It’s been less than a year and a half since Fantastic Beasts came out, and so much has changed. Taylor Swift released a new album. There was a big kerfuffle at the 2017 Oscars. And, oh yeah, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements built on the strides made by high-level firings at Fox News to create massive awareness of predatory men. Since then, the general public has been not only excommunicating abusers who’ve newly come to light, like Kevin Spacey, but we’ve been reevaluating alleged abusers we somehow let slide in the past. The latter list includes Casey Affleck, who was shamed out of presenting at the 2018 Oscars over old allegations against him, and Johnny Depp, who . . . has suffered zero discernible repercussions thus far.
Johnny Depp was long ago cast as the villain of the Fantastic Beasts saga, and the first film arrived right around the time he and his ex-wife, the actor Amber Heard, were finalizing their divorce with a $7 million dollar settlement stemming from domestic abuse allegations. There was already an outcry over casting a known domestic abuser in a family-friendly film, and it’s only become more pronounced in a post-Weinstein world. J.K. Rowling herself awkwardly defended the choice to retain Depp as “the right thing” for the film, despite admitting that she and director David Yates considered recasting the part of Grindlewald.
Now that the first trailer for the sequel has arrived, it’s pretty clear the filmmakers want to steer clear of the controversy altogether. While the trailer is heavy on Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander and Jude Law’s turn as the young Albus Dumbledore, there is only a fraction of a second’s flash of Depp’s character, and it comes a minute and a half into a sub-two minute trailer. Sure, they could be keeping him out of sight to build anticipation. That could be what’s happening here. But the character’s name is in the title. There’s no surprise reveal around who he is in the film or what he looks like, unlike last time where [SPOILER ALERT] the character was portrayed by Colin Farrell for 98% of the runtime. If keeping Johnny Depp around was “the right thing” to do, why bother keeping him hidden? Own up to the (alleged) domestic abuser you (allegedly) need in your magic wizard movie.