Paul Bettany says that having his text messages become part of the court record during Johnny Depp’s libel suit against U.K. tabloid The Sun was strange and unpleasant.
In an interview with The Independent published Saturday, the WandaVision and Uncle Frank actor spoke about his long career in Hollywood, including having a producer tell him he’d never work again, and explained his process for how he becomes emotional enough to cry during scenes.
But at one point during the interview, Bettany is asked about his 2013 text exchange with fellow actor Johnny Depp regarding the Fantastic Beasts actor’s ex-wife Amber Heard — messages that became public during Depp’s defamation suit against The Sun’s publisher over the tabloid’s use of “wife beater” to describe him.
When answering, Bettany said that it was “a really difficult subject to talk about” and noted that answering would “just pour fuel on the fire,” before chalking the entire situation up to being “very strange.”
“It was a strange moment,” Bettany said. “What was strange about it was you suddenly have one of the most scabrous newspapers in London and their lawyers pouring through your texts for the last 10 years. Can you imagine what it would be like, honestly, to have a bunch of lawyers go through every one of your emails and texts for 10 years?”
“All I can tell you was that it was an unpleasant feeling,” Bettany added.
Bettany’s communications with Depp were included in the 132-page ruling on the case in 2020. Depp and Bettany texted about Heard, with Depp suggesting they burn her, among other graphic things, while Bettany, apparently taking it as a joke, wrote back and suggested a “drowning test” to determine if “she’s a witch.”
Justice Andrew Nicol dismissed Depp’s libel claim in November 2020, after finding the allegations that Depp had assaulted Heard on multiple occasions and that she feared for her life were “substantially true,” and opening the door for other publications referring to Depp as a wife beater to have less fear of legal retaliation.
The judge also refused permission for Depp to appeal the decision directly with the court, but on Dec. 9, 2020, the actor applied directly to Britain’s court of appeal in an effort to overturn the ruling. In March 2021, two Court of Appeal judges said the actor couldn’t challenge the High Court’s rejection of his libel lawsuit against The Sun publisher, according to The Associated Press.
Following the November 2020 court ruling, Warner Bros. severed its ties with Depp, replacing him in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. In August 2021, Depp said he was being boycotted by Hollywood and later in September that cancel culture had gotten “so far out of hand now that I can promise you that no one is safe” while appearing at the San Sebastian Film Festival.