It was not San Diego Comic-Con’s finest moment.
Just to clarify, we don’t mean the new Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailer — for the most part, that was a thrilling and welcome return to the Harry Potter universe. But it was nearly eclipsed by the surprise appearance of Johnny Depp, who appeared near the end of Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts panel to deliver a monologue in character as the dark wizard Grindelwald.
Depp’s appearance was followed only an hour later by Warner Bros.’ Aquaman panel in the same room, which featured his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard. The pair reportedly did not cross paths, but the proximity between the two events caused online backlash towards the studio and convention organizers alike.
Depp’s casting in the Harry Potter franchise has drawn criticism from across the Potter fandom, especially once it was made clear that the actor would remain tied to the films even after allegations of him physically abusing Heard went public. Fantastic Beasts creator and writer J.K. Rowling has since gone on record saying she was “genuinely happy” with Depp’s involvement with the series — which didn’t go over well with many people, including her staff at Pottermore and Heard herself. The controversy kept brewing when news broke that Depp allegedly punched someone on the City of Lies set last year.
And it’s a damn shame that Depp’s involvement continues to be a lightning rod for this series, especially since there’s so much here for fans to be genuinely excited about. Besides Depp, the new Fantastic Beasts trailer was a treasure trove of easter eggs: young Newt! More young Dumbledore! Leta Lestrange! The Mirror of Erised (stoking even further speculation over Dumbledore’s sexuality)! The Elder Wand! Nicolas Flamel!
The internet already has a few ideas as to how to sidestep Depp’s casting (it’s literally a magical world, the possibilities are there), but it remains to be seen how the studio and Rowling intend to respond to this latest round of backlash, if at all. As it stands, it’s tough to get so excited for something that leaves us feeling so...conflicted.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Johnny Depp allegedly punched someone on the Fantastic Beasts set last year. The set where the incident reportedly occurred is actually City of Lies.