Amber Heard’s attorneys rested their case Tuesday, opening the door for Johnny Depp’s legal team to call a rebuttal witness who cast doubt on Heard’s likeability and star power.
Before entertainment attorney and Hollywood “dealmaker” Richard Marks took the stand, Depp’s lawyers argued to have Heard’s $100 million counterclaim for defamation dismissed. Judge Penney Azcarate denied the motion and ruled the jury should decide, before the proceedings continued.
Marks, who testified earlier in the defamation trial, said Depp’s lawyers asked him to analyze Monday’s testimony from “entertainment industry consultant” and producer Kathryn Arnold.
Arnold testified that before Heard’s legal skirmishes with Depp and his attorneys, the actress had very high earning potential and her career trajectory was “comparable” to that of Jason Momoa, Gal Gadot, Zendaya, Ana de Armas and Chris Pine.
Marks, who said he has nearly 50 years of experience and has negotiated numerous deals, found the comparisons laughable.
“She’s very slick and smooth but she’s not an expert in dealmaking,” he said about Arnold. “Her assessment of damages is built on nothing and it’s wildly speculative.”
He added that Heard has never had top billing on a film or TV show.
“They are not comparable. Jason Momoa was ‘Aquaman,’ Chris Pine was ‘Captain Kirk,’ Gal Gadot was ‘Wonder Woman,’ Zendaya has been working on Disney channel since she was 13. She’s in all the Spider-Man movies, she goes by one name. Ana de Armas, you know, when she was in a movie that they called her a breakout [star],” Marks said.
The attorney told the Fairfax, Virginia courtroom that Heard had to test or audition for the part of “Mera” in “Aquaman,” which affected her earning capacity.
“An established actor usually wouldn’t test, they’d be offered the role. Ms. Heard was in a group of actors that needed to be tested to see if the studio wanted to hire them and then if they hired them, they’d be locked up for potentially four movies at a very lucrative increase,” Marks explained.
He said studios don’t need to comment on contract options for actors and was surprised by the “candor” of DC Films president, Walter Hamada, who testified Tuesday morning that Heard had “chemistry issues” with Jason Momoa in “Aquaman.”
“In Hollywood, silence is the default. You play no card before it’s time,” Marks stated.
As for Hamada, he revealed the director and producer of “Aquaman 2” considered recasting the “Mera” character.
Hamada said in a pre-recorded video deposition that there were creative concerns about bringing Heard back after the first film wrapped production.
“I think editorially they were able to make that relationship work in the first movie, but there was a concern that it took a lot of effort to get there and we would be better off recasting, finding someone who had a more natural chemistry with Jason Momoa and move forward that way,” said Hamada.
He added that Heard was never released from her “Aquaman” contract and ultimately no other actors were auditioned for the role of “Mera.”
Hamada said Jason Momoa renegotiated his contract but that was not an option for Heard.
“One of the things we were trying to put a rein on was not renegotiating every deal with the understanding that people come in and make these deals and they have an understanding there will be options and that there was a deal in place,” Hamada testified. “That was a big part of our philosophy that we were going to hold people to their options moving forward.”
He added that Heard was never fired or rehired for “Aquaman 2,” stating: “We just picked up her option” and she did not receive a pay increase.
Heard previously testified that she fought for a role in the sequel, but the part of “Mera” was “pared down” when she received the script.
However, Hamada noted: “The character’s involvement in the story was sort of what it was from the beginning,” adding that “Aquaman 2” was “always pitched as a buddy comedy between Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson.”
Hamada said Heard’s compensation for “Aquaman 2” was not affected by any statements made by Depp or his former attorney Adam Waldman, nor was Heard’s legal dispute with Depp a factor in her involvement with “Aquaman 2.”
Depp is suing Heard for $50 million claiming she libeled him in a 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Post, costing him a lucrative role in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. Although Heard didn’t name him in the article, the “Aquaman” actress described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.” Heard has countersued for $100 million.
Closing arguments in the trial are expected this week.