Harry Potter scribe J.K. Rowling is standing by Johnny Depp’s casting in the Fantastic Beasts franchise

By Dave Quinn
December 08, 2017 09:12 AM
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Harry Potter scribe J.K. Rowling is standing by Johnny Depp’s casting as Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise despite fans questioning why domestic violence allegations made against Depp by his ex-wife Amber Heard didn’t preclude him from the project.

The 52-year-old author broke her silence on the controversy Thursday, writing on her website that she and “everyone most closely involved in the franchise” were “deeply concerned” when reports of Depp’s alleged abuse were first published.

Heard had asked for a domestic violence restraining order against Depp just a week after she filed to end her 15-month marriage in May 2016, claiming the actor had been abusive on several occasions including one incident that she claimed left her in fear for her life. Through his lawyers, Depp vehemently denied the abuse allegations throughout the contentious divorce, calling the claims “salacious false stories, gossip, misinformation, and lies.” His lawyers also accused the actress of making the allegations up in an attempt to “extend her fifteen minutes of fame.”

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in 2015
Gregorio Binuya/Everett Collection

Harry Potter fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role,” Rowling wrote on her website. “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 continued. “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.”

Things changed for the Fantastic Beats team, however, when Depp and Heard settled their a nasty divorce in January — with Depp paying Heard a $7 million settlement (all of which she has vowed to donate to charity).

“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,” Rowling said. “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,” she concluded. “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.”

J.K. Rowling and Johnny Depp
David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock (2)

Previously, Fantastic Beasts director David Yates defended Depp’s casting in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

“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.”

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In a new statement released by Warner Bros. on Thursday and reported by EW, 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.”

On Thursday, Heard also re-posted the original statement she and Depp had released upon their divorce settlement to her Instagram, explaining that, “This was our FULL joint statement. To pick and choose certain lines and quote them out of context, is just not right. Women, continue to stand up and stay strong. Love, Amber.”

The statement read: “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains. There was never an intent of physical or emotional harm. Amber wishes the best for Johnny in the future. Amber will be donating financial proceeds from the divorce to a charity.”

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald hits theaters Nov. 16, 2018.