James Wan and Amber Heard as Mera in Aquaman

Not Everyone Is Buying James Wan’s Excuse for Reducing Amber Heard’s Role in ‘Aquaman’ 2

Not everyone is buying the excuse director James Wan gave to address Amber Heard’s reduced role in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Heard co-starred in the first Aquaman film in 2018 as Aquaman’s (Jason Momoa) love interest, Princess Mera. It was expected that she would have an equally significant role in the sequel, considering that she and Aquaman are married, meaning she is now Queen Mera of Atlantis. Unfortunately, between films, Heard became the center of a vicious smear campaign from her ex-husband Johnny Depp and his cultish followers, after he sued her for defamation for accusing him of abuse in an op-ed for The Washington Post.

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Heard’s accusations were previously ruled “substantially true” in the U.K., in a defamation lawsuit against The Sun that Depp lost. However, this didn’t stop him from turning around and suing Heard for defamation, resulting in her countersuing him. A highly publicized trial followed, with an unprecedented wave of vitriol against Heard. In addition to their smear campaign against Heard, Depp’s fans took to horrifically harassing, bullying, and threatening anyone who didn’t outright take Depp’s side.

During the court case, Heard alleged that she had to fight for her role in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom due to all the negative publicity she received over the court case, and even then, she only succeeded in maintaining a significantly reduced role from the original script. DC Films president Walter Hamada confirmed there had been discussions about recasting Mera but claimed it was because Heard didn’t have good chemistry with Momoa. He then went on to claim that she was always going to have a reduced role in the sequel.

However, Hamada didn’t explain why, if Mera were always going to have a reduced role, the film would even be looking to undergo the hassle of casting a whole other actor to appear for a few minutes. With Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom drawing closer to its release, Wan has now also spoken out on Heard’s role.

James Wan confirms Amber Heard’s reduced role

Amber Heard as Mera in 'Aquaman'
(Warner Bros.)

When Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom’s trailer was released on September 14, Wan had no choice but to address the elephant in the room when Heard appeared for only a split second. He finally confirmed that Heard’s role was pared down in the sequel. However, he reiterated Hamada’s excuse that the film was never supposed to be about Mera and instead was supposed to focus on Aquaman’s relationship with his brother, Orm (Patrick Wilson). Wan stated, “I felt like I told the Arthur and Mera story in the first one, that I can just focus on Arthur and Orm in this one.” So … Mera can’t be in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom because Wan can only focus on one of Aquaman’s relationships at a time?

The excuse doesn’t make much sense. Mera not being the film’s star is understandable, but saying she can hardly be in the movie because of Aquaman’s brother makes little sense, mainly because the sequel continues Aquaman’s and Mera’s love story. The trailer reveals that they’re married, have a baby, and rule Atlantis together as King and Queen. Additionally, Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) threatens Aquaman’s entire family and everything he loves. All of these factors suggest that Mera should be there. We should get sweet family moments with the trio and see Aquaman with his Queen by his side when fighting for his kingdom against Black Manta.

Our perspective may change when we see the film, but Wan’s and Hamada’s vague excuses about Heard’s reduced role don’t explain much. Aquaman was the most successful film in DC’s attempt to launch an interconnected superhero universe, and there never seemed to be a problem with Mera’s character before, bringing some weight to Heard’s claims about why her role was challenged.

Why Heard’s reduced role in Aquaman 2 is disappointing

aquaman poster
(Warner Bros.)

If Heard’s reduced role is because of Depp and his followers, then it’s very disappointing for several reasons. For one, it shows a clear double standard at Warner Bros. The studio staunchly stood by Ezra Miller and allowed them to lead The Flash film after they committed a felony, which was just the culmination of a long stream of disturbing allegations against them. Likewise, it allowed Zachary Levi to lead the Shazam! films despite his controversies, such as spreading misinformation on the COVID-19 vaccine. One could argue these two are far more controversial than Heard.

Meanwhile, all Heard did was identify as a victim of abuse. Additionally, she and Depp were found to have defamed each other in the case. Contrary to the misinformation Depp’s followers keep spreading, she was only found to have “defamed” Depp from her article, much like he and his team defamed her with their allegations. However, she was never found guilty or charged with domestic abuse, and it has not been proven that her accusations were false. So, Warner Bros. will back actors who have committed felonies and have problematic views but won’t back a woman whose only “crime” was to write about being a victim of abuse in a personal article that never mentioned Depp by name.

Wan’s excuses have also been met with skepticism on social media, as users point out how her diminished role appears to back up her initial allegations and illustrates the film bending to the demands of Depp’s rabid followers.

Some users compared Wan’s vague excuses to how Zack Snyder and Peter Safran responded to the Depp debacle. Snyder invited Heard to be part of his reshoots for his director’s cut of Justice League. Meanwhile, Safran spoke out to deny that the studio would heed Depp’s supporters’ ridiculous petitions to recast Heard and would instead do what’s best for the movie. It’s unclear how things have changed so much since Safran’s statement. However, one possibility is that the studio and Wan did falter under the harassment of Depp’s followers.

Alleged leaked therapist notes from Heard have circulated on Reddit, one of which alleges that Momoa and Wan blamed Heard for the harassment they faced from Depp’s followers, with Wan complaining he couldn’t “even post about Aquaman.” If there’s truth to these allegations, it only makes the whole situation more disappointing. No one should be bending to the will of Depp’s followers, who launched a widespread harassment campaign against Heard and her followers on social media. This disgusting campaign saw Heard and her supporters doxxed, threatened with death and physical violence, and subjected to vile, vulgar, and misogynistic cyberbullying. They interfered with an ongoing court case, harassed and review-bombed those called to testify for Heard, and tried to destroy journalists’ careers for covering the case without a clear bias for Depp.

Meanwhile, these individuals only reflect poorly on Depp, who has never once been bothered to tell his followers to stop committing such disgusting acts in his name. It’s time we stand up to these ridiculous cyberbullies who are incapable of articulating an informed opinion and instead resort to threatening and bullying while living in a fantasy realm where Depp is a national treasure and all of the facts of his case against Heard are non-existent.

It would have been nice for Warner Bros. to show these people that they have no sway and to show support for victims of domestic abuse and their right to a fair trial, but Heard’s reduced role in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom seems to show that the studio passed on this important opportunity.

(featured image: Warner Bros.)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.