Personal scandals have the power to kill a film at the box office, something we’ve seen from small indie films to giant blockbusters. We saw it with the downfall of Kevin Spacey, whose 2018 film Billionaire Boys Club made $618 on its opening weekend. Now it looks like Johnny Depp and the allegations that he assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard could have a huge detrimental effect on the next installment of Fantastic Beasts.
The allegations of assault began back in 2015, when Depp was injured on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales after he allegedly punched a wall while fighting with Heard. In 2016, ET obtained text messages between the couple that were sent in 2014 and reportedly showed Depp’s abusive behaviour towards Heard. The couple separated that year, with court documents including details of Depp’s abuse of Heard. After filing a restraining order against Depp, pictures of Heard covered in bruises were published by the press, as was a video showing Depp inebriated and visibly hostile towards Heard while in the couple’s home. By August 2016, the couple had reached an agreement, with Heard receiving a $7 million divorce settlement that she donated to the charities of her choice.
In exchange for the divorce finalization, Heard agreed to not speak about the pair’s relationship. That changed in March, when Depp filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Heard, calling her abuse claims an ‘elaborate hoax.’ Depp was reportedly upset about an article Heard wrote for Porter Magazine in December 2018, where Heard discussed domestic abuse. Though she didn’t name her ex in the article, Depp felt that the piece contributed to negative public perception of the actor.
In the new lawsuit, Depp alleges that he was the victim of domestic assault, not Heard, and that his ex-wife was having an affair with Elon Musk during their marriage.
Now that Depp has issued the new lawsuit, court documents from the pair’s divorce have been made public, which include disturbing new details about Depp choking, beating and tormenting Heard during their marriage. According to Page Six, executives at Warner Bros., the studio behind the Fantastic Beasts franchise, are concerned that the scandal could negatively impact the next film installment, which stars Depp.
Director David Yates and writer JK Rowling defended the studio’s decision to cast Depp as Grindelwald, a move that resulted in outrage by fans. Rowling has completed the script for the third film, but filming, which was slated to begin this summer, has been delayed until the fall of 2020. According to Page Six, many at Warner Bros. wish the author hadn’t made her show of support for Depp public, feeling as though she’s backed the studio into a corner.
“Executives at Warner Bros. are wondering how to deal with the backlash of the Depp matter on the Harry Potter franchise. High-level female execs at the studio are extremely worried about working with Depp and the message it sends to the public,” the source told Page Six. “This is yet another blow to the morale of female employees at the studio. If Warner Bros. continues to stick by Depp, it would reveal a lot about the values the company holds.”
Fans of Fantastic Beasts have made it known that they wanted Depp recast from the start. With the jobs of hundreds of people on the line and the fact that 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was the lowest grossing of all 10 films in the Harry Potter franchise, it may be time for Warner Bros. to listen.