J.K. Rowling Stands by Johnny Depp Casting in 'Fantastic Beasts' Sequel
By Alex Ungerman
L: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images, R: Eamonn M. McCormack/Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images/for 21st Century Fox
Johnny Depp will retain the titular role in The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, as well as Warner Bros., director David Yates and producer David Heyman, put up a united front on Thursday defending their choice not to recast the 54-year-old actor's part in the follow-up to 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, despite fan backlash over controversy related to Depp's contentious divorce with Amber Heard.
"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 said in a statement to ET. "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 went on to lament the inability to address fans more candidly about the issue, but maintained that she and the filmmakers stand by Depp's casting.
"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," she explained. "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," Rowling concluded her statement. "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."
Warner Bros. echoed Rowling's sentiments in a statement to ET, writing, "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,'" the statement read. "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."
Yates and Heyman issued a more brief but similar statement to ET, saying, "None of us involved in Fantastic Beasts would ever let our appreciation of talent obscure other, far more important considerations. "
"We recognised 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," they added. "We stand by our decision to have Johnny in the films."
The backlash to Depp's casting has largely surrounded his troubled divorce proceedings with his ex-wife.
Heard filed for divorce from Depp in May 2016, after one year of marriage. Days later, the 31-year-old actress filed for a restraining order against Depp, alleging he was abusive to her while they were together. Depp vehemently denied all allegations against him.
Despite the bitter proceedings, however, in August 2016, Heard withdrew her restraining order request, and the exes settled their divorce, saying in a joint statement, "Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love," adding, "Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains. There was never an intent of physical or emotional harm."
Following her split from Depp, Heard has been a vocal advocate for domestic violence awareness.