Johnny Depp trial: Jason Momoa fought to keep Amber Heard in Aquaman 2, agent says

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A witness for Amber Heard has testified that the actor’s Aquaman co-star Jason Momoa was “adamant” she reprise her role in the film’s sequel.

Entertainment industry expert Kathryn Arnold was called to the stand on Monday (23 May) to testify on behalf of Heard in the multi-million dollar defamation lawsuit – brought against the actor by her ex-husband Johnny Depp – that is currently underway at Virginia’s Fairfax County court house.

Depp is suing Heard for $50m (£39.7m) for allegedly implying he abused her in a 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post, and consequently making it difficult for him to land the Hollywood roles he once used to.

Heard is countersuing Depp for $100m (£79.4m) accusing him of orchestrating a “smear campaign” against her and describing his lawsuit as a continuation of “abuse and harassment”.

Her defamation counterclaim was initially filed over Depp’s attorney Adam Waldman’s comments in 2020, when he called Heard’s accusations of domestic violence against Depp “fake”, a “sexual violence hoax” and an “ambush”.

These “defamatory statements”, according to Arnold, made movie studios and brands weary of working with Heard – especially as the “negative social media campaign” against the 36-year-old intensified.

Describing Aquaman as Heard’sA Star is Born moment”, Arnold explained: “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... certainly for DC Comics,”

“It was just this extraordinary moment for her, for her career to take off.”

When asked about how Heard’s reputation had been impacted by Depp and Waldman’s statements, Arnold replied: “In the public, it’s been very negative. In the industry, they like her work but they can’t work with her right now. Because every time her name is mentioned, the negativity flares up again.

“Her world has been silent in terms of opportunities. Even things she wanted to work on are no longer available to her.”

Arnold testified that Heard was not able to receive roles “for a long time” after the Depp-Waldman comments, adding that she was recently able to do a small independent film, funded in Europe.

Amber Heard photographed at Virginia’s Fairfax County court house on Monday (23 May) (Copyright The Associated Press All rights Reserved 2022)
Amber Heard photographed at Virginia’s Fairfax County court house on Monday (23 May) (Copyright The Associated Press All rights Reserved 2022)

At one point, Arnold told the jury about the petition to remove Heard from the Aquaman sequel – opposite Jason Momoa – over these “hoax” allegations against Depp.

“The social media campaign to remove Amber from Aquaman tended to use words inside the defamatory statements,” Arnold told the jury, adding, “They became hashtags.”

Amid objections from Depp’s legal team, Arnold then mentioned that Momoa and director James Wan were “adamant” that Heard reprise the role of Mera in the film’s sequel.

At the time of writing, the petition to remove Heard from Aquaman 2 – slated for release in 2023 – has surpassed four million signatures.

During Arnold’s cross-examination, Depp’s lawyers pushed back against her claims that Heard’s career was on an “upward swing” and might have followed the trajectories of actors such as Zendaya, Gal Gadot or Momoa – had it not been for the allegedly defamatory statements made by Depp and Walden two years ago.

They argued that such a comparison was way off the mark, as all of these other actors were either signed up to blockbuster franchises or had higher-profile careers than Heard back in 2020.

Heard’s agent at William Morris Entertainment, Jessica Kovavevic testified on Thursday (19 May) that her client’s role in the DC film was almost “recast” over the “bad press” around Heard.

Last week, Heard said that her role in Aquaman 2 was significantly cut down amid her battle with Mr Depp.

Speaking in court, the actor commented: “I fought really hard to stay in the movie. They didn’t want to include me in the film.”

You can follow live updates of the Depp-Heard trial here, as it moves towards final arguments and a verdict.