When Warner Bros. announced Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it was clear the studio had settled on how to proceed with more Harry Potter films without infringing upon what had come before or J.K. Rowling’s authorial intent. Rowling was set as the screenwriter of this brand new prequel franchise, and we’d be getting a new series of films set in the Wizarding World that A. Don’t try to reboot or rework the brilliant Harry Potter saga and B. Offer new insights into characters we only heard about in the original series. A major piece of that puzzle is Gellert Grindelwald, who we only met in flashback in the books and films, but who played a major role in the life of Albus Dumbledore. Casting Grindelwald was of key importance, and for Fantastic Beasts, Warner Bros. and director David Yates settled on Johnny Depp.
While this piece of casting may have been met with glee in 2003, in 2016 it was met with something of a ho-hum response. Depp’s star has faded a bit, and audience interest has waned considerably judging by the box office of his non-Pirates films. Then, in May 2016—six months before the release of Fantastic Beasts—Amber Heard filed for divorce from Depp and obtained a restraining order, claiming Depp had been “verbally and physically abusive” during the entirety of their relationship.
Images of injuries Heard allegedly sustained at the hand of Depp were published in People and a mutual friend wrote an essay corroborating her claims of abuse, but a public battle was waged when Depp’s friend Doug Stanhope published a column claiming she was blackmailing Depp.
In the end, a settlement was reached in the divorce case and Heard donated all of her proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Heard and Depp released a joint statement saying their relationship “was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain.”
So what does this have to do with the Harry Potter franchise? Well, given the allegations of abuse against Depp, some have been calling for the character of Grindelwald to be recast. Now, speaking with EW about the sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Yates has come to Depp’s defense, explaining why the role won’t be recast:
“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. 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.”
Yates goes on to note that many of Depp’s exes, including Vanessa Paradis, Winona Ryder, and Lori Anne Allison, have come forward to publicly defend him:
“By testament, some of the women in [Depp’s] life have said the same thing — ‘that’s not the human being we know. It’s very different [than cases] where there are multiple accusers over many years that need to be examined and we need to reflect on our industry that allows that to roll on year in and year out. Johnny isn’t in that category in any shape or form. So to me, it doesn’t bear any more analysis. It’s a dead issue.”