Fantastic Beasts Director Defends Johnny

David Yates describes Amber Heard as taking a “pop” at Johnny Depp.

When Johnny Depp was first announced as the actor chosen to play villainous Gellert Grindelwald in the new Harry Potter franchise Fantastic Beasts, director David Yates was the very first person to defend the decision. Even as he revealed the news during a 2016 press junket, Yates said, in seeming reference to either Johnny’s highly publicized and nasty split from actress Amber Heard, or mixed reviews of his recent work:

“In this business, it’s a weird old business. You’re brilliant one week, people are saying odd things the next, you go up and down. But no one takes away your pure talent.”

Discontent over Johnny’s casting has only grown among the Potter fandom since the first movie was released—especially since his character was name-checked in the title of its sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Now, Yates is doubling down on his defense of Depp and tackling the Heard divorce head on.

JOhnny’s divorce from Amber, and her allegations of domestic abuse—which he has denied—were just a month old when Yates first took on the subject. But time certainly hasn’t lessened scrutiny over the powerful men of Hollywood and their relationships with women. In the midst of post-Weinstein-scandal Hollywood, Yates may find even more pushback than he did the first time. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, however, the director insisted upon his star’s innocence. Using perhaps the most ill-advised phrase one can when referencing accusations of domestic violence, Yates summed up Heard’s case: “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.”

Addressing the current Hollywood culture at large, Yates also called the post-Weinstein fall of several prominent men both “compelling” and “frightening.”

This likely won’t be the last time Yates is asked to talk about Johnny; he has miles to go and many interviews to give before The Crimes of Grindelwald (an unfortunate name, no?) opens in November 2018<&u>. But the director seems uninterested in further exploring the topic:

“[Johnny’s is] 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.”

But as Entertainment Weekly points out, while Harry Potter fans know about Yates’s take on Johnny, they have yet to hear from J.K. Rowling — who has, thanks to a heavy social-media presence, styled herself as a progressive voice and moral authority for the generations of readers who grew up with her. Regarding Depp’s initial casting, Rowling was “delighted,” but has yet to comment further. Rowling has not, however, stayed silent on the Weinstein scandal, tweeting a salty response to former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka back in October:

Rowling herself may have to reckon with her movie’s Johnny problem before The Crimes of Grindelwald hits theaters next year.

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