in a years-long conflict over mutual allegations of spousal abuse and violence.
Though a handful of witnesses prior to King have treated their testimony with the utmost seriousness, King can’t help but put a little flavor on everything, speaking in a lilting, posh English accent with a dry, self-serious wit — a real character witness, by true definition. Take for instance: after an explosive fight between Depp and Heard, King accompanied Heard on a flight back to Los Angeles to enforce some distance between the two.
Unfortunately, as King recounted with the utmost concern, there was a hiccup. Heard was busy on the phone when they got to the airport, and the flight was already running a bit late.
“Did you eventually get on the plane?” the lawyer asked King.
“Eventually, we did,” King stated, giving “eventually” a necessary five-syllable pronunciation, “though it was a close call, to be honest.” To be honest? Yeah, I’d hope so, you little wanker – you’re under oath.
Once they were in the air, King recounted, Heard was “on the phone to the point where the cabin crew had to tap on the door and say, ‘uh, we need to leave now.’” As King explained this, his eyes bulged and rolled a bit, feigning the annoyance of the poor staff of whatever private airline Heard flew back to the States. Okay, drama king. It’s not illegal to talk on the phone. It is irritating, I guess, as well as untimely, but it makes sense that a person would be on the phone after an explosive argument that leaves a home, as King also described, covered in blood.
Then, King recounted a conversation between himself and Heard on a flight from Australia in which Heard asked him: “Ben, have you ever been so angry with someone you just lost it with them?” King could have stopped there, but he continued with his own response to Heard, unprompted, which was: “Uh, no, I’m actually calm, you know.”
Why is a witness acting like this? Why are any of them acting like this? When discussing the rented house that Depp and Heard shared in London, King specified that their private chef, who he supervised himself, was “a brilliant chef” who often stayed late to clean up after dinner — a detail that would not go unappreciated in a novel or a play, perhaps, but that really begs the question “who cares?” in a trial like this.
Depp, by the way, appeared visibly amused, if not charmed, by his former employee during King’s testimony.
It’s clear by now — by the live chat, by Reddit, by the streams of misinformation spreading around Twitter and other social media — that the Depp/Heard case is no longer about reputation, so much as it is a circus of ego. Of Depp, mainly, and his coterie of employees and supporters. A paid-for comment in the live chat suggests “Ben King needs his own TV show!” No — he’s a butler, actually. But the nature of this trial — the faux gravitas of Depp’s testimony, for instance — reeks of performance and dramatics. The events they are litigating are seven or eight years old. I’m supposed to believe a guy held onto the memory of someone talking on the phone so long it held up a private plane? I can’t remember what I ate for lunch two days ago.
Regardless of the outcome of this, which is set to go on for another two weeks at least, it’s clear that Depp is getting what he wanted. Screw the inevitable Ryan Murphy adaptation of these court proceedings — we have all the theatrics we need right here. On the stage that is the witness stand, everyone gets their fifteen minutes to profess and defame and perform.