Fantastic Beasts director attempts to defend controversial Johnny Depp casting

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Kayleigh Dray

David Yates, the director of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, has spoken out on Johnny Depp’s controversial casting as the titular dark wizard – and his comments have been widely criticised on social media.

At the end of the first Fantastic Beasts movie, fans were shocked to learn that Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves character was actually wizard Grindelwald in disguise. Perhaps more surprising, though, was the fact that the role was played by Johnny Depp, who would reprise it for the second film.

Many expressed their disappointment in the casting choice, citing Depp’s high-profile divorce from Amber Heard, insisting that a man accused of domestic abuse should not be part of such a huge film, even if the case had been settled out of court.

And now, after a recent cast photo confirmed Depp’s continued inclusion in the Fantastic Beasts franchise – especially in the wake of the ongoing conversation about the cycle of abuse by powerful men in Hollywood – the film’s director has decided to address the casting choice.

“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 told Entertainment Weekly.

“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.”

The director continued: “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.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these comments haven’t gone down well.

“When you think it couldn’t be any worse, David Yates is always here to show you that you’re wrong,” wrote one.

Another, highlighting Yates’ comments in a screengrab, added: “And people wonder why victims of domestic violence are afraid to speak out.”

Others reminded Yates that Heard’s legal team said they had “physical and video proof” to back up the claims made against Depp.

And one, highlighting Yates’ turn of phrase when discussing Heard, added: “There’s so much to hate in David Yates’s bullshit Depp defense but can we talk specifically about turning violent language so that it makes the woman he abused sound like an abuser?”

According to court documents published in People, Heard said she was physically abused by Depp on “two separate instances,” including one night when Depp gave her a black eye. She was granted a temporary restraining order.

The two settled the case out of court, and, in a joint statement, said their relationship had been “volatile”, saying: “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love.”

It also said there was no “intent” to cause physical harm.

Heard donated the financial settlement to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the American Civil Liberties Union – a move which would seem to go against previous claims from Depp’s lawyers, filed in court papers, that she was trying to “secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse”.

Images: Rex Features