Normally when a film lands an actor of Johnny Depp’s caliber, the casting is considered a major score.
But some Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them fans are having a decidedly different reaction to discovering Depp is playing the new franchise’s archvillain Gellert Grindelwald.
The notorious dark wizard’s magical unmasking at the end of Beasts has prompted snickering in theaters, which is probably not what the filmmakers intended.
Part of the problem is Depp’s appearance. The actor has pale-face makeup and dramatic blond hair, and looks not unlike some of his comedic characters in films such as The Lone Ranger, Alice in Wonderland, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Another issue that that fans took a shine to Colin Farrell’s portrayal of Percival Graves (who Grindelwald was impersonating) and felt some disappointment when Farrell’s steely and menacing performance as the film’s chief antagonist was replaced by Depp’s more campy-looking take.
On Twitter, reactions seem perfectly mixed, with some fans praising the casting and others decidedly against it.
When asked why Depp was cast, executive producer David Heyman told EW’s sister publication PEOPLE, “Because he’s iconic. He’s an iconic actor and we needed an iconic actor to play this part. Johnny’s created two or three iconic people, people who are unforgettable. He makes choices, and that was really, really important … [we] wanted somebody who could, in the one hand, seduce, but, on the other hand, be really scary. Johnny can do that. He was an absolute pleasure to work with.”
While director David Yates asked fans for patience. “You have to trust us and see what he does in this movie. You won’t see very much in this movie because he appears in it very fleetingly. He appears much more in the second movie. What you have to remember about Johnny is that extraordinary talent and that talent never goes away. Hollywood is such a fickle place. People go up and go down. He’s a huge Potter fan. He loves the world. He was beyond excited about working on this material. In fact he didn’t even want to see a script, he just said ‘I’m in.'”
And writer J.K. Rowling said she was “delighted” by the casting and noted, “he’s done incredible things with the character.”
The team was also asked about Depp’s volatile divorce from Amber Heard, who earlier this year accused the actor of domestic abuse (fans on Twitter are pushing back on Depp for this reason as well). “Here’s the thing: Misogyny, abuse, maltreatment of people is unacceptable — but none of us know what happened in that room,” Heyman said. “So I think it would be unfair for me to be judge and jury, or for any of us to be judge and jury.”
Ultimately, given the brevity of Depp’s cameo, it’s really only fair to wait until next November to judge the actor’s take on Dumbledore’s friend and foe. One wouldn’t be surprised if filmmakers took the reaction of fans to heart and pushed Depp for a more grounded and serious take. It’s far from an unsolvable problem for an actor of Depp’s talent. As a certain famous pirate captain once said: “The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”