Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling has come to the defense of Fantastic Beasts actor Johnny Depp by issuing a statement on her personal website. Depp had a short cameo as the feared dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the first Fantastic Beasts movie last year and will play a much larger role in its sequel, The Crimes of Grindelwald. Many voiced their displeasure at the production keeping Depp on after his now ex-wife Amber Heard accused him of domestic violence.
“When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role. However, around the time of filming his cameo in the first movie, stories had appeared in the press that deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise,” Rowling said in the statement. “Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role. 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 ... For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful."
Her mention of Yates is a reference to an interview the Fantastic Beasts director did with Entertainment Weekly in late November, in which the filmmaker said that Depp is "full of decency and kindness."
Rowling goes on to stand by Depp's casting and voice her pleasure at keeping him on for the duration of the budding franchise. "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 ... 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 wrote.
Warner Brothers and producer David Heyman also released statements obtained by SYFY WIRE.
WB wrote that the matter of domestic abuse was already address by "both parties" (presumably Depp and Heard) and that “there was never any intent of physical or emotional harm. "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 continued. "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."
Heyman mirrored that sentiment, saying, "None of us involved in Fantastic Beasts would ever let our appreciation of talent obscure other, far more important considerations. We recognised the magnitude of the issues raised and understood the strength of feeling expressed. We hoped and strived at all times to be sensitive to both parties. We stand by our decision to have Johnny in the films."
The Crimes of Grindelwald is set for release on Nov. 16, 2018. Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, and Dan Fogler return, as Jude Law joins the cast as a young Dumbledore.