After 10 days of testimony, Amber Heard's team rested their case on Tuesday morning in the actress's defamation trial against Johnny Depp. Depp's motion to toss Heard's $100 million counterclaim was denied, as expected, so the actor's team went on to call their rebuttal witnesses.
Depp had nothing to do with Heard's "reduced" role in Aquaman 2, according to a head honcho at Warner Bros. The actress's chemistry with Jason Momoa was apparently a concern to executives, though.
Walter Hamada, president of DC Films, said via a video deposition that Heard and Momoa's chemistry was "fabricated" during the editing process of Aquaman: "The chemistry wasn't there."
Hamada said "there were conversations" internally "about potentially recasting" the role of Mera, played by Heard, after the 2018 film. He testified that the creative conversations were not impacted by Depp or statements made by the actor's attorney, Adam Waldman. (Heard is suing Depp over Waldman's comments to the Daily Mail calling her abuse claims a hoax.)
"I think editorially they were able to make [Momoa and Heard's] relationship work in the first movie, but there was a concern it took a lot of effort to get there and would we be better off recasting," Hamada said, adding they could find "someone who had better, more natural chemistry with Jason Momoa and move forward that way."
Ultimately, the studio did not audition other actresses. When asked if he spoke to Momoa about chemistry concerns, Hamada said "yes," adding that talked with the actor sometime before Aquaman 2 got the "green light." Hamada didn't elaborate on what was said in that conversation, but a witness for Heard claimed that Momoa and director James Wan were "adamant that she was in the film."
Heard's lawyer asked Hamada about the pair's lack of chemistry.
"They didn't really have a lot of chemistry together. The reality is, it's not uncommon on movies for two leads to not have chemistry and that it's sort of movie magic in editorial — the ability to sort of put performances together with the magic of a great score," Hamada said. "You can fabricate sort of that chemistry."
The "movie magic" worked.
"I think if you watched the movie it looked like they had great chemistry. I just know that through the course of the post-production that it took a lot of effort to get there," he said.
When asked how you fabricate chemistry, Hamada explained "it's editorial."
"Pick the right takes, pick the right moments," he said. "The music in the scene makes a big difference." Hamada explained that despite it being "difficult" to navigate Heard and Momoa's "lack of chemistry," the "end result actually works."
Hamada testified that Heard's role was not reduced, as the actress claimed, and that the pitch for Aquaman 2 "was built around" Momoa and co-star, Patrick Wilson.
"They were always the two co-leads of the movie," he said. "The movie was always pitched as a buddy comedy."
Earlier this month, Heard testified that she filmed "a very pared-down version" of her role for Aquaman 2.
"I fought really hard to stay in the movie," she said on the stand. "I was given a script then given new versions of the script that had taken away scenes that had action in it... They basically took a bunch out of my role. They just removed a bunch."
On Monday, Heard's final witness was Kathryn Arnold, an "entertainment industry consultant," who testified about the "reputational harm and economic loss that Ms. Heard incurred due to the defamatory statements" made by Waldman. She estimated that Heard lost around "$45 and $50 million dollars" as Aquaman was supposed to be Heard's "A Star is Born moment."
"It was that moment where not only was she a good actor, but she was now world-renowned because she was in the most successful film... for DC Comics," Arnold said. "It was just this extraordinary moment for her, for her career to take off."
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million for a 2018 op-ed she wrote in the Washington Post describing herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." Heard is countersuing for $100 million over Waldman's statements to the Daily Mail in 2020. Both stars say their careers suffered as a result of defamatory remarks.
Judge Penney Azcarate denied Depp's motion to strike, saying there's sufficient evidence to show that attorney Adam Waldman was acting as an agent for Depp when he spoke to the Daily Mail. The judge also cited a 2020 meeting between Depp, Waldman and the publication. Heard's attorney, Ben Rottenborn, argued that Waldman "was standing in the shoes of Mr. Depp" when he made the comments: "They are one and the same."
It's no surprise the judge rejected the motion to toss Heard's counterclaim. The actress's lawyers tried to do the same thing after Depp's team rested their case and were similarly denied. It will be up to a jury to reach a verdict.
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