A look back at Amber Heard's life before Johnny Depp

By Michael Miller
Updated June 07, 2016 03:20 PM
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Never afraid to express her intensely independent spirit, Amber Heard has always been open about her fiery and “passionate” personality.

Her friends say it were those qualities that first attracted Johnny Depp – but they also knew that streak had the potential to cause trouble.

“Whenever my old friends meet someone I’m involved with romantically, they immediately warn them: ‘She may look refined, but when she’s angry, she can go trailer park really fast,’ ” she told W magazine. “But I’d always rather be passionate than bland. I can’t imagine living a quiet life.”

Growing up in Texas, Heard, now 30, found kindred spirits in the wild horses her dad broke when he wasn’t managing his construction company. “I was around a lot of young, spirited, untrained horses and learned how to ride in a very aggressive manner,” she told Marie Claire.

Her dad, David Heard, had three daughters, but it was Amber whom he chose to treat like a son. “My dad was not raising a girly girl. He was raising someone who could keep up with him,” she told the magazine.

Heard learned the value of hard work, in addition to how to speak Spanish, working alongside her father’s laborers. “You respect what it takes to earn [money],” she explained, “and it also gives you a certain resilience, because it minimizes this false notion that that’s what matters. I know that to not be true, and I know I’m fine without it. That’s why maybe I’m so independent. I never expect anyone to give me anything – the notion of someone supporting me would be absurd to me.”

Determined to break out of Texas, Heard earned her first job by lying about her age, and cleaned offices at a modeling agency to pay for her head shots. Eventually, she dropped out of high school, completed her GED, and set off on her own. “I traveled a bunch without telling [my parents] I had moved out, because it was easier to do it in spurts,” she told Marie Claire. “By the time I was 17, I was subletting a room in L.A.”

After a series of roles playing mostly high school students, Heard got her first grownup part in 2011’s The Rum Diary – alongside Depp. The couple’s magnetic onset chemistry transferred offscreen, and soon their relationship was making waves in the press.

Their 23-year age gap, and the timing of Depp’s split from Vanessa Paradis (announced in June 2012) raised eyebrows – as did her previous relationships with women.

Last year, she told U.K.’s The Times that she never tried to keep her bisexuality a secret as her star rose in Hollywood.

“I don’t want to have to deny my sexuality in order to be me. But I don’t want to have to be defined by it,” she said. “I’m fundamentally opposed to trying to edit myself to be palatable or popular. I don’t give a f—. I fight, but I shouldn’t have to.”

Heard was also open about dating photographer Tasya van Ree, telling W magazine, “For better or worse, I ve always had a love life that seemed particularly salacious to some people.”

Whether she’s been in relationships with men or women, Heard has said she’s never experienced an acrimonious breakup. “I have always had very, very good relationships and good breakups,” she reportedly told Net-a-Porter.com. “I have never been part of a situation where there was mistrust, or betrayal.”

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That all changed with her split from Depp. The actress filed for divorce on May 23, just three days after Depp’s mother died. Four days after her initial filing, she filed for a domestic violence restraining order, appearing in court with a visibly black eye and alleging shocking details of abuse in court documents.

Depp’s divorce attorney, Laura Wasser, said in court documents that Heard is “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.”

In a recent defamation filing against comedian Doug Stanhope, who accused the actress of “blackmailing” Depp in a story published on TheWrap.com, Heard explains that she returned to her husband numerous times after instances of abuse in hopes of salvaging the marriage. But now, after a tumultuous 15-month union and numerous legal battles ahead, the fiercely independent actress is back on her own.