Johnny Depp has two major lawsuits in motion right now, both connected to ex-wife Amber Heard and both connected to his movie career. There's the $50 million defamation case against Heard for her op-ed, plus the libel case against The Sun's U.K. publishers for a column calling Depp a "wife beater." That libel case is starting its 10-day trial on March 23, 2020 and it's directly connected to Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and her Fantastic Beasts movies.
As part of Johnny Depp's libel lawsuit, a judge recently ordered Depp to share more audio recordings of conversations between himself and Amber Heard. Fans heard one recording when it was leaked to the Daily Mail, with Heard alleged to be the voice admitting she hit Depp, and both voices talking about ending the physical violence in their relationship. The judge also wants more documents from the divorce proceedings and more info on Depp obtaining his medical records.
However, according to The Guardian, the judge refused The Sun side's request for further disclosure related to the text messages Depp allegedly sent his friend and frequent co-star Paul Bettany. Some of those text messages were recently read in court, including Depp allegedly texting "Let's burn Amber" and "Let's drown her before we burn her!!! I'll fuck her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she's dead."
While the defamation case in the U.S. is at least partly tied to Johnny Depp's role in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, this libel lawsuit in the U.K. is tied to the Fantastic Beasts films. That's because it's connected to J.K. Rowling not only casting Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in the second movie, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but also publicly defending the decision in the wake of Amber Heard's abuse allegations against Depp.
The Sun's Dan Wootton wrote a column in April 2018 titled "GONE POTTY How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film after assault claim?"
That's the article that is now the subject of legal proceedings. Johnny Depp referenced The Sun in October 2018 when EW asked him about the controversy surrounding his casting in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The site noted how director David Yates, Warner Bros., and J.K. Rowling issued statements of support for Depp, and asked what it was like for him. Here's what Depp said:
I’ll be honest with you, I felt bad for J.K. having to field all these various feelings from people out there. I felt bad that she had to take that. But ultimately, there is real controversy. The fact remains I was falsely accused, which is why I’m suing the Sun newspaper for defamation for repeating false accusations. J.K. has seen the evidence and therefore knows I was falsely accused, and that’s why she has publicly supported me. She doesn’t take things lightly. She would not stand up if she didn’t know the truth. So that’s really it.
According to THR, the libel trial against The Sun's News Group Newspapers will include several witnesses for both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, including her friend Amanda de Cadenet giving evidence by video link.
Warner Bros. execs were reportedly worried about backlash to Johnny Depp's casting after Amber Heard shared more allegations of abuse. In the wake of the recently leaked audio conversation, fans have been supporting Johnny Depp and pushing for him to return for another Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and for Amber Heard to lose her role in Warner Bros.' Aquaman 2.
As far as we know, Amber Heard still has her Aquaman role and Johnny Depp still has his Grindelwald role. (The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise seems to be on pause in general, we're waiting for any updates on a reboot or sixth movie.)
It's not clear if this March 2020 libel trial or the upcoming August 2020 defamation trial will affect Johnny Depp's schedule for Fantastic Beasts 3, which is expected to start filming soon. That movie was delayed from its initial plan to start filming last summer; it was going to shoot in late fall 2019 but was moved to this spring for its current November 12, 2021 release date. The delay was reportedly due to the sheer size and ambition of the third movie -- and also due to script re-writing, with J.K. Rowling getting a co-screenwriter for the first time in the Fantastic Beasts series.
J.K. Rowling has five Fantastic Beasts movies planned, reportedly leading up to the big duel between Grindelwald and Dumbledore, which would suggest Johnny Depp's involvement for the rest of the franchise from here.