Johnny Depp Forced to Leave Fantastic Beasts Franchise
Amber Hogan discusses Johnny Depp’s departure from the Fantastic Beasts franchise and its impacts on the film industry.
TW: discussion of domestic violence.
This November, it was announced that actor Johnny Depp had stepped down from his star role as Gellert Grindelwald in J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film franchise. The antagonist character is now understood to be recast for the 3rd instalment of the franchise upcoming in 2021. Die-hard fans however have already launched a petition to bring the actor back to the role, currently with over 150,000 signatures, and the actor has stated that he shall be appealing the court ruling over his libel case which seemingly lead to his ultimate job loss. There was some initial confusion over the nature of his departure with Warner Bros. regarding whether Depp stepped down or was fired, but the actor himself claimed that he relinquished the role out of respect to a request made by Warner Bros. for him to step down.
This article will not discuss the validity of the accusations on either side of the case with Amber Heard, but instead the impact on the industry, and the implications it sends out about allegations, fan power, and the film industry’s ties with its stars.
The actor himself claimed that he relinquished the role out of respect to a request made by Warner Bros. for him to step down.
Johnny Depp’s case feels so unique because to many, the actor is a part of beloved childhood franchises and known for his ability to breathe fun and charisma into even the most niche and strange roles. Pirates of the Caribbean is the most immediate example, then there’s Sweeney Todd, Charlie and the Chocolate factory, Alice in Wonderland and Edward Scissorhands. His list of accomplishments is vast and speaks to his acting talents.
The serious nature of the allegations leads to a deflated sense of betrayal among many fans as they admired the actor. Some instinctively reacted with outrage and disbelief and presumed to know, based off of the actor’s reputation, whether the claims were true or not and went on to their own judgements in comment sections, petitions, and social media engagement. The internet became more a place of reaction than a place of listening.
The internet became more a place of reaction than a place of listening.
Depp is accused, and also claims to be the victim, of domestic abuse. Yet the reaction in journalistic media has not been equally supportive as it has to Heard. This could reflect the attitudes towards male claims of abuse being much more sceptically received and disbelieved then that of women.
The case led to the “cancelling” and ostracism of Depp. Cancel culture is a way in which the media punishes public figures by rejecting, ignoring and devaluing the person to the extent that they either go away. Or, in the case of people who rely on public platforms to make a living, aka celebrities, are at risk to lose their incomes.
Initially, this affected his reputation but not so much his career. Despite the allegations, he was cast into the role of Grindelwald with verbal avouchment from creator J.K Rowling. The allegations have followed him throughout his time working on Fantastic Beasts, however it is not until now that he has lost the defamation libel that he has been asked to step down. Given these allegations pre-date Fantastic Beats, why have Warner Bros, only now taken action? It isn’t until he lost the case that Warner Bros. seemed to take issue.
In the film and television industry, actors’ lives and reputations are used promotionally as part of the age-old star power aspect. The industry is so closely wound with press that perusing photographs and evidence is less seen as an invasion, and more seen like something that the celebrity in question signed away as public knowledge the moment they became famous.
Given these allegations pre-date Fantastic Beats, why have Warner Bros, only now taken action?
Depp’s case exists awash an ongoing war against unreported domestic, sexual and physical violence in the Hollywood industry. He has seemingly been painted with the same brush in the media as accused serial offenders such as Brett Ratner and Kevin Spacey, both of which lost work due to accusations and follow-up charges (it is important to clarify that at the time of writing this article, there are currently no charges against Depp), the former even with Warner Bros. as well. The media seems to group accused men under the same category at the first sign of trouble before the accusation has been validated.
The MeToo movement was a unification of victims sharing experiences under the same spearhead and it inspired justice for many. Despite the positive progress made as a result of the movement, one of the side effects seems to be that anyone accused of abuse receives the same extremity of backlash that the worst of the worst might face; that cancelled is cancelled.
Whilst no level of abuse is acceptable, having unmeasured and equal responses across the board de-validates the severity of some cases compared to others, particularly when execution is demanded before validity of accusation is confirmed. In the case of Johnny Depp in the film industry, his career and reputation have been damaged (whether or not his reputation will recover is something only time will tell) after being one of the most beloved modern actors, and this is before any accusations have been definitively proven.
If you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, please know that there are support systems in place to help.
Domestic Violence Assist: 0800 195 8699
National Centre for Domestic Violence: 0800 970 2070
Women’s Aid Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
Victim Support: 0808 1689 111