01:59 GMT30 November 2020
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    Fans of Johnny Depp were outraged to learn that the actor has been forced to exit the Fantastic Beasts franchise after being asked by Warner Bros to step down from his role as the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald following a decision by a UK court to decline Depp's defamation lawsuit over being labelled a "wife-beater" by The Sun.

    Amber Heard, 34, has spoken out to denounce the allegedly “paid” social media campaign employing Twitter “bots” to “smear and harass” her with the ultimate aim of having her fired from the role of Mera in a sequel to Aquaman.

    Earlier, the actress had confirmed she had been cast to appear in Aquaman 2, after the original 2018 movie grossed over $887 million at the box office, becoming the most successful film in the DC Extended Universe franchise.

    “Paid rumours and paid campaigns on social media don't dictate [casting decisions] because they have no basis in reality. Only the fans actually made Aquaman and Aquaman 2 happen. I'm excited to get started next year,” Heard was quoted as saying by Entertainment Weekly.

    Heard had spoken out publicly for the first time since her ex-husband Depp lost his High Court libel case against The Sun this month over being labelled a “wife beater”.

    After the US film star lost his court libel battle against his former wife and was subsequently asked by Warner Bros to resign from his role as the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the "Fantastic Beasts" movie franchise, Depp’s fans lashed out at Heard.

    ​A petition was launched, seeking to have Warner Bros, the film’s distributor, drop Heard from her role as the undersea queen in the Jason Momoa-led superhero flick, with over a million signatures gathered since the studio required Depp to step down from the Harry Potter spin-off.

    ​Accusing her ex-husband of orchestrating the “online smear campaign” to deny her the coveted role in the sequel to the movie that globally outgrossed a long list of comic book adaptations, and allegedly have her fired as a model for L’Oréal, Amber Heard is suing Depp for $100 million (£76 million), writes The Times.

    Heard claims that Depp’s Hollywood lawyer Adam Waldman “is publicly associated with Russian individuals with the capability to organise such attacks”.

    According to Amber Heard, Warner Bros had disregarded the social media abuse and gone ahead with recasting her in Aquaman.

    “I’m super excited about the amount of fan love and the amount of fan appreciation that Aquaman has acquired and that it has garnered so much excitement for Aquaman and Mera that it means we’ll be coming back.”

    In a continuation of the protracted court battle between the former Hollywood couple, Heard is counter-suing Depp, best known as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, in the US.

    The legal action was taken after his $50 million libel claim against Heard over an article she wrote for The Washington Post.

    In a US court document cited by The Times, Heard’s lawyers are reportedly claiming that Depp “is attempting to defame Ms Heard and interfere with her reputation, career and livelihood through an online smear campaign he has organised and orchestrated”.

    They also allege the actor referred to his ex-spouse as a “disgusting pig”, an “inhuman scum-filled sickfish”, laying “the groundwork for the smear campaign he spearheads today”.

    Johnny Depp’s legal team and the actor himself have denied any involvement in “creating a Russian bot army”.

    “Amber Heard and her confederates don’t like the looming consequences of her notorious abuse hoax. Lies often require new lies to survive. So Ms Heard and her legal brain trust recently hatched a new harebrained scheme,” Depp’s lawyer was cited as saying.

    Netizens have been continuing to weigh in on the continuing legal wrangling between the glamorous former couple. The reaction to the latest twist in the Heard-Depp saga was split. Some were genuinely upset over the petition, seeking to have the actress dropped from the Aquaman sequel.

    ​Many took the actress’s side, urging Depp fans to acknowledge that he is an “abuser”.

    ​However, a great many fans went online to express support for Johnny Depp and deplore the fact he had been dropped from the Fantastic Beasts franchise. They also recalled how Depp had insisted that it was Heard who was violent toward him, accusing her of fabricating her injuries and complaints.

    ​Other netizens suggested Warner Bros take the petition into consideration.

    ​Amber Heard first alleged domestic abuse at the hands of Johnny Depp in 2013 and in 2016, with the actor repeatedly slamming the accusations and testifying in court that it was his ex-wife who was regularly violent towards him.

    Related:

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    Johnny Depp Thanks Fans as Defamation Suit Against Ex-Wife Amber Heard Delayed Again
    Johnny Depp Loses Libel Battle Against The Sun As Judge Declares Amber Heard Was Not A 'Gold-Digger'
    Johnny Depp Fans in Twitter War With Amber Heard as They Accuse Her of 'Lies and Manipulations'
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    smear campaign, Harry Potter, Harry Potter, Johnny Depp, Amber Heard
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