Buckle up because this story has everything—Aquaman, drinking on set, rings – probably probably scarves—Elon Musk, and allegations of professional sabotage.
Yesterday, Variety published a story about the behind-the-scenes goings-on of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the long-delayed sequel to 2018’s Aquaman. Aquaman 2 has been rumored to be plagued with problems for literal years now, including extensive reshoots—though some sources say they only shot one week’s worth of additional photography—and on-the-fly rewrites, you know, the kinds of rumors that make you think a film is in trouble.
One of the prevailing rumors about the film, though, is that Amber Heard’s role as underwater heroine Mera was drastically reduced following the (very public) legal battle with ex-husband, Johnny Depp. The new report in Variety focuses on this and includes allegations of what amounts to a hostile work environment for Heard.
Among the allegations outlined by Variety are: Jason Momoa appearing drunk on set, Jason Momoa “dressing like Johnny Depp”, Jason Momoa trying to get Heard fired, and director James Wan “rais[ing] his voice” at Heard and blaming her for not being able to post about the film on social media—sounds like Warner Brothers/DC Films put a blackout on it.
Naturally, “sources” from DC dispute the idea of Jason Momoa being drunk and/or late to set. From the same people who brought you such hits as “The Flash is the best superhero movie ever made” and “Ezra Miller’s performance is so good, they’ll be the Flash forever” comes “Jason Momoa conducted himself in a professional manner at all times on the set” and “he isn’t dressing like Johnny Depp. He has always dressed in that bohemian style.”
On the issue of clothes, Jason Momoa HAS always dressed boho-biker chic. Johnny Depp does not have the corner on distressed jeans and too many scarves and rings. So, my question is then, what was Momoa doing besides the clothes that made Heard feel targeted? And for the rest of the allegations about Momoa being drunk on set, et cetera, the spin doctors at DC Films have spun too hard this year. I cannot listen to any more of their nonsense. At this point, I am inclined to believe the exact opposite of whatever the party line is coming out of DC headquarters.
But wait, because there’s more. In defending Jason Momoa from the accusation that he tried to have Heard fired, the unnamed sources from DC reveal that James Wan and the then-heads of DC Films DID try to fire Heard after the release of Aquaman, and it took a letter from lawyers of her ex-boyfriend, Elon Musk, “threatening to burn the house down” to save her job (what’s he gonna do, send them free Teslas?). So the actual defense here is but we already tried to fire her? That’s…not a good defense, especially as it involves caving to ELON MUSK.
And it’s especially not a good defense because now I am googling times and dates. Because what I am getting from Amber Heard’s side of this story is that she felt targeted and punished because of all the sh-t she’s been through these last several years. But the DC side is saying that no, wait, we wanted to fire her BEFORE all the legal drama! Well that’s not better, buddy, because what came before the legal drama was…a woman talking about partner violence.
Now, officially, their claim back in 2018-19 was that they wanted to sack Heard because of a “lack of chemistry” with Momoa—then DC honcho Walter Hamada testified about the “issue of chemistry” in Heard’s defamation trial—but the problem with that is that Heard did a chemistry test with Momoa when she was cast in 2016. So, circa 2016-17, everyone was happy enough with their chemistry to cast her as Mera, Aquaman’s love interest. What changed between 2016 and the end of 2018? Well, Heard finalized her divorce with Johnny Depp, Depp sued a UK publisher for libel for calling him a “wife beater” (a suit he would later lose), and just days before the release of Aquaman in 2018, The Washington Post published an op-ed penned by Heard in which she referred to herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse”.
By the end of 2018, there was a lot of sh-t swirling around Amber Heard, and it would only get worse as Depp added a defamation suit in the US in 2019. But what’s bugging me about this Variety article and all these sources rushing to protect Jason Momoa, is that they’re emphasizing that the real attempt to fire Heard came BEFORE the US lawsuit kicked off, as if to ensure that we understand they didn’t try to fire her because of the legal issues.
But what about the op-ed? Because while I completely understand the Post and the ACLU, which worked with Heard on the op-ed, wanted to benefit from her increased profile around the release of the film, I equally understand why James Wan et al might NOT like that and see it as a distraction from the film. I don’t for one second buy the excuse that they wanted to sack her because of her chemistry with Momoa, it was no better or worse than most superhero couples’ on-screen chemistry. But wanting to fire her because they don’t like that their arm candy actress is speaking out about institutional protections for abusive men…during a time when the studio was heavily invested in protecting the top boss from his own most toxic impulses? That plays.
“But we already tried to fire her before” isn’t the defense they think it is, because it only makes it look like they tried to fire her because of the December 2018 op-ed and her activism around violence against women. And Heard would know this, because her lawyer was informed of their intent to drop her from the sequel, so OF COURSE she was on edge about her place on set and in that cast. And it all got dredged up because Depp fans paid the court fee to unseal exhibits, including Heard’s therapist’s notes from their sessions in which she talked about what was going on during the production of Aquaman 2. The yikes literally never stop coming.