San Diego Comic-Con was host to some awkward scheduling on Saturday.
During Warner Bros.’ Hall H presentation, Johnny Depp made an appearance as his titular “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” character, helping to debut the latest trailer for the upcoming fantasy film. Roughly an hour later, his ex-wife, Amber Heard, appeared at the convention to promote WB’s “Aquaman,” which released its first trailer at the event.
In court documents, Heard accused Depp of physical abuse while they were married. She won a $7 million settlement in the divorce case, all of which she donated to charity. They settled their divorce in 2016, when she dismissed the claims.
Depp’s appearance was something of a surprise to the audience. It came at the end of the “Fantastic Beast’s” segment, after much of the main cast had already been fielding softball questions along the lines of what they’d do if they had magical powers (Zoë Kravitz would “impeach Trump,” Ezra Miller opted to “destroy the patriarchy”). Depp took the stage dressed up as the evil wizard, complete with blue contact lenses and a shock of blonde hair, and then rambled on about “muggles” — Harry Potter speak for humans.
“We who live for freedom, for truth, the moment has come to rise up and take our rightful place in the world,” Depp intoned.
Depp’s casting in the “Fantastic Beasts” sequel is controversial, in large part because of Heard’s allegations. “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling, who wrote the screenplay for “Fantastic Beasts,” issued a statement in response to the backlash last year.
“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,” she wrote at the time.
Depp also courted controversy after a recent profile in Rolling Stone magazine recounted his financial troubles and captured him drinking bottle after bottle of vintage red wine and smoking hash. When the magazine piece hit there was some speculation that his role promoting “Fantastic Beasts” might be minimized. Saturday’s panel illustrated why he’s something of a public relations liability.
When Heard took the stage with “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa, director James Wan, and other cast members, she only fielded a few questions, noting that she wasn’t a beach person so filming a movie set largely underwater was a challenge.
WB’s decision to stick with Depp comes as many Hollywood studios are embracing a “zero tolerance” approach to dealing with scandals involving artists and top executives. On Friday, Disney parted ways with “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” director James Gunn after tweets emerged in which he had made jokes about rape and pedophilia. Earlier this week, Paramount fired Amy Powell, the head of its television division, for allegedly using racially charged language. Powell denies the claims. And Netflix recently axed its communications chief Jonathan Friedland for using the n-word in a meeting.
Social media was quick to react to the uncomfortable situation with Heard and Depp’s Hall H appearances. “That makes me nauseous,” Entertainment Weekly correspondent Dana Schwartz tweeted.
Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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