LOS ANGELES - Lawyers for Johnny Depp called Amber Heard a liar, “obsessed” with her image, in opening arguments of the defamation trial between the former spouses.

The comments set the tone for what will be a venomous battle, stemming from an article by Heard in which she claimed to be a victim of domestic abuse.

On Tuesday, an attorney for Heard, 35, said Depp had brought his client to court to “destroy her” after inflicting her with brutal abuse for years. Depp, 58, has denied any abuse. Hordes of fans have already gathered outside the Virginia courthouse for the trial, expected to last up to seven weeks.

At issue in the trial is Heard’s 2018 opinion piece in the Washington Post, describing herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse”. Depp has sued for $50m (£38m), claiming the article - which does not mention him by name is defamatory and derailed his career. Heard has in turn, sued him, with a $100m counterclaim. Beginning a day of opening arguments, Camille Vasquez, a lawyer for Depp, told jurors Heard had been the aggressor throughout the star’s relationship.

“She would berate him, scream at him. He would just retreat,” Ms Vasquez said. Heard concocted a role for herself as victim, Ms Vasquez said, once Depp had asked her for a divorce in attempt to “avoid humiliation”. “She is obsessed with her public image,” she said. “She has been living and breathing this role for years now and she is preparing to give the performance of her life.”

Lawyers for Heard instead claimed the actress had endured emotional, verbal and physical harassment at the hands of Depp. Depp wants to “haunt her, to wreck her career”, attorney Ben Rottenborn said.

Both legal teams settled Monday on a jury of seven, with four alternates. The trial will be broadcast live and involves a number of high-profile witnesses. Among them will be Elon Musk and James Franco, appearing on Heard’s behalf, and British actor Paul Bettany, who will take the stand for his friend Depp.

Yvonne de Boer had flown in from Los Angeles. “I am here only for Johnny… make him know we love him,” she says. “I believe this time he will get justice, he did not get justice in London.” Debbie Debowski was here from Houston. “We believe he is a good guy, we don’t believe what he’s been accused of,” she tells me. “We don’t believe he did those things.”

One fan had arrived from Australia. Others had been queuing from 3 o’clock in the morning.

Johnny Depp’s fans are here in force, outside the courthouse in Fairfax, Virginia, confident they are going to see their hero’s reputation restored. The fact that Amber Heard’s account of assault and abuse was judged to be “substantially true” in a high profile libel trial in London in 2020 has done nothing to dent their faith in his innocence.

Meanwhile, standing near the back of the line in to court are Christina Taft and her friend Daniel, both supporters of Amber Heard and concerned that her side of the story is not receiving a fair hearing online and in social media. Indeed, she was worried about attending given the level of feeling online against Amber Heard.

“The social media operations is so high volume, it’s scary online,” Taft says. “It’s scary, it’s violent and there’s a lot of intimidation.”

However, on a chilly Tuesday morning as everyone filed in to court there was not much sign of the emotions this case has generated. There is though, a long way to go - the jury was warned that this could take seven weeks.