The Johnny Depp Grindelwald “leak”

Harry Potter fans (myself included) are pretty opinionated about news of Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and it might be a good time to review how the information came about and where it comes from:

  1. The original story is from The Hollywood Reporter, which doesn’t report without a good source. However, the source is anonymous. This probably means it’s a sanctioned leak, but one the studio didn’t want to announce in the traditional way, a.k.a. making an official announcement.
  2. They would have had to make an official announcement before the movie premiered, because if (and I’ll get to this in a second) he is Grindelwald, and Grindelwald shows his face, there would be a big WTF moment while fans were watching the film. It wouldn’t be conducive to the movie to have everyone in theaters whispering “OMG is that Johnny Depp?” to each other instead of watching the film.
  3. However: Recent allegations that Johnny Depp beat his ex-wife, Amber Heard, make doing a traditional announcement potentially risky.
  4. If he is playing Grindelwald (as reported by Hypable), this means he’s got a multi-movie contract (as it’s also very likely that Grindelwald is THE villain of the upcoming five films) that is likely pretty close to airtight, and probably was signed before any of the allegations surfaced.

So what does this mean? In my opinion, it’s a sanctioned leak by the studio to the Hollywood Reporter, a test to see what fan/public reaction will be to the announcement. Maybe they’re going to just stick with the contract and want to soften ground before making it real; maybe they’re testing the waters to see if reaction is bad enough that they should explore whatever it takes to get out of it.

And, to be clear, he hasn’t been convicted of anything; all allegations are just that: allegations. But this is a series penned by a woman who is very outspoken on behalf of victims of domestic violence, and knows the importance of creating a culture where victims are believed and alleged perpetrators are not celebrated. This just doesn’t seem in line with the value set that has always been at the core of this series, and it must be a difficult and costly situation to be in.

The Harry Potter franchise always seems to do the right thing in the end. I’m hoping for the same here.