American entertainment company Warner Bros. fears that an ongoing legal battle between actors Johnny Depp and his former wife, Amber Heard, might cast a negative light on its Harry Potter movie franchise.
Former Pirates of the Caribbean star Depp, 55, is suing Heard, 32, in a Virginia court for $50 million, claiming that she allegedly defamed him in an opinion editorial she had published in the Washington Post back in December 2018. The op-ed stated that Heard was the victim of domestic violence.
Depp says that he is implicated as the perpetrator even though the article did not state exactly who had abused her. He dismisses any suggestion that he abused his former wife as a “hoax.”
“I write this as a woman who had to change my phone number weekly because I was getting death threats. For months I rarely left my apartment and, when I did, I was pursued by camera drones and photographers on foot, on motorcycles, and in cars,” Heard wrote in the article. “I want to ensure that women who come forward to talk about violence receive more support … we can work together to demand changes to laws and rules and social norms—and to right the imbalances that have shaped our lives.”
In response to the defamation claim, Heard has made new allegations in court saying that Depp would drink, take drugs, and turn into a “monster” who would repeatedly hit her, rip out her hair, and choke her. She also accused Depp of holding her by the neck and slamming her against the countertop.
“I struggled to stand up as he strangled me, but my arms and feet kept slipping and sliding on to the spilled alcohol and were dragged against the broken glass on the countertop and floor, which repeatedly slashed my feet and arms,” she said, according to court documents obtained by The Washington Post. “Scared for my life, I told Johnny, ‘You are hurting me and cutting me.’ Johnny ignored me, continuing to hit me with the back of one closed hand, and slamming a hard plastic phone against a wall with his other until it was smashed into smithereens.”
Lawyers acting for Depp denied that their client has ever abused Heard, saying that Heard’s allegations against Depp are “categorically” false, and the claims are simply part of an “elaborate hoax” to generate positive publicity for Heard and advance her career.
The widespread media publicity of the allegations is worrying Warner Bros., which said it will continue to star Depp in its hit Harry Potter series.
The actor will appear in Fantastic Beasts 3, the next instalment of Harry Potter authored by J.K. Rowling. The script of the lastest instalment is ready and filming is expected to begin in fall 2020 instead of this summer as originally planned.
“Executives at Warner Bros. are wondering how to deal with the backlash of the Depp matter on the Harry Potter franchise,” a source told News Limited.
The insider also claimed a number of high-profile female staff at Warner Bros. are concerned about their personal safety.
“High-level female execs at the studio are extremely worried about working with Depp and the message it sends to the public, especially after the recent sordid departure of CEO Kevin Tsujihara,” the source said.
Tsujihara, 54, left in March after news spread of him promoting British actress Charlotte Kirk, 26, while he was allegedly having an affair with her at the time.
“This is yet another blow to the morale of female employees at the studio,” the source said. “If Warner Bros. continues to stick by Depp, it would reveal a lot about the values the company holds.”
“Many at Warner Bros. wish that Rowling hadn’t come out so strongly behind Depp, because having made her opinion so public boxes them into a corner,” the source said.
Rowling publicly supported Depp playing Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts 2 in 2017 after his marriage to Heard derailed very publicly.
She released a written statement on her website back in December 2017, saying that she thought Depp would be “wonderful” in the role of Grindelwald.
“The [divorce] 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,” she said at the time. “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 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,” she added.
Fantastic Beasts 2 amassed $653 million worldwide, making it the 10th-highest-grossing movie of the year.
Attorney Adam Waldman, who is acting for Depp, said he had witnesses claiming that Heard had actually physically abused them.
“We are now interviewing other women who have come forward claiming they are victims of horrific acts of violence and other abuse at the hands of Amber Heard, in addition to Johnny Depp and Tasya van Rhee, the latter of whom Ms. Heard was previously arrested and incarcerated for assaulting,” Waldman told The Man Post. “We have now issued subpoenas to Amber Heard, her hoax assisting friends, Elon Musk, and other witnesses to explain the avalanche of video, audio, photographic, and testimonial evidence with which we intend to confront them.”