Fantastic Beasts Director Defends Keeping Johnny Depp

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The team behind Fantastic Beasts is breaking their silence about the controversial decision to keep Johnny Depp on board for the film’s sequel.

Ever since Warner Bros. re-confirmed earlier this month that the Pirates of the Carribean actor would star in next year’s Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, there has been blowback against the film on social media due to Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard making domestic violence accusations against the actor two years ago. Depp’s villainous wizard character Gellert Grindelwald was seen very briefly in 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but will take a much more pivotal role in the next film as its titular character.

Veteran Harry Potter franchise director David Yates is in the midst of shooting the sequel in London and spoke to EW about Depp’s participation in the film.

“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,” Yates said. “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 added several of Depp’s exes have come forward to publicly defend him, including Vanessa Paradis, Lori Anne Allison and Winona Ryder — who said Depp was “never abusive at all … I only know him as a really good, loving, caring guy” during their four-year relationship.

“By testament, some of the women in [Depp’s] life have said the same thing — ‘that’s not the human being we know,’” Yates said. “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.”

Previously Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling (and Fantastic Beasts screenwriter), who is known for championing progressive social causes, said she’s “delighted” in Depp’s casting but hasn’t addressed the controversy.

Heard is currently appearing in another Warner Bros. franchise, playing the Atlantean Lady Mera in Justice League and in next year’s Aquaman. She accused Depp of emotionally and physically abusive and inebriated behavior during their one-year marriage, released a video of Depp having a tantrum and a photo of herself with a black eye. Depp called the reports “salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation and lies.” The two reached a settlement in 2016 and issued a joint statement reading, “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.”

Depp is currently appearing in Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Murder on the Orient Express. In The Crimes of Grindelwald, famed Hogwarts professor Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) teams with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to chase Depp’s nefarious wizard as he gathers supporters in Paris. Here’s everything we know about the next film, which opens Nov. 16, 2018.

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