Johnny Depp was only announced as being part of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them a little over two weeks before its November 18th release date. Now, just nine days out from the film’s premiere, director David Yates has revealed the overpaid actor will portray the series’ main villain, Gellert Grindelwald.
Yates disclosed the news to fan-site The Leaky Cauldron (via Collider) while addressing concerns that have arisen over the casting decision. The director tacitly referred to Depp’s recent box office shortcomings and domestic abuse controversy when he said, “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.” He went on, saying:
“Johnny Depp is a real artist. He’s created several characters who have really resonated in our popular culture. He’s a really brilliant, brilliant actor. We were excited about seeing what he would do with this guy, the character. He’s fearless; he’s imaginative; he’s ambitious. We thought he would do something fun and special. So we went for him, purely on that selfish basis. We don’t care if he’s famous or not famous. We just know he’s interesting.”
Grindelwald is a infamous dark wizard who features heavily in the Harry Potter mythology. During younger days, Albus Dumbledore was blinded by love of Grindelwald when together they made grand plans of a world ruled by wizards. After they went their separate ways, Grindelwald eventually came into possession of one of the Deathly Hallows, the Elder Wand, and caused destruction across the wizarding world.
Depp’s character will become a larger focus of the Fantastic Beast sequels, as will Albus Dumbledore. In a Force Awakens-like move, it seems the new series will veer towards a similar dynamic as the Harry-Voldemort rivalry in the original films. “Currently the beasts feature slightly less in the second film, and Grindelwald takes more of a foreground, Yates said. “Currently. But we love the beasts so much. There’s an amazing beast in the second movie–a Chinese beast, actually–that is featured. We’re exploring how we can get a couple more beasts into the second film, with [J.K. Rowling].”
Due in theaters November 18th, Fantastic Beasts tells the tale of magizoologist Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne) who travels to New York City to study all the magical creatures of the wizarding world. However, the trip proves disastrous after Newt’s case is misplaced and some of his fantastic beasts escape. Along with Depp and Redmayne, the film’s cast includes Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, and Carmen Ejogo, among others. Rowling wrote the film’s script, and has outlines for up to four additional movies in the franchise.