Amber Heard was nearly recast in the “Aquaman” sequel for reasons other than her public disputes with ex-husband Johnny Depp, DC Films President Walter Hamada testified at the former couple’s ongoing defamation trial.
In pre-recorded video deposition played on Tuesday, Hamada, who was called to the stand by Depp’s legal team, countered Heard’s prior claims that her part in the film was “very pared down” due to Depp’s “smear campaign” to discredit her.
Hamada stated that the size of Heard’s role as Mera was determined during “early stages of development” in 2018, adding that her “character’s involvement in the story” was not reduced in the following years. The sequel, he said, was instead always meant to be a “buddy comedy” between Jason Momoa’s titular superhero, who also goes by Arthur Curry, and Orm, played by actor Patrick Wilson.
“The movie was built around the character of Arthur and the character of Orm,” he said. “Arthur being Jason Momoa and Orm being Patrick Wilson, so they were always the two co-leads of the movie.”
Hamada confirmed that the studio delayed picking up Heard’s option for the sequel, but he said the concerns stemmed from a perceived lack of chemistry between her and Momoa, which led to conversations about whether she was the “right fit.”
“It was the concerns that were brought up at the wrap of the first movie, production of the first movie, which was the issue of chemistry. Did the two have chemistry?” Hamada testified. “I think editorially they were able to make that relationship work in the first movie, but there was a concern that it took a lot of effort to get there. Would we be better off recasting, finding someone who had more natural chemistry with Jason Momoa and move forward that way?”
He noted that elements such as the film’s score and editing decisions can “sort of put performances together.”
“You can fabricate that chemistry,” Hamada said. “I think if you watch the movie, they looked like they had great chemistry, but I just know that during the use of the post-production that it took a lot of effort to get there. Sometimes it’s very easy, you just put the characters on the screen together and they work, and sometimes it’s harder.”
Momoa and director James Wan apparently pushed to keep Heard in the sequel, according to a testimony from entertainment industry expert Kathryn Arnold last week.
When asked if there were any issues with Heard during the filming of the second “Aquaman” film, which is set to hit theaters in 2023, Hamada replied, “My understanding is actually the production went very smoothly.”
Heard and Depp are currently in the throes of a public defamation lawsuit over a 2018 Washington Post editorial in which Heard described herself as a domestic abuse survivor. Depp sued her for $50 million over the piece, alleging that his career has been damaged by the claims of abuse. Heard is countersuing Depp for $100 million.
Heard had previously testified that she had to “fight really hard” to keep working following the negative publicity surrounding Depp’s lawsuit against her. She claimed the studio behind the “Aquaman” sequel “didn’t want to include me,” which resulted in a “very pared-down version” of her character’s arc.
“I was given a script and then given new versions of the script that had taken away scenes that had action in it, that depicted my character and another character, without giving any spoiler aways, two characters fighting with one another, and they basically took a bunch out of my role,” Heard said. “They just removed a bunch out.”