Last year, Johnny Depp’s divorce from Amber Heard took an unexpectedly dark turn when Heard took out a restraining order against Depp, claiming that he was “verbally and physically abusive.” Heard produced photos of a bruise she received when Depp threw a phone at her face, and provided video evidence of his drunken threats and belligerence.
Heard later dropped the case, and the couple released a statement together — but the statement did not refute the accusations outright.
For those of us with no particular loyalty to Depp, it was perhaps the best excuse as any to avoid watching his films in the future.
However, the casting of Depp as Gellert Grindelwald in the highly popular Harry Potter spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has been particularly distressing for Harry Potter fans who are hesitant to support an actor accused of domestic abuse.
Author J.K. Rowling, who is serving as the screenwriter for the series, recently wrote a statement defending the decision to keep Depp in the Grindelwald role for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel.
“When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role,” Rowling writes. “However, around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise.”
“Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role,” Rowling continued. “As David Yates, long-time Potter director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting. I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen.”
Rowling went on to describe how she grappled with keeping silent about the issue, and how frustrating that was.
“The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life. For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected. Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.”
“I’ve loved writing the first two screenplays and I can’t wait for fans to see The Crimes of Grindelwald. I accept that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor in the title role. However, conscience isn’t governable by committee,” Rowling concludes. “Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing.”
Twitter, of course, had some criticisms about the statement, and many were unhappy with the final decision.
It’s unclear whether these rumblings of disdain will ultimately effect the movie’s premiere — but it certainly seems like a wobbly tightrope for filmmakers to walk, all to cast a slightly-past-his-prime actor in a role which could be played by anyone.
Frankly, I’m not sure that the Johnny Depp hill is one that Fantastic Beasts producers should choose die on. But, only the box office reception will convince them of otherwise.