At a time when Hollywood celebrities facing abuse allegations are seeing rapid falls from grace, the reaction to Johnny Depp’s casting in the title role of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald infuriated many fans.
Depp was accused of physical and emotional abuse by his ex-wife Amber Heard, who described several violent incidents that took place over her four-year relationship with the actor, in interviews and court testimony. Heard was granted a restraining order against Depp during divorce proceedings, and disturbing photos of the Heard’s bruised face surfaced in the months before the divorce was settled.
Given this history, some fans asked JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts stories, to speak out against Depp’s casting as the dark wizard Grindelwald. Rowling, who has a history of advocacy on social issues and is a self-declared feminist, had apparently been blocking fans on Twitter who confronted her about Depp’s casting.
Now Rowling has broken her silence on the issue, saying she is not just OK with Depp’s casting, she is “genuinely happy” for him to play the role. She hints that there is information she’s unable to share publicly, and says, “For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful.”
Ultimately, she concludes, “Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing.” Here is her full statement, posted on her website:
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.
Reactions from Harry Potter fans online have been mixed. Some suggested giving Rowling the benefit of the doubt, since much of the Depp-Heard proceedings are not available to the public:
Many, however, criticized Rowling’s decision to stand by a man accused accused of domestic abuse: