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SYFY WIRE Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp says he helped Amber Heard land ‘Aquaman’ role - then warned it would 'end up ugly’

Heard says she earned her part as Mera with no help from her famous former spouse.

By Benjamin Bullard
Johnny Depp

Testimony this week in Johnny Depp's defamation case against former spouse Amber Heard revealed conflicting accounts from each actor on how Heard originally landed her part in 2018’s Aquaman.

Following testimony from Heard that she auditioned and earned her role as Mera with no intercession from Depp for the Warner Bros. box office hit, Depp reportedly said that he had, in fact, reached out to studio officials to advocate for her getting the Aquaman part. But, Depp reportedly testified, he later regretted that decision and felt obligated to reach out once more, this time to caution the studio that “it was going to end up ugly.”

“She asked if I would — I had a multi-film deal with Warner Bros., so we'd been in business together, so I knew these people — speak to them,” Depp testified on Wednesday, via Entertainment Weekly. “I made a phone call, and I spoke to three upper echelon Warner executives: Kevin Tsujihara, Sue Kroll, Greg Silverman.” When asked under questioning, Depp did not definitively speculate on how much weight his words carried with the studio, though: “I can only say that ultimately, she did get the job in the film. I curbed their worries to some degree.”

Depp’s testimony conflicts with testimony Heard reportedly already had delivered during her time on the stand, having previously countered a question from Depp attorney Camille Vasquez about his assistance with a direct “No, Ms. Vasquez. I got myself that role by auditioning. That's how that works.”

Heard appeared “visibly upset,” EW reports, at the suggestion Depp had in any way helped her land her her role as Mera. In fact, Heard reportedly maintained in deposition testimony that she had fought “really hard” to protect her roles in all three of the DC Comics-based Warner Bros. films in which she’s so far been cast, including Justice League (2017) Aquaman (2018), and next year’s Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Both of the Aquaman projects in which Heard appears are directed by James Wan.

As for Depp’s admission that he ended up warning Warner Bros. that the studio’s relationship with Heard could eventually “end up ugly,” the Pirates of the Caribbean star reportedly said his goal in cautioning the studio wasn’t to get Heard directly fired from any project. Rather, he maintained, it was an effort to follow his earlier alleged recommendation to have her cast as Mera with new information he thought the studio might find useful around the time the couple divorced in 2016.

Asked by Heard’s attorneys this week what he meant in an alleged June 2016 text message from Depp to his sister — “I want her replaced on that WB film!!!” — Depp answered that he was attempting to continue a good faith professional relationship between himself and Warner Bros.

“Honestly, I felt responsible for having gone to those people and painted such a beautiful picture,” he reportedly testified. “I felt it was my responsibility to get the truth to Warner Bros. about what they were going to be facing down the line, which was two franchises that would be causing problems for one another, especially as... any news, any press, any media that came out about me at that time had been turned into, you know, I was Charles Manson; I was the worst thing on Earth and they just kept coming, it was like a nonstop fire.”

Though he reportedly denied asking the three Warner Bros. executives (Tsujihara, Kroll, and Silverman) directly to fire Heard from her DC projects, Depp reportedly said he felt it appropriate to rescind his earlier support for her. “On one level, yes, it's just acting, it's just movies,” he reportedly testified. “But it's business, and it's your word, and I had given my word to them, and I felt responsible that I had to tell them exactly what was going on and that it was going to end up ugly.”

Earlier this week, news from trial testimony emerged indicating that both Wan and Heard’s Aquaman costar Jason Momoa reportedly had come to her defense when the studio allegedly attempted to scale back Heard’s role as Mera, amid the trial’s negative publicity, in the upcoming sequel. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom currently is set to splash onto the big screen on March 17, 2023.

Looking for fantasy in the meantime? Here are the best fantasy movies streaming now on Peacock. If you're jonesing for a bit more superhero action, Sam Raimi's original trilogy of Spider-Man films hits Peacock on June 1.