London Fields is the film adaptation of a Martin Amis novel. The oft-celebrated author is not without controversy, with his frequently questionable depictions of female characters leading to them being called ‘plastic’. David Cronenberg was originally going to adapt this story of a clairvoyant femme fatale and her tangled love life with three different men, but he decided to do A History of Violence instead. This film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. In 2012. So that’s the warning sign you need.
The narrative around this film has been similarly tempestuous. Amber Heard, the star, was actually sued by the producers in 2016 for $10m, with claims that she made unauthorized changes to the script and failed to complete voice-over work. She countersued, claiming said producers broke a nudity clause in her contract.
But this post is not really about the trailer, which is badly constructed, suggests a cheaply made movie and a deeply unpleasant experience. Heard plays a male fantasy vixen who knows she is going to die soon, and has men swooning over her like fucksick puppies. There really seems no point in discussing such a film because we know it won’t be good and the chances are the release will be very limited (given the gap between its festival premiere and its release, my guess is this film is getting dumped out of a contractual obligation). The moment you see Depp in that hat and the misspelling of Jim Sturgess’s name, you know nobody in this movie gave a shit.
There is something I want to talk about, and that is what this trailer, and its release being when it is, tells us about Amber Heard. And Johnny Depp.
The moment I and the rest of the Pajiba Slack team saw the trailer, I think we all had the same feeling of sadness. We know how those who view Amber Heard in negative terms will look at such a trailer and how it will play into misogynistic ideas of how they perceive the actress and ex-wife of Depp. Oh look, there she is once again playing the vixen, the unattainable beauty, the absolute stone cold bitch who ruins men’s lives. How on earth can she play such a character? A woman who wields sex as a weapon? Obviously this is based on her real life! And why would she star in a film with a man she says abused her? Clearly she’s lying, right?!
I’m being a touch facetious here, but given the way Heard has been widely lambasted by large swaths of the media and fandoms centred on her ex, none of this is an exaggeration.
Amber Heard has never been an acclaimed actress. She’s put in good work but her persona has been most strikingly defined in terms of her sex appeal. She’s a stunning beauty in the Angelina Jolie vein of Hollywood glamour, and one of the few openly bisexual leading women in a business that is simultaneously oversexed and puritanical. When she got together with Depp, a man who had just split with the mother of his two children, she bore the brunt of the blame. Never mind that Depp was the one to walk or that the image of a man with a woman 22 years his junior said more about him than it did her. The media message was that she was the gold-digger, the opportunist who was using a beloved icon to get ahead in her career. The pair were in two projects together: The Rum Diaries, where they first met, and London Fields.
This film comes out at a time when Depp remains incredibly powerful, but with a public image that’s become dented beyond recognition. He looks like shit, his acting has gone to shit, his reputation is shit, his finances are in shit, but people keep employing him. He hasn’t put in a truly great performance in years, his box office receipts aren’t what they used to be, but J.K. Rowling is still delighted to have him on board for the next Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film. Depp is not untouchable, but there is a system in place insistent on that still being the case.
Heard will be in Aquaman later this year, and has plenty of work lined up. She has never stopped working. She has 23 credits to her name over the past decade, she has her own money and she has her own career prospects. Yet still, the image of her as the trophy wife/bad actress continues. Spend some time on the edit section of her Wikipedia page to see an example of how some refuse to believe she isn’t the greatest liar alive (while also simultaneously being the world’s worst actress, by some absolute miracle). For the rest of her working life, Amber Heard will be categorized as the ex-wife of Johnny Depp, and no matter how far he sinks, he’ll always retain that Hollywood glimmer she never got. He gets big A-Lister defenders on his side while she is smeared as the devious bisexual; he remains the great talent of the industry, despite little to prove that claim over the past decade, while she can work overtime and struggle to get past ‘sex symbol’ stage; a terrible movie like London Fields will be but a blip on Depp’s radar, a minor oopsie he took out of sympathy for his then-wife, while it’ll be used to further prove some nonsense conspiracy against Heard.
I’m not sure what I’m trying to get at here, to be honest. It’s been over a year since Heard divorced Depp and those pictures of her bruised face went viral, along with that video of Depp drinking heavily, throwing things at and verbally abusing his wife. It hasn’t been very long since Depp’s own lawyers admitted they knew what had happened between the pair. It’s been less than a year since J.K. Rowling publicly defended Depp, forcing Heard to respond.
Everything changes and everything stays the same. Amber Heard deserves better.