‘Fantastic Beasts’ isn’t going to recast Johnny Depp, and that’s a huge mistake

‘Fantastic Beasts’ isn’t going to recast Johnny Depp, and that’s a huge mistake

 

Image: mashable composite/warner bros./shutterstock

There was a time when Harry Potter fans would have been delighted to see Johnny Depp in their beloved films – heck, there was a time when we didn’t know Depp had abused his ex-wife, and neither of those times is now.

On Thursday, Warner Bros. released the first cast photo for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel, with the shockingly tone-deaf title The Crimes of Grindelwald. Depp and his hideous frosted hair are here to stay; he now plays the titular character, and the film’s title reveal is nothing if not a giant middle finger to Harry Potter fans and audiences around the world.

Mashable first reported on Depp’s questionable casting in 2016, when the announcement “leaked” before the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A carefree and either blissfully or willfully ignorant section of the internet was delighted; but the core of the Harry Potter fandom – a community that preaches tolerance, love, and equality, all of which are espoused in Harry Potter and in J.K. Rowling’s original work – were horrified.

Earlier that year, Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard filed a restraining order and reported multiple incidents of violence Depp perpetrated against her throughout their relationship. So this isn’t a case of “It’s their business” or “She forgave him” – she explicitly didn’t, and she took legal action. Whatever went on between the two of them, there are legal documents detailing Depp as a domestic abuser, and he’s still the most disproportionately overpaid actor in Hollywood.

Depp was locked into the franchise well before The Crimes of Grindelwald began filming, and well before news of his casting leaked so WB could strategically test the waters with fan responses. But it didn’t matter; the studio had made its decision and chose to move forward by locking Depp in for the next four movies and ignoring those hurt by the decision. Grindelwald made a special appearance in the first film and will likely be central not only to its sequel, but to the remaining three movies in the pipeline.

But Hollywood and the world look vastly different now than they did in November 2016; they look different from even a month ago, since news of Harvey Weinstein’s habitual sexual misconduct toppled the first of many dominoes in an archaic industry culture. Since then, women have been coming forward to oust men who behaved inappropriately and abusively, and to dismantle Hollywood’s warped power structure from within.

To put that in perspective, it took less than 24 hours for Louis C.K. to be renounced by HBO, FX, his manager, his publicist, and the distributor of his latest film. C.K. was publicly accused of misconduct on Nov. 9.

Amber Heard spoke out a year ago. Her abuser remains at large.

The thinnest argument for Depp’s continued inclusion in Fantastic Beasts is that he’s already in it. Kevin Spacey was basically headlining All the Money in the World, a film already getting trailers and promo when production elected to cut Spacey and reshoot his role with Christopher Plummer. The Crimes of Grindelwald is still a year away and in production, but some fans (including this one) would rather see a pile of musty old robes play this famous Dark wizard than someone accused of actual crimes.

The Harry Potter films have a remarkable track record with casting retention, but again, this warrants the change. It’s stubborn and bizarre to keep Depp just because they already have him. The actors have always been British, so he was a strange choice to begin with (even a British actor would have been, since Grindelwald is from somewhere in Eastern Europe). At this point, just cast anyone. Cast one of the good ones.

Sadly, the truth of the matter is that Depp is not going to get recast. Come next year, he will be all over posters and promos for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – and he shouldn’t be. There are already fans who plan to skip this movie, and while it won’t likely dent the film’s box office, it’s troubling to see people turn away from Potter when it’s been such a source of comfort and moral fiber over the past 20 years – and to see Potter turn away from them.

To Warner Bros. and other big studios, let this be a lesson: You can choose to turn a blind eye and commit to your egregious decisions, but gone are the days when the public would forgive, forget, and move on. There was a time when an abuser would helm a film franchise and after some angry tweets it would go away.

This is not that time.

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