Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has broken her silence on the controversy surrounding Johnny Depp’s casting in the Fantastic Beasts franchise.
“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 wrote in a statement on her website, referencing domestic violence allegations made against Depp by his ex-wife Amber Heard. “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.”
Rowling added that while “the huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life,” she found it “difficult, frustrating and at times painful” to remain silent on the Depp issue. “However,” she added, “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. 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.”
Rowling is the screenwriter of both the original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the film’s sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald. Saying she’s “loved” that experience, she added, “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.”
Heard accused Depp of emotionally and physically abusive and inebriated behavior during their one-year marriage and released a video of Depp having a tantrum and a photo of herself with a black eye. Depp called the reports “salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation, and lies.” The two reached a settlement in 2016 and issued a joint statement reading, “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain. There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.”
Previously, Fantastic Beasts director David Yates defended Depp’s casting in an interview with EW.
“Honestly, there’s an issue at the moment where there’s a lot of people being accused of things, they’re being accused by multiple victims, and it’s compelling and frightening,” Yates said. “With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something. I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He’s full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see. Whatever accusation was out there doesn’t tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.”
He added, “By testament, some of the women in [Depp’s] life have said the same thing — ‘that’s not the human being we know.’ It’s very different [than cases] where there are multiple accusers over many years that need to be examined and we need to reflect on our industry that allows that to roll on year in and year out. Johnny isn’t in that category in any shape or form. So to me, it doesn’t bear any more analysis. It’s a dead issue.”
In a new statement released by Warner Bros. on Thursday, Yates said, “None of us involved in Fantastic Beasts would ever let our appreciation of talent obscure other, far more important considerations. We recognized 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.”
Added Warner Bros., which distributes the blockbuster Harry Potter films, “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. 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.”