‘Tis the season for lush, magical children’s movies, full of wizardry and beauty and — yeesh, a guy accused of being a domestic abuser and all-around hot mess.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” out next week, stars Johnny Depp in the title role as the villainous nemesis of Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) — a sort of Voldemort-before-Voldemort.
The film is the latest in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter prequel franchise, and the follow-up to 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the conclusion of which revealed Colin Farrell’s character actually was Depp’s Gellert Grindelwald in disguise all along.
But a nagging question stands: How do you sell a beloved blockbuster that features — some would say — a real-life monster? You minimize him on posters, for starters: One prominent ad features Depp facing squarely away from the camera, while another relegates him to a corner.
You can’t completely obscure the guy who provides the meat of your film’s plot, though, and Warner Bros. finally dispatched Depp to talk with the softball-lobbing Entertainment Weekly last month.
The star expressed vague sympathy for those around him but ultimately — as so many other men accused of wrongdoings in the past year have done — strongly denied any personal responsibility: “I felt bad for J.K. having to field all these various feelings from people out there . . . But . . . the fact remains I was falsely accused . . . J.K. has seen the evidence and therefore knows I was falsely accused, and that’s why she has publicly supported me.”
This is despite video evidence of an apparently drunk Depp menacing former wife Amber Heard in their home in 2016, and a well-publicized lawsuit against his business manager (which has since settled) over the loss of much of Depp’s $650 million fortune.
Depp’s managers countersued, alleging that Depp blew millions on private islands, a villa, a yacht and an alleged $30,000 per month wine budget. (“It’s insulting to say that I spent $30,000 on wine,” Depp, not without a morbid sense of humor, told Rolling Stone. “Because it was far more.”)
He has shown up to recent gigs with his band, Hollywood Vampires, looking notably wild-eyed and gaunt, and is even being sued by two of his own bodyguards for unpaid wages and exposing them to unsafe working conditions.
His ex-security pros allege they were “forced to protect [Depp] from himself,” with duties including dusting drugs off his face in public, Page Six reported earlier this year.
Depp’s participation in the sequel generated controversy right from the start, with incensed fans even mounting petitions asking the studio to recast him, but Warner Bros. and Rowling both stuck by their choice, with the author saying last December that “the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.”
The question remains, though: Will audiences — particularly parents — feel comfortable supporting a film that supports a train wreck like Depp, whose star has been fading for years now and who has just been unceremoniously dropped from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise?
Once a heartthrob, then a quirky darling of director Tim Burton, he’s now become a caricatured collection of leather bracelets, slurred speech and thinly veiled hostility to anyone who doesn’t support him.
Given the kind of global fanbase Rowling enjoys, it’s hard to imagine a downplayed, “Billionaire Boys Club” scenario (the Kevin Spacey-starring film, which came out this August, earned a whopping $126 on its opening day) for this “Fantastic” release — but it’s also time for the industry to think about showing the unrepentant Depp the door.
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