Two years after Johnny Depp was accused of domestic violence by his then-wife, Amber Heard, the tarnished star has been handed a starring role in the new Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald.
Now the film’s veteran Harry Potter director David Yates has come to Depp’s defense, describing the abuse allegations as “a dead issue” and the result of “one person who took a pop at him and claimed something.”
At the beginning of the divorce proceedings, Heard appeared in public with a bruise on her cheek, which she claimed was caused by Depp, and controversially published a video which showed a drunk Depp ranting and raving in their home.
Depp’s team consistently denied the allegations that he was physically abusive, and said the video was heavily edited.
A series of lurid allegations followed, most notably the claim that Depp scrawled a series of disturbing messages in blood aimed at Heard over the walls of a rented villa he was occupying while shooting a Pirates of the Caribbean film. He was allegedly deranged by a combination of wine, ecstasy and jealousy at Heard’s co-star in another film, Billy Bob Thornton.
Court papers claim that Depp, who had badly cut his finger, dipped it in blue paint and employed the mixture of the two liquids to write phrases such as “Starring,” “Billy Bob,” and “Easy Amber” on the wall.
Doctors performed a skin graft to repair Depp’s damaged finger.
In early court proceedings, Heard, sporting a bruised face, declared, “During the entirety of our relationship, Johnny has been verbally and physically abusive to me… I endured excessive emotional, verbal, and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating, and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.”
Depp and Heard eventually came to a private settlement.
Heard has since become a vocal advocate for victims of domestic violence. She pledged to donate the entirety of her $7 million settlement to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the ACLU, “with a particular focus to stop violence against women.”
In a video for the GirlGaze Project, she spoke about the difficulty of extricating oneself from an abusive relationship, explaining, “When it happens in your home, behind closed doors, with someone you love, it’s not as straightforward. If a stranger did this… it would be a no-brainer…I have a unique opportunity to remind other women... this doesn’t have to be the way it is. You don’t have to do it alone. You’re not alone.”
Depp’s rehabilitation will not be entirely surprising to critics of the way Hollywood and the entertainment industry does business. One only has to look at the post-controversy careers of R. Kelly, Dr. Dre (beat a music journalist), or Charlie Sheen (pled guilty to attacking ex-wife Brooke Mueller, who claimed he threatened her with a knife).
Depp himself was given a starring role in a Dior fragrance advert just weeks after the allegations against him became public.
The Daily Beast’s Amy Zimmerman described the bit as Depp’s “most ill-advised performance since Tonto.”
The imagery for the perfume, “Sauvage,” which shows Depp menacingly rolling up his sleeves, can still be seen plastered over airport duty-free shops worldwide.
So when Warner Bros. confirmed this month that Depp would star in next year’s Harry Potter prequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, we perhaps shouldn’t have been surprised that it was back to business as usual.
David Yates, who is shooting the film in London, told EW: “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.
“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.”
Ah, the old, “Really, he just doesn’t seem like that type of guy,” defense, as recently perfected by Lena Dunham.
Yates noted that several of Depp’s exes have come forward to publicly defend him, including Vanessa Paradis, Lori Anne Allison and Winona Ryder—who said Depp was “never abusive at all… I only know him as a really good, loving, caring guy.”
Yates concluded, “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.”
For Yates, at this post-Weinstein moment in particular, to use language that essentially accuses Heard of making up stories about the ‘kind and decent’ Depp is a depressing reminder of how far Hollywood still has to go.