The Crimes of Johnny Depp

Last year, I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would, having not assumed that I was in the target audience for a Harry Potter prequel/spin-off. In fact, I liked it so much that I found myself pretty invested in the next movie in the planned five-part series.

Except there was a bit of a catch. See, Fantastic Beasts was based on a novelty in-universe tie-in book which was itself spun out of a textbook glancingly mentioned in the first Harry Potter novel (because Hollywood is a shining cauldron of pure, unfiltered creativity) and mostly told a self-contained story about a lovable buffoon chasing some monsters around New York. Then, right at the end, it turned into an epic Harry Potter prequel detailing a confrontation with an evil wizard that was discussed during the action of the main Harry Potter books. It did so by introducing this character, Gellert Grindelwald:


I want to assure you that this is the least ridiculous image of him I could find; in the actual movie, he looks even more like a boiled egg with a porcupine taped to it.

So that was kind of discouraging, especially since Grindelwald had been played (kind of) by Colin Farrell up until that point, who seemed way more like a proper villain and didn't look like a boiled egg. I was kind of hoping that J-Ro and the film's producers would quietly retcon this disastrous bit of character design for the sequel and just lock Farrell in for the next four movies. Alas, it was not to be: the second movie has been given a (incredibly stupid) title and a first image, which confirms that egg-Grindelwald is still part of the plan.

Now, back when the first movie came out, there was another reason why people were disgruntled with all of this: Grindelwald was played by Johnny Depp, whose then-estranged (now-former) wife Amber Heard claimed had beaten and abused her. At the time, this was met with the sort of reaction from the wider public that celebrity "scandals" usually were: a brief spike of outrage, and then almost everyone more or less forgot about it. Hell, I didn't even think to mention it in my review of the movie; one of my blog readers brought it to my attention.

But that was then. You might have noticed that things have changed in the last month and a half.

To say that Hollywood is cleaning house would be inaccurate (Brett Rattner doesn't seem to have suffered any consequences yet), but powerful, once-untouchable men are having their careers ended more or less overnight due to allegations of sexual abuse and harassment. This has even taken the form of a major role in a fully-shot movie being recast, something that would have seemed unthinkable before. And given the new climate, a lot of people are figuratively glancing at Depp's involvement in the Fantastic Beasts movies and saying "Nice franchise you've got there, be a shame if anything were to happen to it" while leaning against a doorframe and chewing a toothpick in a vaguely threatening manner.

On one hand, this makes perfect sense; most of the allegations against Weinstein, Spacey etc revolve around events from years or even decades ago, so if they should be held accountable for those actions then Depp absolutely should be as well for something he is alleged to have done last May. I think this is where the majority of the outrage stems from.

But on the flipside, after trawling the Harry Potter fandom circles a bit, I can't help but suspect that there's a significant portion of people calling for Depp's firing who don't actually care about his abuse, and just see a potential opportunity to boot him and his goofy-ass hair from the franchise going forward. Which, if true, would be terrible. I'm of the opinion that "fandom" as a capital-t Thing has a strong tendency to be really toxic and negative as an online social force, but co-opting a revolution in how we respond to sexual and physical abuse in the entertainment industry would be a new low.

As for my own opinion, I absolutely think that Warner should have ditched Depp when Heard's allegations first came to light, but that they are probably not going to. It would have been extremely easy to do before the first movie came out--Depp is in it for all of thirty seconds and his involvement had been kept secret until days before the movie came out--whereas his role in The Crimes of Grindelwald (ugh) is probably far more substantial. It's not too late, the movie is still a year away and probably has the vast majority of its post-production left, but I don't think they'll do it.

And because of that, I won't be paying to see the movie when it comes out. I'd encourage anyone reading this not to, either.