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Is It Okay To Cast Johnny Depp In ‘Fantastic Beasts’?

Let’s just jump right in here and say no. No, it is not alright to cast a man who was accused (and photographic and video evidence was presented) of him verbally and physically assaulted his wife back in May of this year in a beloved fictional world that centres around an abused and vulnerable child (Harry Potter).

This week it was revealed that Johnny Depp will be taking on the role of evil wizard Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them series starring Eddie Redmayne. And unsurprisingly, fans of the series were not happy as Twitter imploded with some very valid points about the casting news.

While JK Rowling has yet to respond to the thousands of comments she’s received pleading her to remove him from the franchise, others have pointed out that the news is complicated by the fact that Depp has a cameo in the first film, due out in three weeks, which he likely filmed prior to the alleged abuse and subsequent divorce. But let’s be real – that all went down back in May and a ‘cameo’ implies it’s a fleeting and possibly negligent scene, designed to set up a plotline in later films. Warner Brothers have had five months to recast and shoot or even just cut the scene completely and recast for the following films. But they didn’t. You have to wonder, did the studio not expect a backlash? Were they hoping to have everyone pay into the film before revealing it stars a man who was forced to give $7 million to two domestic abuse charities as part fo his divorce settlement? How can they be that forgiving, and more importantly, did they really think Harry Potter and general movie fans would be that forgiving?

What also got us thinking is Mel Gibson. Following a vicious anti-Semitic slur in 2006, he was completely blacklisted from Hollywood for almost a decade, only returning this year with an expected Best Director nod for Hacksaw Ridge. Ditto for John Galliano and his Hitler-loving rant in 2011 – he was fired from Dior and his eponymous brand crumbled under the weight of the fashion industry’s disgust. These are fair and understandable reactions. But casting Johnny Depp in a universe that has focused on the triumph of good over tyrants, a mere five months after his wife was left with a bruised face following an altercation with him? This is at worst a blatant and at best an oblivious affront to domestic abuse victims everywhere and a complete ignorance of what the Harry Potter world is all about – equality, anti-oppression and activism. It also points to Hollywood being far more tolerant of the abuse of women but not anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

Johnny Depp is rumoured to be playing Grindelwald in the upcoming "Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them".

Johnny Depp is rumoured to be playing Grindelwald in the upcoming “Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them”.

However, there does seem to be signs of a changing time. If studio heads thought there wouldn’t be much of a response to the Depp news, they have been proved very wrong. Many publications, as well as fans, have expressed discomfort at the casting and it is being portrayed as a controversy rather than a tidbit of movie news. Perhaps Warner Bros should have paid more attention to how the rape allegations laid against Birth of a Nation director Nate Parker have buried what was initially tipped to be a Best Film and Best Director Oscar win, never mind a nomination. The alleged college campus rape (of which Parker was later cleared) and the victim’s later suicide has dogged the film’s global tour, leading to female lead (and sexual assault victim) Gabrielle Union saying she understood why people “don’t want to see the film” and its Oscar hype-train coming to a complete standstill.

Here’s hoping Warner Bros hear the concertina of voices criticising the Depp casting and consider recasting him for the imminent sequels. If they don’t, this is sure to be the topic with which the entire catalogue will be painted – no doubt an element the squeeky-clean Eddie Redmayne and JK Rowling could do without.

And needless to say, Dumbledore would not have fancied Johnny Depp.

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