During the same week that it was announced that alleged pedophile Kevin Spacey was being replaced in the already-finished movie “All the Money in the World,” and on the same day that Louis C.K. admitted he sexually harassed women comedians and was subsequently dropped from every single contract in his life short of his mortgage, two of Hollywood's most high-profile perpetrators of violence against women were appearing on the big screen in star-studded new movies.
Mel Gibson, fresh off an Oscar-nomination earlier this year for directing “Hacksaw Ridge,” starred in the comedy sequel “Daddy's Home 2,” while Johnny Depp was a major part of the ensemble in Kenneth Branagh's remake of “Murder on the Orient Express.” Their crimes and offenses are well known: Gibson's reputation precedes him, with a record of spousal abuse and spewing racial epithets, and Depp allegedly beat his ex-wife, Amber Heard.
That their movies came out during the height of Hollywood's sexual assault scandal is coincidental, but audiences, critics, and even some celebrities seized on the timing to point out the industry's long-standing aversion to punishing or banishing its abusive members.
On Friday, Stephen Colbert called out the “Daddy's Home 2” casting choice, tweeting, “Hope nothing bad comes out about my comedy hero, Mel Gibson..."
Hope nothing bad comes out about my comedy hero, Mel Gibson, now starring in Daddy's Home 2!
Some industry members were similarly cutting with their sarcasm, others were too enraged to joke:
I like many of the people involved so I hate to do this but I must say NOPE NO WAY to "Daddy's Home 2" bc it stars Mel Gibson and it's 2017 and there are plenty of great movies to see this weekend in theaters.
Oh man if you guys think these guys are bad just you WAIT until 2010 when you hear Mel Gibson on tape emphatically admitting to beating his girlfriend and then screaming he hopes she gets raped while their child weeps in the background!
Gibson had not starred in a big budget studio release in 15 years before “Daddy's Home 2,” in part because of a blacklisting that began in 2006 after his original antisemitic comments were released. The wife-beating in 2010 only made things worse. But as the Wall Street Journal reported this week, once “Hacksaw Ridge” made money, he signed with a big agency once again and became welcomed back into the Hollywood fold.
Other outlets took more a direct stance, including The Week, which asked “What the hell is Mel Gibson doing in Daddy's Home 2?” And as the writer of that story points out, Gibson's character instructs a little boy to sexually harass a girl — which, even if done in the context of satire, is a bold move given the actor delivering the instruction.
Depp, meanwhile, has never suffered career-wise for his alleged abuse of Heard, despite the photographs of her bruised up face that were released to the world last year. He stayed in the Harry Potter spinoff "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” had his latest “Pirates of the Caribbean” released without incident, and now he's a major part of Branagh's new film.
Fans were incensed about the “Fantastic Beasts” role, and Twitter was similarly angry about his part in “Murder on the Orient Express.”
While you're going to see Murder on the Orient Express this weekend, remember that this happened. https://t.co/Lh5hB44sGB
Their career fortunes may be indicative that, for many of the men accused of sexual misconduct, a second act may not be impossible (though Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey seem done for good). Or, it could be that Gibson and Depp slipped in past a newly established deadline, and will be remembered two of the last offenders who got to continue working despite their serious infractions.
In some ways, that's up to the audience and what it is willing to tolerate. In that case, the former scenario, of a rebirth, might be viable for some of the actors and filmmakers who look done forever right now; “Daddy's Home 2” made $30 million this weekend, while “Murder on the Orient Express” took in over $28 million.