Warner Bros. found itself in turbulent waters when it released the trailer for Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom in mid-September. The film, with a massive budget of $215 million, was meant to be a major draw for the studio, but it became ensnared in a new controversy involving allegations and behind-the-scenes drama.
The source of the drama can be traced back to the high-profile Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial. Depp’s fans contributed to covering the court fees for the release of documents from Heard’s therapist, Dr. Dawn Hughes. These raw notes, handwritten on a legal pad, were part of last year’s trial in which Depp largely prevailed.
The notes describe a hostile atmosphere on the set of Aquaman and allegations that Jason Momoa, who plays the titular character, behaved inappropriately. According to the notes, Momoa was allegedly intoxicated on set and dressed like Depp, going so far as to don the actor’s signature rings. The notes even claimed that Momoa wanted Heard fired from her role as the superhero Mera.
It Doesn’t Stop With Momoa
A representative for Jason Momoa declined to comment on the allegations, but a spokesperson for DC defended Momoa’s professionalism, stating that he conducted himself appropriately on the set of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom. Insiders also refuted the allegations, with one source who was on the London set in 2021 describing Momoa as hardworking and professional.
Heard’s representatives declined to provide a comment, but a source close to the actress confirmed that the therapy notes referred to the Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom set and reflected a session from December 27, 2021. It’s worth noting that Heard’s lawyers had reportedly fought against the release of these therapy notes, which had been subpoenaed by Depp’s attorneys during the discovery process.
However, the drama doesn’t stop at Jason Momoa’s alleged behavior. The therapy session notes also portrayed Heard as feeling unsupported by the film’s director, James Wan. According to the notes, Wan raised his voice at Heard and made her feel responsible for not being able to promote the film on social media. The notes also mention that nobody could take selfies with her on set due to what was described as a “blackout.”
Wan declined to comment on the allegations, with a DC spokesperson stating that James Wan is known for treating cast and crew members respectfully and fostering a positive working environment on set. However, insiders claim that Heard was nearly fired from Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom after the release of the first film in 2018. The decision was reportedly due to a perceived lack of chemistry between Heard and Momoa. Sources emphasize that the move to replace Heard was unrelated to Depp and had occurred before he filed his lawsuit against the actress in 2019. Ultimately, the studio did not proceed with Heard’s removal, reportedly due to pressure from Elon Musk, her former boyfriend.
Is It Sink Or Swim For Aquaman and The Lost Kingdom?
The controversy surrounding Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom comes at a challenging time for DC Entertainment. The studio is navigating a transition in leadership and is trying to move on from previous superhero films. This year’s releases, including The Flash and Blue Beetle, have fallen short of expectations. While the first Aquaman film was a massive success, the sequel reportedly faced challenges during production and testing, leading to reshoots and reedits.
Despite the turmoil, Warner Bros. is expected to promote the film, hoping for a successful release, particularly in China, where the first “Aquaman” was a massive hit. The ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike may impact promotional efforts, but if the strike ends soon, stars like Jason Momoa and Amber Heard could still participate in junkets.
With the release of Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom scheduled for December 20, all eyes are on whether the film can replicate the success of its predecessor, given the tumultuous journey it has endured during production. Early tracking suggests strong interest in the movie, which could perform well during the holiday season. However, it remains to be seen whether the film can overcome the challenges and controversies that have plagued its production and promotion.