One year and 11 days ago, I wrote a letter to Johnny Depp informing him of our break-up. I had just seen the first installment of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and had been jolted out of a magical evening when Colin Farrell suddenly morphed into a Johnny Depp with frosted tips, revealing the man who would portray Gellert Grindelwald for the rest of the franchise.
People obviously shared my distaste at being confronted with a man accused of domestic abuse in what is supposed to be a safe and cherished universe. But despite a vigorous social media campaign to have him replaced, Warner Bros. reiterated its support for Depp when they re-confirmed his presence in the sequel last month. Character stills from the upcoming film, called Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, show Depp resting casually to the side, rocking the same horrible frosted tips.
Today, veteran Harry Potter director David Yates, who directed the first Fantastic Beasts and will also helm the sequel, defended casting the actor.
“Honestly, there’s an issue at the moment where there’s a lot of people being accused of things, they’re being accused by multiple victims, and it’s compelling and frightening,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something. I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He’s full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see. Whatever accusation was out there doesn’t tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.”
Let's unpack that statement. Basically, Yates is saying that unlike in the case of Harvey Weinstein, or the many other men accused of sexual assault or harassment in recent weeks, Depp has only been accused by one person: his ex-wife, Amber Heard. (Depp denied the allegations.)
Yates, it's worth noting, appears to be conflating a reckoning that's taking place in society around sexual misconduct with an allegation of domestic abuse. And, while it's true that other women in Depp's life have come forward to speak of their own positive experiences with him, Heard's allegations aren't uncorroborated. In an essay for Refinery29, writer and friend iO Tillett Wright confirmed Heard's version of events, having placed the 9-1-1 call. A Los Angeles judge granted Heard a temporary restraining order, and several court documents appear to prove the validity of her story.
Still, Yates knows the man, and can like him on a personal level. That's his business. But by going ahead with his casting, and defending him in public, he's making a choice. He's choosing to ignore substantial allegations against an actor who will be holding a major role in a major movie franchise. He's choosing to send a message to the men and women who love this franchise and what it stands for that their opinions don't matter. Grindelwald only makes a minor physical appearance in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It would have been easy to replace him. These are the people who were able to re-cast DUMBLEDORE after Richard Harris died post-Chamber of Secrets. Are you telling me they wouldn't be unable to find a suitable replacement and pass it off as some magical potion gone awry?
Crimes of Grindelwald, however, literally bears his name. Not even Jude Law's Dumbledore can obliviate that way.