It has been two years since Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released in cinemas when it was revealed in a small cameo at the end of the film that Johnny Depp had been cast as Gellert Grindelwald. Not long after the news broke, fans of Harry Potter and the Fantastic Beasts films franchise were outraged, as this was shortly after the allegations that Depp had abused his ex-wife, Amber Heard.
Afterwards, there were questions surrounding the franchise; would Depp continue to becast? Would Rowling and the director, David Yates, decide to find someone else? This would have been a smart move. We had only seen Depp’s Grindelwald for hardly five seconds before the screen faded to black. Actors have previously been changed or dropped after much more screen time; one example being Jamie Waylett, who played Vincent Crabbe in the Harry Potter films. After being arrested for growing marijuana, it became clear
that Waylett wasn’t going appear in the final Harry Potter films because of it.
However, despite all the controversy surrounding Depp and the recent court case, it became
apparent that casting for Grindelwald would remain the same. Rowling faced backlash and
criticism from fans, who were outraged that she had stuck by her decision to keep him in the
film, despite the allegations. Fans took to Twitter to argue, some saying that Rowling might
not have all the power in the decision. Where it’s true that she has a whole team of people to
work with and heed to, it’s hard to believe that J. K. Rowling, with the whole Harry Potter
empire behind her, would not have overriding influence in regards to casting.
This theory was swiftly debunked when Rowling put out a statement, both on Twitter and her
website, explaining, “When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be
wonderful in the role. 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.” By the end of the statement, it was clear to see that, “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.”
Depp denies all claims of physical and emotional abuse and the case was dropped despite
evidence Amber Heard put forward, including photos of a facial bruise. In the eyes of the
law, he is innocent. In his first interview about the casting Depp claimed that “JK has seen the evidence and therefore knows I was falsely accused. That’s why she has publicly supported me. She doesn’t take things lightly. But ultimately, there is real controversy. The fact remains I was falsely accused, which is why I’m suing the Sun newspaper for defamation for repeating false accusations.”
But is it right to cast an actor with a whole host of abuse allegations on his back as the main
villain in what is one of the most popular movie franchises of all time? With what’s been
happening in the media and Hollywood recently, and the endless stream of women speaking
out about their own abusers, is it not tactless, and downright insulting, to continue to cast
Depp as Grindelwald?