Here’s why Warner Bros. cannot fire Amber Heard for being abusive towards Johnny Depp

While there has been widespread controversy and fan-made petitions, Warner Bros. cannot fire Amber Heard or ask her to quit Aquaman 2, the way Johnny Depp was asked to leave Fantastic Beasts 3


By Cutacut Editorial Team

KARACHI: While there has been a growing tension and widespread fan movement that has come out in support of Johnny Depp, advocating for Amber Heard to be replaced in Aquaman 2, Warner Bros. is not in the position to fire the actress or ask her to quit as they did in Johnny Depp’s case for Fantastic Beasts 3. The reason for this is due to the legalities involved in the case. The fact has only caused more turmoil among fans and escalated an already tense situation.

What set the whole controversy in motion was the tumultuous divorce the couple had in 2016 where Amber Heard claimed Depp had been physically abusive towards her when he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Depp denied the charges and a police investigation ensued, which also could not find any evidence of the crime occurring. Heard was given $7 million as part of the divorce settlement which she later donated to charity. Following which, the former spouses even came together for a joint statement where the described their relationship as “intensely passionate and at times volatile” while affirming that there had been no intention of physical or mental harm from either of the sides and that none of the sides made any kind of “false accusations for financial gain” as reported by ScreenRant.

The divorce was finalized in January 2017, after which Depp was announced to be taking Geralt Grindelwald’s role for the Fantastic Beasts series. The battle began soon after this.

Soon after he was cast, Johnny Depp and Warner Bros. suffered a major backlash. The studio, David Yates and J. K. Rowling came to Depp’s defense and pointed to the police investigation and the joint statement to prove his innocence. However, Amber Heard took the opportunity to point out how the statement agreed she had not said anything untruthful to benefit financially, which implies that Depp did admit to the truth of her allegations of domestic abuse. While Depp had also put allegations of abuse on Amber Heard, his statements were not public and were mostly made through court documents.

 

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Amber Heard then went on to write an editorial where she described her status as a public figure that had suffered domestic abuse. Published in The Washington Post in 2018, the article did not mention Depp by name. However, Depp responded to the article by filing a $50 million civil suit against Heard in March 2019. He also filed another civil suit against The Sun, a British Newspaper that explicitly referred to him as a “wife-beater”. It was this case that resolved in such a way that it led to Depp’s resignation from the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

According to the legal system in the UK, the burden of proof lies on the journalist who has to prove they were only operating in good faith and that their reporting was accurate. Due to this, their courts tend to generally be more favorable towards the person who files the suit against investigative journalists. In this case, however, The Sun beat all odds and of the 14 instances of abuse that were alleged by Amber Heard in their paper, the burden of proof was satisfied for 12, in the legal view of Judge Nicol. Even though the case has had no effect on Depp’s personal defamation suit against Heard, it was still a huge blow to his public image. This made Warner Bros. wary about casting Depp in their upcoming films.

While the clauses of Depp’s contract with Warner Bros. are not known in much detail, it is not unusual for big film stars to have legal protection against getting fired except under specific circumstances, which includes criminal charges being filed again them. Hence, Depp could not be fired because the nature of his case was a civil one, and not criminal. He could only be asked to resign provided he was paid his salary in full, which ultimately happened and he was paid $10 million by the studio.

After his resignation, however, a movement picked up pace seeking to get Amber Heard removed from playing Mera in any films from the DC franchise. This was in the wake of a key piece of an audio recording of a phone conversation between Amber Heard and Johnny Depp where she admits to assaulting him while Depp’s responses to her sounded like he was trying to prevent any further violence between them. Fans have been holding on to this evidence to prove how Heard was abusive in the relationship too, and there could have been a possibility that Depp only responded in self-defense.

 

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According to ScreenRant, the petition to fire Heard from Aquaman 2 has received over 1 million signatures, but Warner Bros. cannot fire Amber Heard because it is impossible for the studio to break their contract with an actor unless there have been criminal charges filed against them. While the public may have found her guilty, there has not even been a civil judgment against her. Due to this, she cannot be asked to step down from her role, let alone be fired.

The silver lining here is the on-going civil case Depp has filed against Amber Heard and the situation might change if Amber is proven guilty and Depp proves her abuse against him as well as that his acts were in self-defense. Until then the fact remains that Amber Heard will play Mera in Aquaman 2, and Johnny Depp will not be seen as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 3.

 

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