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The Great Debate Over Amber Heard and Jason Momoa’s Chemistry

Photo: Steve Hilber/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

As Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s dueling defamation claims play out in a Virginia courtroom, their lawyers have continued to present competing narratives of how the former couple’s legal drama affected her role in Aquaman 2. Heard’s team has contended that statements made by Depp’s lawyer two years ago dealt a major blow to her high-profile role; Depp’s camp has effectively contended that the part was curtailed for performance-related reasons. On May 24, Depp’s team presented jurors with video-deposition testimony from Walter Hamada, president of DC Films, discussing Heard’s role. Hamada said “there were conversations about potentially recasting,” but they didn’t relate to Depp.

Regarding the possible recasting, Hamada said producer Peter Safran wondered whether Heard was right for the role of Mera. The concerns that were brought up at the wrap of the first movie, Hamada said, related to “the issue of chemistry.” “You know, 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,” Hamada said. Hamada said “it’s not uncommon” for two actors to lack chemistry, but directors can hide that with “the magic” of postproduction, such as a “great score” and editing. “I just know that during the course of the postproduction, [it] took a lot of effort to get there.”

Hamada also denied that Heard’s role was reduced amid the Depp fallout, which Heard had claimed during her testimony. The size of this role was determined early in script development, in 2018, he said. “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, Orm being Patrick Wilson,” Hamada said. “So they were always the two co-leads of the movie.” Asked whether Warner Bros. had ever planned “to portray Ms. Heard as the co-lead in Aquaman 2,” Hamada responded in the negative. “The movie was always pitched as a buddy comedy between Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson,” he said. Depp’s team presented Hamada’s testimony in their rebuttal case.

On May 23, Heard’s team tried to bolster her claims that she wound up in a “very pared down version of the role” by calling entertainment-industry expert Kathryn Arnold to the stand. Arnold claimed Heard hung onto her role only because Momoa and director James Wan were reportedly “committed to her” and “adamant she was in the film.” Arnold also said that Heard’s career trajectory should have been similar to those of Gal Gadot, Zendaya, and Ana de Armas. Today, Depp’s team also called Richard Marks, a veteran entertainment attorney and Hollywood expert, to address Arnold’s claims. He slammed Arnold’s comparison of Heard to these actresses. “Gal Gadot was Wonder Woman,” he said, while also emphasizing that Heard was only part of the “ensemble” cast of the DC movie, whereas Zendaya “goes by one name.”

The Debate Over Amber Heard and Jason Momoa’s Chemistry