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J.K Rowling and Fantastic Beasts Producers Reveal Why They Cast Johnny Depp in Surprising Role

Updated

 

Witches and wizards aren’t the only ones who can pull tricks — the filmmakers behind Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them have a surprise in store for fans toward the end of the film.

(Warning: light spoilers below.)

It’s the 1920s in the first spin-off movie from J.K Rowling‘s sprawling Harry Potter universe, and the wizarding world is in chaos following the rise of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. And fans will be surprised to see a familiar face in the role of the world’s most dangerous wizard — before Voldemort, of course.

Revealed near the end of the movie, Johnny Depp makes a small cameo as Grindelwald, a character who promises to take on a bigger role in the new franchise’s four planned sequels.

“Why did we cast him? Because he’s iconic. He’s an iconic actor and we needed an iconic actor to play this part,” veteran Potter producer David Heyman told PEOPLE at the Fantastic Beasts premiere Thursday night at New York City’s Lincoln Center. “Johnny’s created two or three iconic people, people who are unforgettable. He makes choices, and that was really, really important.”

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic; Jim Spellman/WireImage
Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic; Jim Spellman/WireImage

 

Heyman also added that they “wanted somebody who could, in the one hand, seduce, but, on the other hand, be really scary. Johnny can do that. He was an absolute pleasure to work with.”

When asked if he was worried that the film might be impacted by Depp’s recent legal woes following his acrimonious divorce from Amber Heard, who had accused the actor of domestic abuse, Heyman said: “Here’s the thing: Misogyny, abuse, maltreatment of people is unacceptable — but none of us know what happened in that room. So I think it would be unfair for me to be judge and jury, or for any of us to be judge and jury.”

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Potter creator and Fantastic Beasts screenwriter Rowling also spoke to PEOPLE about Depp’s appearance in the saga.

“He’s obviously a cameo in this film but going forward will obviously be more important,” Rowling said. “Watching Johnny create a character is really quite remarkable, it’s fascinating. It’s great as a writer to work with people like that.”

David Yates, who directed the last four Harry Potter movies and has now helmed Fantastic Beasts, marveled at the fact that they were able to keep Depp’s cameo a secret for so long, revealing the actor’s scene in the film was shot this past January.

“It’s unbelievable that people only just found out,” Yates said. “We cast him because he’s a real artist. He’s a great actor. We’re asking him to fill a big pair of shoes — Grindelwald is a huge character.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — also starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell — hits theaters Nov. 18.

Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts

Entertainment Weekly’s collector’s edition The Ultimate Guide to the World of Harry Potter & Fantastic Beasts is out now