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Over the weekend, the 37-year-old actress attended the Taormina Film Festival in Taormina, Italy, where her film In the Fire had its international premiere. She wore a black belted dress for the occasion complemented by a bright red lip.
She posed with a big smile for photos and selfies with fans as she promoted the project. Set in the 1890s, she plays the role of a widowed New York psychiatrist who travels to South America to treat a child people think is possessed by the devil.
However, Heard, who has been vilified in the wake of the trial, was careful in her selecting her interviews, answering questions for Variety by email — and taking none about Depp. She did speak to celebrity-friendly People on the carpet, keeping it to the topic of the Conor Allyn-directed film, which she said is "a movie about love" and "the overwhelming power that love has."
Heard told Deadline, "I’m in control for the most part of what comes out of my mouth. What I’m not in control is how my pride in this project and all we put into this film can be surrounded by clips of other stuff. That’s a big thing I had to learn, that I’m not in control of stories other people create around me... Right now, I just kind of want to not have, you know, stones thrown at me so much. So let’s get the elephant out of the room then, and just let me say that. I am an actress. I’m here to support a movie. And that’s not something I can be sued for."
That said, she made it clear she wanted her career to be the focus of the conversation, saying, "It might not be obvious to other people, but I’ve been acting my whole adult life, since I was 16. As crazy as it sounds to say, that means I have decades in this industry. I’m not telling you I have this amazing film career, but what I have is something that I’ve made, myself, and it has given me a lot to be able to contribute. The odds of that in this industry are really improbably but somehow, here I am. I think I’ve earned respect for that to be its own thing. That’s substantial enough. What I have been through, what I’ve lived through, doesn’t make my career at all. And it’s certainly not gonna stop my career.”
Pascal Borno, who produced the film, told Variety that there were concerns, from festival organizers as well as In the Fire producers, ahead of Heard's appearance that there would be demonstrations by Depp supporters at the event. He had to persuade the Italian police to provide extra security amid the online threats Heard has received.
“They took it seriously and afterwards I promised them selfies with Amber,” Borno said.
The reception toward Heard, also from tourists and paparazzi, was positive, which was a relief to her co-stars, who flanked her at the event.
“I was relieved to see how they shouted for her," said Italian actor Luca Calvani, who also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. "After all the stuff being yelled online at this beautiful human being."
Production of In the Fire took place in between Depp losing his libel case against a U.K. tabloid that called him a "wife beater" in 2020, which featured Heard testifying against him, and last year's U.S. defamation trial, which saw Depp emerge largely victorious. Heard actually left the production, in Guatemala at the time, to attend the Virginia trial over her 2018 Washington Post op-ed about surviving sexual and domestic violence.
“The trial was looming over us," Calvani said of making In the Fire, which also shot in Italy. "We felt the gravity of this huge media machine building against all of us, and the camaraderie of the shoot felt like a good distraction."
Allyn, who met Heard a few years before she was cast in this film, said she "was amazing in front of the camera, but also was a partner in crime behind the camera. Once we started shooting, it was from Day One a comfort blanket to have her there. I knew I could point the camera at her, and I would get something good."
Allyn said he hopes this is the start of a "mega-comeback" for Heard, who will also appear in Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom later this year. Calvani added, “Amber is back. She’s great; she is radiant; she’s a good actor and she is resilient.”
Heard has not made a public appearance since last year's ugly defamation trial. For six weeks, the exes, who were married for less than two years (from 2015 to 2017), waged brutal claims against one another in court, including abuse. There was a media frenzy surrounding the trial, including a negative social media narrative about Heard. When the verdict came in on June 1, 2022, jurors largely sided with Depp. He won all three of his claims of defamation and was awarded $10.35 million in damages; Heard won one of her counterclaims against Depp, who was to pay her $2 million.
Depp, who greeted fans going into and of court during the month-plus trial, left the States by the time the verdict came in and publicly celebrating his win in the U.K. The star, who lives in the English countryside, went on to tour with the late Jeff Beck, and plan for his own with the Hollywood Vampires. The father of two also made a cameo in Rihanna's Savage X Fenty fashion show late last year, and attended the Cannes Film Festival in May. His also inked a new deal with Dior, reportedly worth a historic $20 million.
For her part, Heard — after a Dateline interview that swayed none of her critics — moved to Madrid to raise her 2-year-old daughter, Oonagh Paige, out of the spotlight. A paparazzi caught up with her and she flexed her Spanish skills. Despite an online campaign to have her cut from the upcoming Aquaman sequel, she's in it. Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux was among a group of French feminists to recently sign an open letter in support of Heard.