J K Rowling has defended the casting of Johnny Depp as Grindelwald in the next "Fantastic Beasts" film, following a backlash from fans unhappy about the circumstances surrounding his divorce from actress Amber Heard.
The Harry Potter author posted a statement on her website on Thursday evening (7th December) which said: “I'm saying what I can about the Grindelwald casting issue here”. She discussed how she and the film team had been concerned by articles about the actor’s private life and had considered recasting the role, but had concluded she was “genuinely happy” to have Depp play the character.
The casting of Depp in the next film has been criticised following the actor’s divorce from actress Amber Heard amid her accusations of domestic abuse. A case about the matter was settled last year for a reported £7m and the pair issued joint statement saying their relationship was “intensely passionate and at times volatile but always bound by love,” and that there was “never any intent of physical or emotional harm”.
Depp appeared as Gellert Grindelwald in the first of the franchise, "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", in 2016 and will appear again as the villain in the sequel "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald", due for release in November 2018. Altogether five films and planned for the series.
Rowling revealed she had been “deeply concerned” by the stories in the press as was "everyone most closely involved in the franchise”.
“When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role," Rowling wrote. "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.”
She said she recognised fans’ “legitimate questions” over the casting and understood why some are “confused and angry” a different actor was not chosen. However, she concluded that her and the filmakers were "not only comfortable" keeping Depp as Grindelwald but "genuinely happy" about it. She couldn't go into detail about the decision in order to protect Depp and Heard's privacy, she added.
“The huge, mutually supportive community that has grown up around Harry Potter is one of the greatest joys of my life," Rowling wrote. "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.”
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.”
Many fans expressed their unhappiness about the author's position on social media.
One, using the Twitter handle @YoungeArsenal, said: "You can say what you want but as long as crusty Johnny Depp is in it I'm out."
Another using the Twitter handle @definitelynofan, said: “I never thought I would have to say that I’m disappointed in you @jk_rowling! Harry Potter was my childhood and continues to be important to me…”
However some were more supportive of her decision. Amanda Gamlen tweeted: “Virtually nobody who comments on the Johnny Depp situation knows him or Amber Heard personally. Virtually nobody has enough info to comment on what is right or wrong about him being cast. @jk_rowling knows a little more than that. I trust her integrity.”
The full script of the screenplay was published by Little, Brown Book Group to coincide with the first film's release in November 2016 to huge success. Several other publishers are releasing tie-in titles, including HarperCollins and Scholastic. The original Fantastic Beasts was published in 2001 by Bloomsbury but the publisher withdrew the title and reissued a new one in November this year.