In some corners of the Internets, there’s been a bit of a backlash to the news that Johnny Depp is joining JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts franchise. Since then, it’s been confirmed that Depp is playing the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, and also made a brief cameo in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (see our review).
In case you aren’t fluent in Potterspeak: That’s a huge damn deal. Grindelwald was Albus Dumbledore’s (mentor to one Harry Potter) friend before he turned into his adversary.
The allegations of Depp abusing his ex-wife Amber Heard have led to fans questioning why the franchise — which tells the story of a boy who is basically abused while growing up — would cast someone like Depp.
In an interview with Collider, producer David Heyman explained why they cast Depp:
“What we wanted was an iconic actor to play Grindelwald, because Grindelwald is an iconic character who has a significant place in this story. His ability to persuade the hearts and minds, to persuade people to follow him is essential to this story…
We were looking for someone who was seductive and could be charming and could be original, who was iconic, who was a great actor; and that’s what Johnny Depp is. He can be irresistible. He’s powerful. He’s created some iconic characters, and not made the obvious choices when doing so. The unpredictability of the choices he makes is part of what makes him so extraordinary and that was very exciting for us. He was the perfect choice for Grindelwald.”
So there you have it. For what it’s worth, I’m of the opinion that it makes no sense for such a child-friendly franchise to cast someone who allegedly hit his wife. But even in acting terms, I’m not so sure it’s a smart move. Depp’s at his best when working with Tim Burton, but his performances of late have either been lacklustre (though I was impressed with him in Black Mass), or so immersive that he just turns completely creepy. It’s not Jared-Leto-as-the-Joker levels of douchebaggery yet, but it’s close.
Additionally, Depp himself is too powerful a brand. Yes, he’s played some really iconic characters in some unforgettable performances, but I now find it hard to untangle the man from the role. Whenever he appears in a movie, I’m all too aware that this it is Johnny Depp onscreen instead of whatever character he’s meant to be playing.
I am of course, happy to be proven wrong, but after watching him in Fantastic Beasts, I have my doubts.
Is Johnny Depp a good fit for the Potterverse, or just too recognisable? Leave a comment below and tell us your thoughts!