Johnny Depp as Grindelwald: A Hole in the Illusion
What is the first word that comes to your mind when Harry Potter is brought up? For me, it’s “magic.” However, the series is about so much more than just the magic our favorite characters wield – it is itself a form of magic. The universe that J.K. Rowling has created is vast, vibrant, and most importantly, welcoming. It is a place that is warm, familiar, and comforting, offering escapism to any who need it.
Isn’t that why we spend so much time ingesting the fantasy genre? To escape? To curl up with a book or lose ourselves in a film and forget about personal problems? Casting Johnny Depp to play Gellert Grindelwald pops a hole in the illusion, letting the troubles of the real world snake their way in.
The Depp debate has been ongoing for a while now, and it’s something I must admit I’ve struggled with. From age 12 to 24, I was obsessed with Johnny Depp. We’re talking about the kind of adoration that took work. I owned every single movie he’d ever made, had watched every show he’d ever had a cameo in, and had a pre-Pinterest collection of magazine photos and newspaper clippings all about you-know-who (no, not that one).
For a long time, I was one of those people who managed to separate an actor (or actress) as an individual from the work they did on-screen: “Just because so-and-so did something awful doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them in this show or movie.”
The older I get, though, the more socially conscious I become. Why is it acceptable for a famous person to drink and drive, do drugs, steal, sexually assault someone, or commit spousal abuse and not have their professional reputation tainted?
What other jobs out there work that way? You wouldn’t keep on a banker who robs convenience stores in his spare time or hire a waitress who likes to verbally abuse children. So why allow these people into positions of influence?
As cheesy as it may sound, Harry Potter is everything to me. Hogwarts is my home. The wizarding world is my home. Adding someone who is so deeply saturated in what is wrong with the reality we live in to a fantasy escape ruins that escape. When Depp was on screen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which, thankfully, wasn’t for long), I wasn’t submerged in the extraordinary world Rowling created – I was just above the surface looking in, wondering about Depp as an individual.
Even if you put aside Depp’s extremely questionable personal life, he still isn’t the right choice for the franchise, let alone this role. Movie after movie, Depp’s acting has evolved from, well, acting into a game of “Which character is Johnny dressed as in this movie?” His roles are more about the quirks than the depth of a character, and the role of Grindelwald deserves better.
Try to think of one character who doesn’t have layers of complicated characteristics in the Harry Potter books. If you somehow manage to come up with one (unlikely), odds are, it isn’t Gellert Grindelwald, the man so engaging and intriguing that Albus Dumbledore himself was swayed toward the dark (or at least the gray) by his feelings for him.
Gellert Grindelwald deserves better than Johnny Depp… and so do we.