Actress Amber Heard has a movie coming out this weekend that will be new to theatres and mass audiences, but for her it’s actually quite old.
‘London Fields’, an adaptation of a 1989 Martin Amis mystery, has been in some stage of development for almost 20 years. Heard didn’t get involved until 2013, with music video director Matthew Cullen at the helm, but the roadblocks and behind the scenes drama had only just begun.
The film was abruptly pulled from the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 (after some critics had already seen it) when Cullen sued the producers over a dispute about payment and the final cut, which set off a string of countersuits. Producers even sued Heard for $10 million (Dh36.72 million), which she countered with a suit that claimed the production had violated her nudity agreement by using a body double.
It would take until September, five years after cameras started rolling, for the producers to settle, and now the film is finally rolling out its global release.
“Can you imagine what it would be like for you to talk about an article that you wrote or a piece you did five years ago?” Heard, 32, said.
She can barely relate to the person who did this a half decade ago, when she was in her 20s and newly married to her now ex-husband Johnny Depp, who has a small role in the film.
“All of those factors have changed,” she said. “It’s been so long.”
She can’t quite recall which version she’s last seen of the movie which co-stars Billy Bob Thornton, Theo James and Jim Sturgess, although she does still find her character Nicola Six interesting.
“You can make different cases for her being empowered or disempowered,” Heard said of the clairvoyant femme fatale who’s also trapped by an idea that, “death is preferable to the decline of youthful female sexuality.”
Overall, Heard is happy that ‘London Fields’ is finally coming out and says that the issues that have kept it out of theatres “are behind us now,” but that she would have been, “Much happier had the film come out three years ago.”
She said it was “unfortunate” and “very wrong” that she was sued and is glad that they were able to settle and that she ultimately didn’t have to pay any money.
“But it’s very important for a female actress or any woman to be able to exercise her own control over her own body and her image,” Heard added. “I’m glad that the version of the movie being released is supposedly respectful ... with regards specifically to nudity and my nudity agreement. But again, those issues are in the past.”
“In the past” is a phrase that Heard repeats often and the release of ‘London Fields’ helps to close a chapter in her life, and allows her to focus on the future, her humanitarian work following the December release of her most high-profile film to date, the DC comic book movie ‘Aquaman’ in which she starred opposite Jason Momoa as Mera, a sea queen with Little Mermaid-red hair (she was introduced in a small appearance in “Justice League”).
It took some convincing for her to make that uncharacteristic leap. “I’m not that kind of girl,” Heard remembered telling the producers.
“There’s a reason I’ve done probably a lot of bad things in my life with regard to films,” she said. “I’ve struggled and tried to make my way through this business and I haven’t had the luxury to be picky, like most people who start off in the figurative mail room, but there’s one thing I’ve avoided, and it’s being relegated to the archetypal, reactionary woman ... I’ve never been a rom-com princess.”
She even remembered rolling her eyes when the producers described Mera as a “badass,” but she decided to read a comic book (her first ever) to see what the fuss was about, and found in Mera an unapologetic warrior queen who she was actually interested in.
Heard has been throwing herself into her humanitarian work and activism. She went to Washington DC last year to show her support for survivors on the day Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavagnaugh was confirmed in October and finished up a stretch speaking at the One Young World Summit in The Hague.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to use what experience I’ve lived and endured, suffered, survived through,” she said. “It’s amazing to be able to use one’s experiences in life to help others, to help push the conversation forward, to change the conversation.”
Heard won’t get very specific with her own past as it relates to Depp. The actress accused Depp of domestic violence and in 2016 filed for a restraining order days after filing for divorce after 15 months of marriage. Depp has repeatedly denied the allegations, and police officers called to their apartment after a fight between the couple said they found no evidence of a crime. Ultimately, Heard got a $7 million settlement when the divorce was finalised in January 2017, which she pledged to donate to a pair of charities.
However, the drama was far from over; Depp has now sued Heard for defamation, seeking $50 million.
The actor’s lawyers filed the defamation suit against Heard on March 1 over her December 18, 2018 op-ed in The Washington Post in which she characterised herself as a domestic abuse victim.
Depp’s lawsuit calls Heard’s allegations of domestic violence against him a “hoax”.
Heard “purported to write from the perspective of ‘a public figure representing domestic abuse’ and claimed that she ‘felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out’ when she ‘spoke up against sexual violence’,” Depp’s lawyers stated in the lawsuit.
“The op-ed depended on the central premise that Heard was a domestic abuse victim and that Depp perpetrated domestic violence against her.
“Depp never abused Heard. Her allegations against him were false when they were made in 2016. They were part of an elaborate hoax to generate positive publicity for Heard and advance her career,” Depp’s lawyers said in the lawsuit.
In response, Heard’s representative said: “This frivolous action is just the latest of Johnny Depp’s repeated efforts to silence Amber Heard. She will not be silenced. Depp’s actions prove he is unable to accept the truth of his ongoing abusive behaviour.
“But while he appears hell-bent on achieving self destruction, we will prevail in defeating this groundless lawsuit and ending the continued vile harassment of my client by Depp and his legal team.”
When asked if she has felt supported and listened to in the past few years, and in light of the #MeToo movement, Heard again looked to the future.
“I am very happy that I have moved on with my life and keep moving on with my life,” she said. “I just keep wanting to do with my life that which makes it better for other people and myself. And doing the right thing and moving forward and dedicating yourself to justice, truth, to doing what’s right and helping others when you can — that’s everything to me. That’s all I’m interested in.