These waters are having choppy.
On the exact same working day in mid-September that Warner Bros. dropped the trailer for its $215 million “Aquaman and the Shed Kingdom,” embarrassing files from the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial surfaced on Reddit, building a new headache for the studio behind the movie.
Depp admirers paid out the court expenses for the launch of documents from Heard’s therapist, Dr. Dawn Hughes. The raw notes, scribbled on a lawful pad, were part of previous year’s large-profile demo in which Depp largely prevailed. They explain a hostile “Aquaman” set in which an allegedly intoxicated Jason Momoa dressed like Depp and pushed to have Listened to booted from the function of aquatic superhero Mera.
“Jason mentioned he preferred me fired,” the notes say. “Jason drunk — late on set. Dressing like Johnny. Has all the rings much too.”
A rep for Momoa declined remark, but a DC spokesperson pushed back again on Heard’s characterization, stating, “Jason Momoa performed himself in a skilled method at all instances on the established of ‘Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.’” Others echoed that sentiment. “Jason performs his ass off, likes to have a beer when in a when like everybody, but doesn’t exhibit up drunk to established,” claims an insider who was on the London set in 2021, introducing that the two stars bought alongside and were being observed joking alongside one another. “And he is not dressing like Johnny Depp. He has constantly dressed in that bohemian type.”
Read declined remark, but a source shut to the actress verified that the notes refer to the “Aquaman 2” established and reflect a session from Dec. 27, 2021. An additional supply near to the actress suggests her legal professionals fought the launch of the treatment notes, which experienced been subpoenaed by Depp’s attorneys in the course of discovery.
Momoa was not the only “Aquaman” principal to land in the crosshairs. The remedy session also painted a photo of Read sensation unsupported by the film’s director, James Wan, and dealt with like a pariah because of her superior-profile authorized struggle with her ex-spouse.
“He elevated his voice @ me — ‘I just cannot even write-up about Aquaman’ — built it like it was my fault – I reported ‘I’m sorry,’” say Hughes’ notes in reference to Wan. “Nobody could take selfies with me on established presented blackout.”
Wan declined remark. The DC spokesperson says, “James is known for dealing with members of his cast and crew with the utmost regard and for fostering a beneficial, collaborative setting on established — the ‘Aquaman’ films had been no exception.”
And yet Listened to was just about fired, resources on the two sides tell Variety. Subsequent “Aquaman’s” release in 2018, the studio and Wan decided to drop the actress from the sequel owing to her absence of chemistry with Momoa and sent a letter to her legal professional, Karl Austen, informing him of its selection. (Former DC Films boss Walter Hamada testified in the defamation trial about the “issue of chemistry.”) These sources underscore that the transfer to bounce Read was unrelated to Depp and took area before he filed match towards the actress in 2019. Similarly, Momoa was not included in the selection-creating. But a different resource pushed again on the lack-of-chemistry narrative, noting that Read did a chemistry test with Momoa prior to landing the position of Mera and defeat out two other actresses who did a comparable chemistry examination, including Abbey Lee.
Finally, the studio in no way pulled the cause on firing Read due to the fact her previous boyfriend, Elon Musk, experienced a person of his litigators mail a “scorched-earth letter to Warner Bros. threatening to burn off the household down” if the actress wasn’t introduced again for a sequel, claims a resource common with the guiding-the-scenes fight. Warner Bros. caved and moved ahead with Read. (Musk did not react to a request for comment.)
The drama is staying rehashed at a time when DC Leisure toppers James Gunn and Peter Safran are poised to shut the book on the previous regime’s superhero slate with the Dec. 20 release of “Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom.” Because Warner Bros. chiefs Pam Abdy and Mike De Luca joined the studio in June 2022, followed by Gunn and Safran’s entrance four months later on, the four have been saddled with DC duds they inherited, which include this year’s “The Flash” ($271 million all over the world) and “Blue Beetle” ($128 million throughout the world).
Nonetheless, the “Aquaman” sequel held promise taking into consideration that the character’s to start with outing acquired $1.15 billion around the world, getting to be the maximum-grossing DC movie ever. But resources say the sequel has endured issues exterior of the Read saga and was tests in the 60s before becoming recut in the summer time of 2022. Inspite of the overhaul, the film continued to test in the 60s, prompting a new minimize. “The movie is like this echo of regimes,” states one insider. “It’s the past remnant of the Snyderverse, and no a person truly wishes to choose ownership of it.” Reshoots took location right up until finally this year’s WGA strike in May well. The on-set supply disputes the plan that “Aquaman 2” is troubled, noting that the movie was on time, less than finances and needed only about a 7 days of reshoots.
Like “Flash,” “Aquaman” cannot shake its lame duck trappings, with the DC universe having overhauled below new leadership, marking Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s best precedence.
In truth, none of the stars forged by Zack Snyder for 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and 2017’s “Justice League” — such as Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller and Momoa — will reprise their roles in the new DC universe in character. Momoa may perhaps return, just not as Aquaman. Resources say the actor has engaged in talks to participate in Lobo, either in the 2025 reboot “Superman: Legacy,” written and directed by Gunn, or in a standalone film. In a baffling twist, Viola Davis, who played Amanda Waller in equally of the the latest “Suicide Squad” films, will continue to be as that character in the Gunn-Safran DC universe in next year’s Max series “Waller” and potentially in the new “Superman” tentpole. One more outlier is Gunn’s Max series “Peacemaker,” which will be again for a second year with John Cena in the lead.
Meanwhile, there has been some confusion on the sequence front about who is the supreme gatekeeper. Not like the Marvel-Disney relationship in which Marvel controls the inventive procedure and Disney+ basically releases the material, Max is creatively included with the DC slate. Gunn and Safran don’t take pleasure in the same autonomy as Marvel’s Kevin Feige. (A Max source claims the collaboration concerning the DC workforce and Max executives Sarah Aubrey and Casey Bloys has been seamless, such as on the upcoming sequence “The Penguin,” which was compelled to shut down generation immediately after the WGA strike commenced but is anticipated resume capturing as quickly as the SAG-AFTRA strike ends.)
Regardless, some on the lot are confident that another enterprise, most probable Common, will purchase Warner Bros. within two yrs, earning recent DC subplots and upheavals sense quaint.
“The bottom line is they want to get DC to perform irrespective of whether Zaslav owns it, whether Brian Roberts owns it, whether or not somebody else owns it,” states LightShed’s Prosperous Greenfield, a Wall Street analyst and enterprise capitalist.
In the runup to the “Aquaman” sequel, Warner Bros. will outwardly again the movie and hope for a China launch like its “Barbie,” “The Flash” and “Shazam! Fury of the Gods” acquired. Immediately after all, the initially “Aquaman” earned just about $300 million in China alone. But people styles of China quantities are a matter of the past. Neither “Barbie” nor “The Flash” landed everything shut to “Aquaman’s” Center Kingdom haul from 2018, earning $35.1 million and $25.9 million there, respectively.
For now, neither Momoa nor Heard will be endorsing the movie supplied the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. But if the strike finishes soon, now that the WGA has come to conditions, the stars will be junketing, making it complicated for Warner Bros. and Wan to steer clear of Heard’s accusations that her purpose was noticeably lower. At least two Read scenes were being slice from “Aquaman 2” — an motion sequence that uncovered Mera fighting Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and a really like scene with Momoa — according to folks common with the production. Other proof of friction is hiding in basic sight. This summer season, Momoa unfollowed Listened to on Instagram. One particular resource states he even blocked Read from next him.
Turmoil apart, the sequel could possibly just operate at the box workplace. The initial “Aquaman” also was ho-hum in early screening and found its footing in postproduction. A studio supply suggests “Aquaman 2” is following a related trajectory. Early monitoring shows potent fascination and puts the film’s opening on par with the first “Aquaman.”
“Everybody’s down on DC, but there is a opportunity, especially with the confined opposition through the getaway season, that ‘Aquaman’ could continue to perform like gangbusters simply because of absence of product or service,” claims Jeff Bock, a box place of work analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “Sometimes the appropriate movie at the right time is all you need.”