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Amber Heard’s 'Aquaman' sequel role wasn’t scaled back due to Depp feud, Warner Bros. exec claims

The sequel is a “buddy comedy between Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson,” says DC Films boss Walter Hamada.

By Benjamin Bullard

If Amber Heard’s screen time in the Aquaman sequel ends up looking light compared with her heavy presence as Mera in the original 2018 film, it’s got nothing to do with her high-profile legal feud with former spouse Johnny Depp — at least, not according to legal testimony from the executive in charge of DC Films at the studio.

In pre-delivered deposition testimony introduced late last week in Depp’s defamation case against Heard, Walter Hamada, Warner Bros.’ president of DC Films, reportedly said the studio had, in fact, entertained the idea of recasting her role for the upcoming sequel. But, he explained, it was the studio’s concern over a lack of acting chemistry between Heard and star Jason Momoa (Aquaman) that fueled the idea; not perceived bad publicity surrounding the public discourse between Heard and Depp.

“It was the concerns that were brought up at the wrap of the first movie…which is the issue of chemistry,” said Hamada in deposition testimony, via Entertainment Weekly.  “Did the two have chemistry? The chemistry, you know, 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 and [they] would be better off recasting [and] finding someone who had a bit more natural chemistry with Jason Momoa.”

Hamada went on to suggest that deft editing helped Heard and Momoa appear more naturally in sync onscreen in the first Aquaman film, saying “it took a lot of effort to get there” in post-production.

“It's not uncommon on movies for two leads to not have chemistry,” he reportedly testified. “And that is sort of movie magic...the ability to sort of put performances together, and with the magic of a great score and how you put the pieces together. You can fabricate that chemistry. 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.”

Heard had earlier testified that she had had to “fight really hard” to retain her part in the studio’s DC Comics-based films, including Justice League, Aquaman, and the upcoming Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. She also said that her role in the Aquaman sequel had been “pared down” in the wake of what she framed as a “smear campaign” against her by Depp. Previous trial testimony revealed that Momoa and James Wan, the director of both Aquaman films, both reportedly had pressed the studio not to recast Heard’s role for the sequel.

But Hamada said Heard’s Lost Kingdom screen time reflects the movie’s story focus — not any concern on the studio’s part that Heard’s presence as Mera would evoke any perceived negative off-screen publicity associated with the feud between Heard and Depp. He also testified that discussions of recasting Heard for the second film never led to action on the studio’s part, and that Warner Bros. never released her from her contract or renegotiated the terms of her original agreement.

“No,” Hamada reportedly responded when asked whether Heard’s Aquaman sequel role had been dialed back because of the squabble, suggesting instead that the film’s story simply focuses more on co-leads Momoa and Wilson. “I mean, again, from the early stages of development of the script, the movie was built around the character of Arthur and the character of Orm. Arthur being Jason Momoa and Orm being Patrick Wilson, so they were always the two co-leads of the movie... The movie was always pitched as a buddy comedy between Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson.”

Though the sequel is still almost a year from release, the trial has teased out more information on some of the movie’s plot details (like the “buddy comedy” focus on the antagonism between Orm and Arthur Curry). Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom is set to inundate the box office next spring, arriving on March 17, 2023.

Looking for more action in the meantime? Check out several entries in the Fast & Furious franchise on Peacock, ahead of Aquaman star Jason Momoa's debut in the franchise with Fast X coming to theaters May 19, 2023.