n the five years since Aquaman made more than $1 billion at the global box office, questions have arisen about what James Wan's superhero sequel might look like. One piece in particular involved Amber Heard. It's been unclear if the actress would reprise her role as Atlantean princess Mera in the wake of her highly publicized legal battles with ex Johnny Depp. Heard herself testified in court in May 2022 that her role in the sequel had been "pared down."
In a new deep-dive feature on Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom from EW's own Clark Collis, Wan explains that the central relationship in the new movie is between Jason Momoa's Arthur and Patrick Wilson's Orm. The former enemies (and half-brothers) must team up in order to combat a greater threat from Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), now made more powerful by an artifact known as the Black Trident. It doesn't sound like Mera is as important to this storyline, but Wan says that was always his plan for the movie.
"I always pitched this to everyone from the get-go," Wan tells EW. "The first Aquaman was Arthur and Mera's journey. The second movie was always going to be Arthur and Orm. So, the first was a romance action-adventure movie, the second one is a bromance action-adventure movie. We'll leave it at that."
Jasin Boland/Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection Amber Heard as Mera in 'Aquaman'
In 2018, Heard wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which she described herself as a survivor of domestic violence. Though she did not mention Depp by name, the celebrity actor's legal team sued her for damaging his career. After losing a libel suit in the U.K. against tabloid newspaper The Sun for describing him as a "wife beater," Depp was much more successful pursuing a defamation case against Heard in American court. She, in turn, countersued him for damaging her own career.
The Depp v. Heard trial lasted for months and captured national media attention. As part of her testimony, Heard cited her "very pared down" role in the Aquaman sequel as a consequence of her ex-husband's "smear campaign." She said Warner Bros. "didn't want to include me."
"I was given a script and then given new versions of the script that had taken away scenes that had action in it, that depicted my character and another character, without giving any spoilers away, two characters fighting with one another, and they basically took a bunch out of my role," Heard testified. "They just removed a bunch out."
Depp won on all three counts of defamation, ultimately being awarded $10.35 million in damages, but Heard also won one of her three defamation counterclaims for $2 million in damages. The two parties settled in December 2022.
For more information, read EW's exclusive sneak peek at Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, which will hit theaters Dec. 20.
—Reporting by Clark Collis.