Walter Isaacson’s biography Elon Musk, out Tuesday, has offered much to be chopped and screwed, bitten off and metabolized about the man who helped build Tesla, SpaceX, and brain-implantation business Neuralink. Whether breaking news about Elon Musk and Grimes’s growing family or Musk and Shivon Zilis’s growing family, the book’s 500-plus pages offer an unprecedented look into the daily trials and triumphs of being Elon Musk. A small but significant piece of the book offers a window into his relationship with Amber Heard, the actor who, at this point, is best known for enduring a painfully public defamation lawsuit with her ex-husband, Johnny Depp. When it comes to Musk, though, the Heard portion of Isaacson’s book shows a man who, despite his comfort with rockets and robots, the singularity and the simulation, is ultimately and impossibly human. 

“It was brutal,” he told Isaacson of their relationship. 

The time Musk spent involved with Heard made for a short chapter in his life, but an impactful one, to say the least. According to the book, they first met because, in 2012, she was preparing for her role in Machete Kills, which involved a character trying to create a society on a space station. He was tapped as a consultant, but they didn’t connect until a year later. She toured SpaceX and he drove her around in a Tesla.  

They reconnected when her marriage with Depp was circling the drain. Heard and Musk reacquainted themselves at the Met Gala in 2016. They saw each other while they were in line to walk the red carpet. Within the month, Heard filed for the now infamous divorce from Depp.

Their early dates apparently revolved around his work. Musk flew Heard and her sister to see the Falcon 9 launch at Cape Canaveral, and she flew from Italy to the Fremont Tesla factory for his birthday that June. Isaacson describes how Heard picked wildflowers on the way, and hid in the back of a Tesla to surprise him. 

In April 2017, he joined her in Australia where she was filming Aquaman. The tabloid media caught on at that time after they shared photos out at dinner together. Per Isaacson, they still managed to enjoy dates at a rope course and wildlife sanctuary, everyman excursions. Less typically, “He told her that she reminded him of Mercy, his favorite character in the video game Overwatch, so she spent two months designing and commissioning a head-to-toe costume so she could role-play for him,” Isaacson wrote. 

As romantic, and specific to them, as all of this sounds, all parties involved, including Heard and Musk, admit that the relationship was not always smooth. Musk’s brother, Kimbal Musk, called Heard “toxic” and “a nightmare.” He said she reminded him of his dad, one of the worst things a Musk brother could say about a person. (Errol Musk and his estrangement from Elon makes for a significant portion of Isaacson’s book.) Musk’s chief of staff compared Heard to “the Joker” and said that she “thrives on destabilizing everything.” (Vanity Fair has attempted to reach out to Heard.)

When they broke up in the summer of 2017, Musk entered into a period that Isaacson calls “the most hellacious period of his life” emotionally and professionally. (Besides the breakup with Heard, Musk had also learned his father, Errol, fathered a child with his stepdaughter, Jana, whom Errol had raised from childhood.) Musk calls it the most “concentrated pain” he’d ever felt, and “eighteen months of unrelenting insanity” that was “mind-boggingly painful.” 

Heard spoke to Isaacson for the book too, especially regarding one of their last trips together that involved a big fight where she became paranoid that her passport was taken from her. Heard confirmed that they argued that night, but that they made up too. “I love him very much,” she told the author. “Elon loves fire, and sometimes it burns him.” 

On his birthday in June 2018, Musk was under an intense deadline to make “five thousand cars per week.” He was at the Tesla factory trying to smooth over bottlenecks at the paint facility when “Amber Heard called to wish him a happy birthday, after which he dropped his phone and it broke, so he was not in a good mood,” Isaacson recounted. 

Claire Boucher, a.k.a. Grimes, and Musk would meet soon after, and build a nontraditional family together. Their relationship was not smooth either—as recent Twitter spats would suggest—but they have had three children together. Grimes described Heard as “chaotic evil,” where she is “chaotic good.” The common denominator, she implies, is chaos. For his part, Musk chalks it all up to his being a “fool for love.” 

Kenzie Bryant

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