Amber Heard Says She 'Fought Really Hard' to Remain in 'Aquaman 2' amid Johnny Depp Controversy

"They didn't want to include me in the film," testified Amber Heard

Amber Heard claims her part in the Aquaman sequel was reduced as a result of fallout from ex-husband Johnny Depp's claims that her allegations of domestic violence were a "hoax."

During her testimony Monday, the 36-year-old actress spoke about how her reputation and career "took a hit" due to Depp's public attacks on her character. Depp, 58, filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit in March 2019 against Heard claiming that her December 2018 Washington Post op-ed about domestic violence hurt his career prospects, even though he wasn't mentioned by name in the article.

Heard — who is countersuing Depp for $100 million for defamation — testified that her role as Mera in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the female lead opposite Jason Momoa's title character, was drastically reduced because of bad press aimed at her. (Heard has already filmed the movie and it is set to hit theaters March 2023.)

Prior to Depp's attorneys publicly calling her abuse claims a "hoax," Heard had been able to "get my life back on track" after filing for divorce and a domestic violence restraining order in May 2016. The first Aquaman debuted in December 2018 and went on to make more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office.

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"The trajectory was positive," she said.

Heard explained that she had a three-picture deal to play Mera, starting with 2017's Justice League, with her pay increasing with each subsequent DC film. Per the contracts brought forth in court, she was paid $1 million upfront for Aquaman and $2 million for the sequel, both with potential bonuses for box office performance.

However, after the "hoax" comments made headlines, "the communication stopped" between the studio Warner Bros. and Heard about scheduling and planning for Aquaman 2. Her role eventually became "very pared down" in the sequel, according to Heard.

"I fought really hard to stay in the movie. They didn't want to include me in the film," Heard testified.

"I was given a script and then given new versions of the script that had taken away scenes that had action in it, that depicted my character and another character — without giving any spoilers away — two characters fighting with one another, and they basically took a bunch out of my role. They just removed a bunch out," she added.

A long-running fan petition to have Heard removed from the upcoming Aquaman movie has surpassed 4.2 million online signatures during the current trial in Fairfax, Virginia, where Heard has testified about "vitriol from Johnny Depp supporters."

Amber Heard
Amber Heard in Aquaman (2018). Warner Bros/DC/Kobal/Shutterstock

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Back in November 2020, Heard told Entertainment Weekly that rumors of her not returning for the next Aquaman were untrue: "I'm super excited about the amount of fan love and the amount of fan appreciation that Aquaman has acquired and that it has garnered so much excitement for Aquaman and Mera that it means we'll be coming back. I'm so excited to film that."

November 2020 is also when Depp lost his highly publicized U.K. libel lawsuit case against British tabloid The Sun for calling him a "wife-beater." The court upheld the outlet's claims as being "substantially true" and Heard testified to back up the claims. In March 2021, Depp's attempt to overturn the decision was overruled.

After losing that libel case, Depp announced that he had agreed to step down from his role in Warner Bros.'s Fantastic Beasts franchise. He was later replaced by Mads Mikkelsen as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which hit theaters last month with the lowest box office performance of the Harry Potter franchise.

Amber Heard testifies in the courtroom at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse
Brendan Smialowski/AP/Shutterstock

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom producer Peter Safran told Deadline in July that the production was never "going to react to, honestly, pure fan pressure" to remove Heard altogether. "You gotta do what's best for the movie. We felt that if it's [director] James Wan and Jason Momoa, it should be Amber Heard. That's really what it was," he said.

Safran added, "One is not unaware of what is going on in the Twitter-verse, but that doesn't mean you have to react to it or take it as gospel or accede to their wishes. You have to do what's right for the film, and that's really where we landed on it."

Depp's agent Jack Whigham has testified that it's been "impossible" to get Depp a part in a big-budget studio film ever since Heard's op-ed. The Alice in Wonderland supposedly lost a $22.5 million payday for a potential sixth Pirates of the Caribbean, though a written contract was never made.

In a recent interview with the U.K.'s The Sunday Times, Pirates producer Jerry Bruckheimer offered an update on an in-the-works sequel for the franchise, saying Depp is "not at this point" planned to be in it, though "the future is yet to be decided." Depp, however, testified that he would not work with Disney again, even if they offered him $300 million.

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