Controversial as it may be, Warner Bros’ Harry Potter prequel franchise, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, should replace Johnny Depp and recast the role of Gellert Grindelwald in the sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Author J.K. Rowling introduced the world to the Boy Who Lived when the first novel in her seven-book series debuted in 1997, and in the two decades since, Rowling’s Harry Potter novels have grown into a cross-media mega-franchise that includes eight movies, a continuation in the form of a stage play, and the expanding prequel film series that kicked off last year with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
While much of the first movie’s plot revolved around Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his friends attempting to recover escaped magical creatures before they made themselves known to the no-maj community, it also set the stage for a longer conflict that will be explored throughout the five films Warner Bros. and Rowling have planned. That conflict centers on the evilest sorcerer the world had known prior to the rise of Voldemort: the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp.
The casting of Depp was announced shortly before Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them began screening for press and critics last year, with it later being revealed the actor makes a short appearance at the end of the first film as the villainous wizard. From the start, fans of the Harry Potter franchise criticized the casting due to Depp’s acting abilities, dwindling box office appeal, and the allegations of domestic abuse against him. Despite these criticisms, Rowling, who wrote the scripts for the first two Fantastic Beasts movies, and director David Yates have defended Depp’s casting as Grindelwald. However, Warner Bros. should consider recasting Depp’s Grindelwald in their Fantastic Beasts series, starting with The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Why Recast Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts?
In the early years of his career, Depp made a name for himself for starring in mid-to-low budget projects that showcased his abilities as an actor. However, he reached mainstream success with his portrayal of the drunken, but clever pirate Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. He went on to apply his zany characterization in blockbuster fare that includes multiple Pirates sequels, Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland, the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the film adaptation of stage musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
However, while Depp may have been a major box office draw in the ’00s and very early ’10s, a number of his films since have underperformed and failed to connect with critics. The Lone Ranger, Mortdecai, Transcendence, and Alice Through the Looking Glass are a handful of Depp’s misses in recent years, struggling to find success at the box office, with critics, or casual moviegoers. Additionally, Forbes named Depp the most overpaid actor of 2016, with him averaging a box office return of only $2.80 for every $1 he was paid. So casting Depp in the Fantastic Beasts franchise won’t necessarily translate into a box office win – and given the number of critical misses under his belt, nor does it translate into good reviews.
All that aside, even if Depp could guarantee The Crimes of Grindelwald to be a critical and financial hit, many Harry Potter fans criticized Warner Bros. for defending the actor in spite of the allegations of domestic abuse made against him by his ex-wife Amber Heard. As reported by ET Online, in May 2016 a judge granted Heard a temporary restraining order against Depp a week after she filed for divorce on the grounds of domestic violence. Heard alleged he had been abusive on several occasions. The restraining order request was withdrawn later that year when Heard and Depp settled their divorce. However, earlier this year Depp’s former managers corroborated Heard’s allegations in court documents obtained by People concerning the ongoing lawsuit between the actor and The Management Group.
In light of what’s going on in Hollywood – with Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and more facing career consequences for, in some cases, decades of sexual misconduct – it’s unconscionable that Warner Bros. wouldn’t at least consider recasting Depp as Grindelwald. Ridley Scott set a new precedent when he decided, less than two months before the film’s release date, to conduct reshoots on All the Money in the World in order to replace Spacey. Though Depp’s appearance in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was filmed before Heard’s allegations were made public, Yates and Warner Bros. have had plenty of time to come up with a way to replace the actor as Grindelwald in the sequel. And, given that Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald takes place in a world in which magic exists, there are plenty of ways to recast Gellert Grindelwald.
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