It’s expected to see people walking around in cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con, but Johnny Depp took it to the next level on Saturday when he showed up dressed as the titular villain in his new movie, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
The 55-year-old actor was a surprise guest at Warner Bros.’ Comic-Con Hall H panel for the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel, joining stars Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Jude Law, Zoë Kravitz, Claudia Kim and Callum Turner.
Coincidentally, his ex-wife Amber Heard also appeared at a Warner Bros. panel on Saturday after Depp, in support of her new movie, Aquaman, though the two were not seen crossing paths.
In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, from Harry Potter scribe J.K. Rowling, Depp plays the dark wizard Grindelwald — a Muggle-hating revolutionary and foe of Law’s Dumbledore who wants to help pure-blood magic-makers rise to dominance over the wizard world.
“I do not hate them. I do not,” Depp, as Grindelwald, told the audience on Saturday. “I say the Muggles are not lesser. Not worthless, but of other value. Magic blooms only in rare souls. It is granted to those who live for higher things.”
“The moment has come,” he added, “to rise up and take our rightful place in the world.”
Depp’s casting in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald caused some controversy when it was first announced, with fans questioned why domestic violence allegations made against Depp by his ex-wife Heard didn’t preclude him from the project.
Rowling broke her silence on the matter in December, writing on her website that she and “everyone most closely involved in the franchise” were “deeply concerned” when reports of Depp’s alleged abuse were first published.
Heard had asked for a domestic violence restraining order against Depp just a week after she filed to end her 15-month marriage in May 2016, claiming the actor had been abusive on several occasions, including one incident that she claimed left her in fear for her life. Through his lawyers, Depp vehemently denied the abuse allegations throughout the contentious divorce, calling the claims “salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation, and lies.” His lawyers also accused the actress of making the allegations up in an attempt to “extend her fifteen minutes of fame.”
“Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role,” Rowling wrote on her website. “As David Yates, long-time Potter director, has already said, we naturally considered the possibility of recasting.”
“I understand why some have been confused and angry about why that didn’t happen,” Rowling continued. “The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life. For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful.”
Things changed for the Fantastic Beats team, however, when Depp and Heard settled their nasty divorce in January 2017 — with Depp paying Heard a $7 million settlement (all of which she vowed to donate to charity).
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“The agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a desire to get on with their lives, must be respected,” Rowling said. “Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.”
“I’ve loved writing the first two screenplays and I can’t wait for fans to see The Crimes of Grindelwald,” she concluded. “I accept that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor in the title role. However, conscience isn’t governable by committee. Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing.”
Distributor Warner Bros. also stood by the decision to have Depp in the film.
“We are of course aware of reports that surfaced around the end of Johnny Depp’s marriage, and take seriously the complexity of the issues involved,” they said in a statement obtained by Entertainment Weekly. “This matter has been jointly addressed by both parties, in a statement in which they said ‘there was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.’ Based on the circumstances and the information available to us, we, along with the filmmakers, continue to support the decision to proceed with Johnny Depp in the role of Grindelwald in this and future films.”
Elsewhere at Saturday’s Fantastic Beasts panel, a new trailer for the movie was released, as was a new poster.
The new footage shows more of the clash between Dumbledore and Grindelwald that’s to come, as well as one familiar faces from the Harry Potter universe: immortal alchemist Nicolas Flamel (Brontis Jodorowsky), who famously created the Philosopher’s Stone.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald hits theaters Nov. 16