Update on Dec. 7: Author and screenplay writer J.K. Rowling responded to the controversy surrounding Johnny Depp’s casting on her website. “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,” says Rowling.
Faced with a growing list of celebs who have been called out for gender-based violence—including everyone from Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey to Brett Ratner and Jeffrey Tambor—studios have started to take action. Weinstein was fired from his film production company, his name will no longer appear in the credits of Weinstein Company TV shows and films—and, in fact, The Weinstein Company is looking for a new name. Spacey has been literally cut out of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film All the Money in the World and his scenes are being reshot with Christopher Plummer in the lead role. Ratner has been dropped from the Wonder Woman franchise. Tambor is being investigated by Amazon Studios and writers are reportedly considering doing Season 5 of Transparent without the lead actor. But there remains a long list of Hollywood elite who have committed acts of gender-based violence, yet suffered no consequences. Case in point: Johnny Depp.
In case you forgot (or blocked it out), before Depp was in the headlines for his role in the star-studded cast of The Orient Express or the 2017 release of yet another Pirates of the Caribbean film that no one asked for, he was making news for battering his wife Amber Heard. The abuse allegations surfaced when Heard filed for divorce from Depp in May 2016, citing the star’s “verbally and physically abusive” behaviour in court documents. Heard submitted photos during court proceedings that showed her face bruised and swollen on different occasions—including a bruise sustained when Depp threw a cellphone at her face. A video later surfaced showing Depp angrily shouting at Heard and hitting the phone out of her hand. Depp’s former manager further confirmed the star’s violent behaviour and abuse of Heard.
Ugh, like for real, why is this happening? Depp and Heard’s divorce was finalized this January and apparently, at the same time, studio execs got Men In Black-style memory erased. Despite his documented violent behaviour, he continues to land major roles. The latest? The Crimes of Grindelwald, a.k.a. the sequel to the Harry Potter spin-off franchise Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Depp was introduced as villain Gellert Grindelwald, the series’ villain, at the end of the first film, which hit theatres in November 2016. But one year later, our cultural approach to white male privilege is (thankfully) in a pretty different place post-Weinstein—and the release of The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer has not been met with the typical fanfare, with some social media users instead expressing deep disappointment over seeing Depp in the title role.
Why are we letting Johnny Depp still be a thing
— Ash Crossan (@AshCrossan) November 16, 2017
I wholeheartedly agree that Johnny Depp is a fantastic beast. However, I wish I did not know where to find him. https://t.co/WcjBZCmb7A
— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) November 16, 2017
Don’t forget: the main crime of Grindelwald is that Johnny Depp is a domestic abuser! https://t.co/Ghznpf60xO
— Aliza (“uh-lee-zah” not Eliza) (@AlizaTweets) November 16, 2017
New key art has just been released for Fantastic Beasts 2 pic.twitter.com/32p5Yctd7c
— Andrew Sims aka The Sims (@sims) November 16, 2017
The teaser itself gives viewers very little indication of what the new film might entail, but Depp’s presence overshadows any potential for excitement. One user summed up my frustrated feels about this situation with this tweet:
I legitimately love everything about this. Except the fact that Johnny Depp is still Grindelwald pic.twitter.com/BYLDim0qSp
— #1 REYndeer Stan (@SKYWALKERSWlFT) November 16, 2017
Author J.K. Rowling remained silent on the matter until recently (see update above for her Dec. 7 response), despite numerous fans angrily @-ing her on Twitter, and it appears that Warner Brothers has no intention of pulling a Ridley Scott and recasting Depp. A reminder: Scott and his team have committed to completely replacing Spacey less than two months before the film hits theatres. The Crimes of Grindelwald will not be released until NEXT NOVEMBER. Also, Depp’s character, Gellert Grindelwald is disguised for the entire first movie as Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves thanks to polyjuice potion. Perhaps a bit of polyjuice could’ve been the solution for keeping Depp out of the following movies. Wouldn’t that be magical? And yet, the actor is signed on for the entire five-part film series.
If Ridley Scott can fire Kevin Spacey, after filming an entire movie with him and voluntarily reshooting it a month before release, then y’all can do the same thing w Johnny Depp bc you still have a year to go #FantasticBeasts pic.twitter.com/yaK93VMgc1
— manda saw JL and is an even bigger batshill (@amxndasantino) November 16, 2017
Similar comments have been made about actors like Mel Gibson, who is currently starring in Daddy’s Home 2.
— Julie S. Lalonde (@JulieSLalonde) November 10, 2017
I’m so glad movies starring Mel Gibson, Mark Wahlberg, and Johnny Depp can still make millions because I’d hate to think anyone had learned a single fucking thing.
— Mary Beth Williams (@embeedub) November 13, 2017
I’m not going to lie, following the exposure of Depp’s domestic abuse, it was easy for me to boycott Pirates of the Caribbean because that film franchise has devolved into big-budget boredom. But I did recently see Murder on the Orient Express. With an ensemble cast of fantastic actors ranging from Judi Dench to Josh Gad, Depp single-handedly brought the film down, not because of his acting but because I no longer have any desire to see him on screen or IRL. So considering an entire film with his character’s name in the actual title? I think I’ll take a hard pass, even if the studios won’t.