JK Rowling has defended the casting of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, saying she is “genuinely happy” to have the actor playing a major role.
Controversy has swirled around Depp’s casting as magical villain Gellert Grindelwald in the franchise, in which he is set to play a major role following his brief cameo in the first film.
The actor was accused of assault by his then-wife Amber Heard in May 2016, while Heard was filing for divorce from the star.
In a statement on her website, author and screenwriter Rowling said she and director David Yates had considered recasting Depp when the allegations against him surfaced.
She said: “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.
“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.
“The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life. For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful. However, 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.
“I’ve loved writing the first two screenplays and I can’t wait for fans to see The Crimes of Grindelwald. 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.”
Fantastic Beasts director David Yates spoke out to defend Depp’s casting several weeks ago, telling Entertainment Weekly the controversy was a “dead issue”.
He added: “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.”
Warner Bros echoed Rowling’s sentiments in a statement, saying they “take seriously” the allegations, but “support the decision to proceed with Johnny Depp in the role of Grindelwald in this and future films”.
At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings.
In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is set for release on November 18th 2018 and sees director David Yates returning alongside stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, alongside Katherine Waterston as Auror Tina Goldstein, Alison Sudol as her sister Queenie Goldstein, Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski, Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone, Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange, Kevin Guthrie as Abernathy and newcomers Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore, Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander, William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama, Ingvar Sigurdsson as Grimmson, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as Skender, David Sakurai as Krall, Brontis Jodorowsky as Nicolas Flamel, Wolf Roth as Spielman, Victoria Yeates as Bunty, Derek Riddell as Torquil Travers, Poppy Corby-Tuech as Rosier, Cornell S. John as Arnold Guzman and Claudia Kim, Jessica Williams and Fiona Glascott as as-yet-unrevealed characters.