Journalism ethics experts say that NBC host Savannah Guthrie should have turned down her Dateline interview with Amber Heard after it was revealed that her husband did consulting work for Johnny Depp‘s defense team.
Guthrie made the revelation when she sat down with Depp’s star lawyers Camille Vasquez and Benjamin Chew in the days after the verdict.
She confirmed that her husband, Michael Feldman – a public relations consultant and former political adviser at FGS Global – ‘has done consulting work for the Depp legal team, but not in connection with this interview.’
Guthrie has since sat down for an exclusive interview which is due to air in full tonight.
Early sneak peeks of the interview reveal that Heard repeats her claims that Depp assaulted her.
But journalism ethic experts are questioning whether Guthrie was the right person to conduct the interview, and she should have passed the interview along to someone else to avoid becoming part of the story.
In a statement to DailyMail.com, an NBC News executive said: ‘Savannah disclosed on air that her husband did consulting work for Depp’s law firm. She did so in the interest of transparency because she was interviewing his clients. It had no impact on the interviews she conducted or on our reporting.
‘The fairness of each interview speaks for itself. Most importantly, before they agreed to the interviews, all parties, including Heard’s team and Depp’s team, were advised of Savannah’s husband’s work, which was for the firm, not the firm’s client.
‘With full knowledge and understanding, each chose to be interviewed by Savannah, not another journalist or network.’
But journalism ethic experts are questioning whether Guthrie was the right person to conduct the interview
Heard sat down for an exclusive interview with Today show host Savannah Guthrie is due to air in full Friday night
Guthrie’s husband Michael Feldman is a public relations consultant and former political adviser, who currently works at the public relations firm FGS Global (pictured together)
Rebecca Aguilar, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, told the New York Post that even though Guthrie was open about her husband’s connection to Depp’s legal team, she should have passed the interview along to someone else to avoid becoming part of the story.
‘Ms. Guthrie was transparent by letting viewers know her husband worked for the Depp legal team before her interview aired on the ‘Today’ show,’ Aguilar said. ‘Still, she could have avoided becoming part of the story by allowing another NBC anchor to interview the Depp team and later with Ms. Amber Heard. Ms. Guthrie should be far away from this story to show her viewers that she is fair, transparent, and ethical.’
Erik Wemple, a media critic for the Washington Post, wrote that Guthrie has a ‘very significant conflict of interest’ because of her husband and just the idea that she could benefit financially from her his ties to Depp should keep her from reporting on the couple.
‘There is a financial stake,’ Wemple said. ‘And that is the most fair and narrow and un-puncturable conflict of interest, if it affects your family finances in some way,’ Wemple wrote.
Wemple added that the fact that Guthrie even had to give a disclaimer before her interview was ‘nuts’
‘She is interviewing lawyers who presumably benefited from her husband’s consulting. That is really close,’ Wemple said. ‘The more I think about it, the more it seems a little nuts.’
DailyMail.com reached out to NBC for comment.
The 36-year-old actress’ legal team attempted to submit the notes as evidence in her case against 59-year-old Depp (pictured in court) however a judge ruled that they were ‘hearsay’ and banned them from the trial
When asked whether she still ‘loves’ her ex-husband, the actress (seen with Depp in 2015) replied: ‘Yes. Yes. Absolutely, absolutely I love him… I have no bad feelings or ill will towards him at all’
Earlier this month, a jury ruled that Heard defamed her ex-husband by publishing a piece about being a sexual assault survivor in the Washington Post. She was ordered to pay Depp $10 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages, although the second payment was reduced to $350,000 per Virginia law by the judge. She was awarded a relatively paltry $2 million in compensatory damages, meaning that Depp walked away from the case with Heard owing him $8.35 million.
Despite being found guilty of defamation however, Heard is continuing to publicly accuse her former spouse of physical and sexual abuse – while telling Dateline that she is not a ‘vindictive’ person who is trying to ‘seek vengeance’ against him.
‘One thing I can tell you is, one thing I’m not is vindictive,’ she says in the Dateline preview. ‘This would be a really lousy way to get vengeance.
‘As silly as it is to say this out loud, my goal – the only thing I can hope for at this point… I just want people to see me as a human being.’
When pressed by Guthrie about testimony given by several witnesses who said they ‘saw Heard instigate violence’ against Depp during their relationship, the actress fired back, insisting that she ‘never had to instigate it’ and that she only ever ‘responded to it’, claiming that she only became violent towards the actor ‘to cope with’ the abuse she alleges he subjected her to.
‘When you’re living in violence and it becomes normal, as I testified to, you have to adapt, you adopt strategies to cope with it,’ she said. ‘If it meant, as I testified to, if it meant the difference between a broken nose or a sore cheek, I would do it.’
She added: ‘I got hit for a very long time before I even knew how to defend myself.’
Guthrie pointed out that Heard is the only woman to have come forward with allegations of abuse against Depp, questioning why nobody else would have spoken out if they had endured the same violent treatment that she claims to have.
‘Look what happened to me when I came forward. Would you?’ Heard retorted.
In a statement given to Dateline, Depp’s legal team slammed Heard for continuing to air her allegations so publicly, even after the trial concluded, saying: ‘It’s unfortunate that the defendant and her team are back to repeating, reimagining and re-litigating matters that have already been decided by the Court and a verdict that was unanimously and unequivocally decided by a jury in Johnny’s favor.’
However, Heard insists that she will ‘stand by her testimony to her dying day’, repeating the language used in the Washington Post op-ed that sparked the marathon six-week trial by describing herself as a ‘survivor’.
‘I will [stand by my testimony] to my dying day. I know what happened to me. I’m here as a survivor,’ she said. ‘To my dying day I will stand by every word of my testimony.’
Heard now claims that she never wanted her abuse claims against Depp to be aired so ‘publicly’, insisting that she never wanted to go to trial, but that she ‘had no choice’ because her former spouse chose to sue her.
‘I didn’t want this to be a thing, I didn’t want it to be a trial, I didn’t want it to be a part of the public record,’ she said. ‘But when someone sues you, you don’t really have a choice.’
Despite continuing to air her allegations, Heard insists that she wants nothing more than to move on with her life, telling Guthrie: ‘I look forward to living my life and I have a long one, I hope, in front of me. And I will continue to walk through this with my chin up.’
Previously, in the three-part Today preview of the Dateline sit-down, Heard made other bombshell revelations, listed here, including admitting that she ‘absolutely still loves’ Depp – despite branding him a ‘liar’ who swayed the jury with his ‘fantastic acting’, as well as:
- Repeating her allegations that Depp physically abused her during their marriage, insisting that he ‘lied’ on the stand when he said that he had ‘never hit her’
- Admitting that she ‘still loves’ her ex-husband while describing their relationship as both ‘ugly’ and ‘beautiful’
- Accusing the jury of being swayed by ‘unfair social media representation’ and her ex-husband’s ‘fantastic acting’ on the stand, as well as his reputation as a ‘beloved’ Hollywood star
- Stating that Depp’s legal team put ‘paid employees and randos’ on the stand in order to ‘distract the jury from the real issues’
- Claiming that audio recordings of alleged abuse that were played during the trial were ‘edited’ and only gave the jury a minutes-long version of the hours-long tapes
- Hitting out at Depp’s glamorous lawyer Camille Vasquez for helping to convince the jury believe ‘a man who convinced the world he had scissors for fingers’
- Insisting that she will still honor her ‘pledge’ to donate $3.5 million from her $7 million divorce settlement to the ACLU – and claiming her being caught out in a lie about handing it over ‘shouldn’t’ have affected her case
- Blasting allegations that she ‘faked’ bruises – and claiming that a lack of visible injuries doesn’t mean she wasn’t ‘abused’ by Depp; denied ‘tipping off’ TMZ to court appearance for restraining order
- Admitting she ‘did and said horrible’ things during her ‘ugly and beautiful’ relationship with Depp – but insisting she ‘never instigated [violence]’ and only ever ‘responded to it’
In a previous clip from the interview, Heard admitted that she ‘absolutely still loves’ Depp, despite once again insisting that he did beat her during their relationship – days after she was found guilty of defaming him in the former couple’s $8 million trial
‘I ABSOLUTELY STILL LOVE HIM’: HEARD CLAIMS SHE HAS ‘NO ILL WILL’ TOWARDS DEPP, DESPITE REPEATING ALLEGATIONS THAT HE BEAT AND RAPED HER
During the Today interview, Heard spoke out about her feelings for her ex-husband, telling Guthrie that she ‘absolutely still loves’ Depp – even though she refused to walk back her allegations of abuse against him, saying that she will ‘stand by every word of her testimony… until the day she dies’.
Despite a jury ruling overwhelmingly in her ex-husband’s favor, finding Heard guilty on three counts of defamation against him, the actress refused to walk back her claims of abuse against him – instead doubling down on her allegations that he was physically violent towards her and accusing him of ‘lying’ on the stand when he said that he ‘never hit her’.
‘He said he never hit you. Is that a lie?’ Guthrie questioned, to which Heard responded bluntly: ‘Yes it is.’
She added: ‘To my dying day, I will stand by every word of my testimony.’
Heard denied claims made by Depp’s legal team that she ‘faked’ bruising in order to make it seem as though he had been abusing her
When asked by Guthrie whether she stands by a previous statement that she ‘still loves’ her ex-husband, Heard responded: ‘Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. I love him. I loved him with all my heart and I tried the best I could to make a deeply broken relationship work. And I couldn’t. I have no bad feelings or ill will towards him at all. I know that might be hard to understand or it might be really easy to understand if you’ve ever loved anyone.’
However despite the actress admitting that she ‘still loves’ her former spouse, she once again doubled down on her allegations that he physically abused her throughout their relationship, hitting back at claims that she ‘faked’ bruising in order to incriminate him – insisting that she would have been accused of lying whether or not she had visible injuries.
‘Again it is that thing: if you have bruising, if you have injuries, it is fake. If you don’t have any, [then] you weren’t injured,’ she said of claims made by Depp’s legal team that she faked bruises on her face and that she was seen multiple times in public in the hours and days after alleged instances of abuse without any visible injuries.
When grilled by Guthrie about audio clips that were played during the six-week trial in which the actress could be heard admitting to being physically abusive towards Depp, Heard insisted that she only ever ‘responded to [physical violence]’ but that she ‘never instigated it’.
‘I never had to instigate it, I responded to it,’ she claimed. ‘When you’re living in violence and it becomes normal – as I testified to – you have to adapt.’
Heard added that, while she ‘has so much regret’ over the ‘horrible’ and ‘ugly’ things she did and said to Depp, she was only acting as a ‘person in extreme emotional, psychological, and physical distress’ who felt that their ‘life was at risk’.
‘I know much has been made of these audio tapes,’ she said. ‘They were first leaked online after being edited. What you would hear in these clips [was] not evidence of what was happening, it was evidence of a negotiation, of how to talk about that with your abuser.’
She continued: ‘As I testified on the stand about it. When your life is at risk, not only will you take the blame for things that you shouldn’t take the blame for, but when you are in an abusive dynamic – psychologically, emotionally, and physically – you don’t have the resources or the luxury of saying, ‘Hey this is black and white.’
‘Because it is anything but when you are living in it.’
On Tuesday, Heard publicly accused Depp of physical abuse again – days after she was found guilty of defaming him in an $8 million trial about an op-ed she published in the Washington Post in which she said she was a survivor of sexual assault
HEARD ACCUSES JURY OF BEING SWAYED BY ‘UNFAIR SOCIAL MEDIA REPRESENTATION’, AND SAYS JURORS WERE DUPED BY DEPP’S ‘FANTASTIC ACTING’ AND HIS REPUTATION AS A ‘BELOVED’ HOLLYWOOD STAR
During the sit-down interview – which was pre-recorded on Thursday after the actress flew into New York on a private jet from Washington, D.C. – Heard accused the jurors in the trial of being duped by her ex-husband, branding him as nothing more than a ‘fantastic actor’ who ‘convinced the world he had scissors for fingers’, in a bizarre reference to his performance as Edward Scissorhands in Tim Burton’s 1990 movie.
Heard quickly clapped back at Guthrie, 50, when asked what she thought about allegations made by Depp’s lawyer Camille Vasquez – who shot to online fame after her ferocious cross-examination of Heard on the stand – that she had been ‘performing’ on the stand and that she had lied about the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of the actor.
Heard made a bizarre reference to Depp’s performance in Tim Burton’s 1990 movie Edward Scissorhands (pictured), questioning how his lawyer Camille Vasquez could say she had been ‘performing on the stand’ while defending a ‘man who convinced the world he had scissors for fingers’
‘Says the lawyer for the man who convinced the world he had scissors for fingers,’ Heard hit back. ‘I’m the performer? I had listened to weeks of testimony insinuating, or saying quite directly, that I’m a terrible actress. So I’m a bit confused how I could be both.’
Heard also took aim at the witnesses who testified on Depp’s behalf during the trial, branding them ‘paid employees and randos’ and accusing them of ‘filing rank’ and ‘supporting the person they depend on’.
She accused Depp’s lawyers, Vasquez and her associate Benjamin Chew, of using these witnesses to ‘distract the jury from the real issues’ during the trial, conceding that they had ‘done a better job of that’ than her own legal team.
Heard also insisted to Guthrie – who last week interviewed Depp’s legal team on the show and whose husband Michael Feldman actually consulted for them during the trial – that the jury’s decision was influenced by what she called ‘unfair social media representation’ and by her husband calling on ‘paid employees and randos’ to testify on his behalf.
‘I’ll put it this way, how could they make a judgment, how could they not come to that conclusion [that I couldn’t be believed]?’ she said. ‘They had said in those seats and heard over three weeks of nonstop, relentless testimony from paid employees and towards the end of the trial, randos, as I say.
‘I don’t blame them, I don’t blame them, I actually understand, he’s a beloved character and people feel that they know him. He’s a fantastic actor.
‘Again, how could they after listening to three and a half weeks of testimony about how I was an uncredible person and not to believe a word that came out of my mouth.’
The actress did concede that she may not have come across as being particularly ‘likeable’ on the stand or in the eyes of the public – while suggesting that this played a hand in the jury’s final verdict.
‘I’m not a good victim, I get it, I’m not a likeable victim, I’m not a perfect victim,’ she said. ‘But when I testified I asked the jury to just see me as human.’
Speaking about a text that she was sent by Depp – which was read out in court and in which he vowed to ‘globally humiliate her’, Heard said that he feels her ex-husband ‘has’ achieved his promise.
During the marathon six-week trial in Fairfax, Virginia, which started on April 11 and concluded on June 1, Depp called 38 witnesses while Heard’s team called 24.
Both Depp and Heard gave evidence for four days each, including a forensic cross examination from the opposition lawyers – then both returned to the witness stand to testify a second time.
Heard appeared to take aim at 37-year-old Vasquez (seen right earlier this month) for defending Depp (seen left on June 3)
When asked whether Depp had ‘lied’ when he said on the stand that he had ‘never hit her’, Heard insisted that he had, while hitting out at the actor’s lawyer Vasquez (pictured together in court) for accusing her of ‘performing’ on the stand
The jury saw dozens of texts, photos, videos, medical records and even pages from the former couple’s ‘Love Journal’ they hand wrote to each other.
The libel case was so complicated that the verdict sheet had 42 questions the jury had to answer before delivering the verdict: 24 questions for Depp’s claims and 18 for Heard’s counterclaim.
The court heard clips of recordings that Depp and Heard made during their arguments, some of their most intimate moments that were played back for the world years later in the most public setting imaginable.
Throughout the trial, social media was flooded with posts about the legal proceedings – with the majority being shared in support of Depp under the hashtag #JusticeForJohnnyDepp. As of June 13, the hashtag had more than 20.6 billion views on TikTok, while the #JusticeForAmberHeard tag had a relatively low 92.4 million views.
Heard, who says she was subjected to ‘hate and vitriol’ online throughout the trial and in the wake of the verdict, doubled down on claims previously made by her lawyer that the trial was biased by social media campaigns, with the Aquaman actress branding the final verdict ‘unfair’.
‘Even somebody who is sure I’m deserving of all this hate and vitriol, even if you think that I’m lying, you still couldn’t look me in the eye that you think on social media there’s been a fair representation,’ she said. ‘You cannot tell me that you think that this has been fair.’
But despite insisting that social media played a key role in the outcome of the trial, Heard claimed that she isn’t taking any negative public opinions about her ‘personally’, insisting that she ‘doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her’.
‘I don’t care what anyone thinks about me or what judgments you want to make about what happened in the privacy of my own home in my marriage behind closed doors,’ she told Guthrie. ‘I don’t presume the average person should know those things so I don’t take it personally.’
‘THE PLEDGE WILL BE MADE OVER TIME’: ACTRESS SAYS SHE WILL HONOR $3.5 MILLION ACLU DONATION – BUT INSISTS BEING CAUGHT OUT IN LIE THAT IT WAS PAID SHOULDN’T HAVE AFFECTED HER CREDIBILITY
When grilled by Guthrie about the $3.5 million donation she said she had made to the ACLU from her $7 million divorce settlement from Depp, Heard insisted that she still plans to ‘honor’ that payment, but that she had never intended to make it seem as though it had already been made, despite her stating to the British high court during a previous court case that she ‘had donated’ the money.
‘I made a pledge and that pledge is made over time by its nature,’ she said, before faltering slightly when asked if she thought the jury felt she had been caught out in a lie.
‘I don’t know… I feel like so much of the trial was meant to cast dispersions on who I am as a person, my credibility, to call me a liar in every way you can.’
She also sensationally claimed that – despite testifying in her UK trial that she had donated the money before being forced to reveal that was not in fact the case – that false narrative shouldn’t have impacted her testimony on the stand, or the jury’s opinion of her.
‘This is another one of the examples where if you pull back and you think about it, I shouldn’t have to have donated it in an effort to be believed. I shouldn’t have had to earmark the entirety of it,’ she said.
Heard was forced to admit during the former couple’s defamation trial that she had not completed her $3.5 million donation to the ACLU, despite having previously stated on several occasions, including under oath in 2020 during her and Depp’s libel case in the UK, that she’d made the contribution.
The interview marks the first time that Heard has publicly addressed the verdict – which she previously blasted as a ‘setback for other women’ in a statement published minutes after the ruling was read out in court
The actress appeared on Dutch talk show RTL Late Night in 2018 where she said, ‘$7million in total was donated – I split it between the ACLU and the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. I wanted nothing.’
However, during the defamation trial – which concluded on June 1 – Heard confessed that she actually has yet to make the full donation ‘because Johnny sued me for $50million in March of 2019.
Heard said, ‘I fully intend to honor all of my pledges. I would love for him to stop suing me so I can.’
Terence Dougherty, the ACLU Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, testified earlier in the case and said that so far only a total of $1.3million has either been donated by Heard or on her behalf.
Of that money, Heard contributed $350,000 directly in December 2018 and she has not paid any money since. $100,000 was paid by Depp and another $350,000 came from a fund at Fidelity, an investment company.
Another $500,000 payment came from an account at investment firm Vanguard, which Dougherty said he ‘believed it was a fund set up by Elon Musk.’
Heard’s lawyer Elaine Bredehoft asked why Heard accepted a $7million settlement from Depp.
Heard said: ‘I didn’t care about the money. I was told if I didn’t agree to a number it could be overturned, we would never settle. I took far less than what they were offering and what I was entitled to.’
Heard said she donated the money to charity because she was ‘never interested in Johnny’s money.’
She said ‘I just wanted my safety and my future and he compromised that….I wanted him to leave me alone. I’ve been saying that since 2016.’
HEARD CLAIMS HER WASHINGTON POST OP-ED WAS NOT MEANT TO ‘CANCEL’ DEPP – AND ADMITS SHE IS ‘SCARED’ HE COULD SUE HER AGAIN FOR CONTINUING TO PUBLICLY ACCUSE HIM OF ABUSE
Heard – who tied the knot with Depp in 2015 before filing for divorce in 2016 – went on to insist that the op-ed she penned about surviving domestic abuse was never meant to ‘cancel’ him or destroy his career.
‘The op-ed wasn’t about my relationship with Johnny,’ she claimed, insisting that her decision to publish the piece was only ever intended to provide support to others involved in the #MeToo movement. ‘You know what, the op-ed was about me loaning my voice to a bigger cultural conversation that we were having at the time.
‘Of course [I didn’t want for Johnny to be canceled]. It wasn’t about him.’
She added that she’d had a ‘team of lawyers’ look over the op-ed, which did not mention Depp by name, before it was published in order to ensure that she couldn’t be accused of ‘defaming’ her former spouse, saying: ‘I obviously knew it was important for me not to make it about him.’
Heard (pictured with Depp in 2015) stated that she never meant for her ex-husband to be ‘canceled’ as a result of her op-ed – claiming that it ‘wasn’t about him’ but rather about her wanting to ‘loan her voice to a bigger cultural conversation’
Heard also addressed concerns that she could be sued by Depp once again for repeating her abuse claims on TV – despite being found guilty of defamation – admitting that she feels as though the couple’s court case was intended to ‘silence her’, but insisting she will continue to ‘stand by’ her testimony and her ‘truth’.
‘I’m scared that no matter what I do, no matter what I say or how I say it, every step that I take will present another opportunity for this sort of silencing,’ she said. ‘Which is what I guess a defamation lawsuit is meant to do. It’s meant to take your voice.
‘I think no matter what, [my story] will mean something. I did the right thing. I did everything I could to stand up for myself and the truth.’
She continued: ‘I took for granted what I assumed was my right to speak.’
On Tuesday, a legal expert told DailyMail.com that Heard’s interview could give Depp grounds to sue his former spouse once again.
New York-based entertainment lawyer Nicole Haff, who works at Romano Law, said that Heard’s comments on the Today show could well backfire – and result in her getting sued by the Pirates of the Caribbean star once again.
‘Yes. This interview could count as a new ‘publication’ under the law, which could spur a third lawsuit,’ the attorney explained, when asked if Depp could sue Heard for defamation over her Today interview.
According to MincLaw.com, ‘An individual who repeats or republishes defamation will be subject to the same liability as the publisher of the original defamatory material,’ something known as republishing.
‘A defamatory statement is considered ‘published’ when it is communicated either intentionally, with actual malice or reckless disregard, or negligently, to someone other than the person being defamed,’ the company added. ‘The statement must also be reasonably understood by the recipient to be false.’
However, Haff added that she isn’t sure it would be a smart move for Depp to pursue a third trial against Heard, adding: ‘Heard’s lawyers have already stated that she cannot pay the original judgment.’
‘I GET TO BE A MOM FULL TIME’: ACTRESS SAYS SHE WILL NOW FOCUS ON PARENTING ONE-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER OONAGH – AFTER DENYING ‘INSANE’ RUMORS SHE HAS BEEN DROPPED FROM AQUAMAN 2
When asked about her plans for the future, Heard said that her sole focus will be on parenting her one-year-old daughter, Oonagh Paige, who was born via surrogate in April 2021.
‘I get to be a mom. Full time. [Without having] to juggle calls from lawyers,’ she said.
The actress neglected to say whether she has plans to try and return to the screen – just hours after she was forced to deny rumors that she has been dropped from the Aquaman sequel.
Heard said that she now plans to focus on being a ‘full time mom’ to her one-year-old daughter Oonagh Paige, who she welcomed via surrogate in April 2021
On Tuesday, Just Jared reported that Heard – who has already completed filming on the sequel to the 2018 sci-fi movie in which she starred alongside Jason Momoa – had officially been dropped from Aquaman 2, alleging that Warner Bros ‘screentested the movie’, which is due to premiere in December, and concluded that Heard’s scenes should be reshot with another actress.
‘Warner Bros. decided to recast Amber Heard’s role after screentesting the movie,’ a source claimed to the website. ‘They are going to be doing reshoots with [her former co-stars] Jason Momoa and Nicole Kidman.’
DailyMail.com has contacted Warner Bros. for comment – however a spokesperson for Heard quickly shut down any rumors about their client’s axing from the movie, telling DailyMail.com: ‘The rumor mill continues as it has from day one – inaccurate, insensitive, and slightly insane.’
Serious doubts were already cast over Heard’s future with the DC franchise amid her and Depp’s marathon six-week defamation trial, during which Warner Bros executive Walter Hamada testified that producers had already considered recasting the actress over concerns about her lack of ‘natural chemistry’ with co-star Momoa.
An online petition to get Heard dropped from the sequel was also started towards the end of the legal proceedings – gaining 4.6 million signatures in a matter of weeks.
Last week, Depp’s lawyers Camille Vasquez and Benjamin Chew sat down with Guthrie, 50, to discuss the trial – and they slammed any suggestion that social media played a part in the jury’s verdict as ‘utterly false’
The petition alleges that Heard was ‘exposed as a domestic abuser by Depp’ during their multimillion-dollar court battle.
Hamada testified to the court that producers had to ‘fabricate’ chemistry between the two actors, while admitting that the studio delayed announcing Heard’s part in the sequel for weeks because of ‘conversations about recasting’ her role.
He added that the issues were raised as the filming of the first Aquaman film concluded because of the ‘chemistry’ between Heard and Momoa.
‘Editorially they were able to make that relationship work in the movie. There was a concern it took a lot of effort to get there,’ he explained, noting that Warner Bros was considering ‘someone with better more natural chemistry with Jason Momoa and move forward that way.’
Hamada denied that Heard’s $2 million payment for the role was impacted by anything that had been said about her by Depp or his lawyer Adam Waldman, after the actress’s legal team claimed that she could have renegotiated her fee from $2 million for the first Aquaman movie to $6 million for the sequel had she not been spoken about negatively in the press.
He also denied Heard’s claims that her character, Mera, saw her role reduced dramatically during filming, including having an action scene taken away from her.
Under questioning from one of Depp’s lawyers, he said that the ‘character’s involvement was what it was from the beginning.’
Hamada said that ‘from the early stages of development of the script the movie was building around the character of Arthur and Orm’, played by Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson respectively.
They were ‘always the co-leads of the movie’ and not Heard. Hamada said: ‘The movie was always pitched as a buddy comedy between Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson.’