Amber Heard was nearly replaced in the Aquaman and Justice League franchise — but not because of anything to do with her abuse allegations against Johnny Depp. Rather, DC Films president Walter Hamada said Heard was almost dropped from the film because of chemistry concerns between her and co-star Jason Momoa.
Hamada testified at Depp and Heard’s ongoing defamation trial Tuesday, May 24, via video deposition. He was called as a witness by Depp’s team in part to counter some of Heard’s own testimony last week. At the time, Heard testified that she struggled to maintain her career and had to fight to keep her role as Mera — the love interest of Mamoa’s Aquaman — for the Aquaman sequel amidst a slew of negative press following her divorce from Depp, the temporary restraining order she got against him, and the allegations of abuse Depp leveled at her.
Hamada testified that he had spoken with Aquaman producer Rob Cowan about the lack of chemistry between Heard and Mamoa as they shot the 2018 film. The concerns were great enough, Hamada said, that the studio did delay picking up Heard’s option for the sequel as it considered recasting her.
“The reality is, it’s not uncommon on movies for two leads to not have chemistry,” Hamada said, adding that “movie magic” and “editorial” — such as the film score and editing decisions — are often required to “put performances together.”
Hamada continued: “You can fabricate, sort of, that chemistry. So I think at the end of the day, I think if you watch the movie, they look like they have great chemistry. But I just know that through the course of the post-production, it took a lot of effort to get there.” (Hamada didn’t imply that there were any specific issues between Heard and Mamoa, suggesting chemistry was more ineffable: “It’s like, what makes a movie star a movie star? You know it when you see it.”)
Hamada noted that Heard’s performance in Aquaman was well-received at early test screenings, despite the chemistry issues. He was also asked whether there were any issues with Heard during the production of the sequel, to which he replied, “My understanding is actually the production went very smoothly.”
Hamada was also asked to respond to Heard’s other claim that, along with struggling to keep her role in Aquaman 2, her part in the sequel was significantly pared back. Hamada, however, said that it had previously been decided that Mera would have a lesser role in Aquaman 2. Hamada said the new movie was thought of “from the very early stages of development” as a “buddy comedy” between Aquaman and his half-brother, King Orm, played by Patrick Wilson.
Closing arguments are expected to occur on May 27, with a verdict likely coming after Memorial Day weekend.