Depp has been signed up for the second film in the Harry Potter spinoff

Johnny Depp has been cast as Gellert Grindelwald, the former friend and love interest of Albus Dumbledore, in the forthcoming sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Speculation over what role Depp might fill in the adaption of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter spinoff has been rife following news that he has been signed up for the second film in the series.

Director David Yates put an end to the rumours by confirming that Depp will play Grindelwald, an important character in the world of Harry Potter but one that is only briefly touched on in the novels.

“The whole principal of casting the movie was go with the best actor. Go for the most inspired, interesting, right fit for that character. And as we approached Grindelwald we thought, ‘Who’s going to take this in an interesting direction?’” explained Yates in an interview with fansite The Leaky Cauldron.

He added: “Johnny Depp is a real artist. He’s created several characters who have really resonated in our popular culture. He’s a really brilliant, brilliant actor. We were excited about seeing what he would do with this guy, the character.”

Producer David Heyman hinted that Depp’s character will play a major role in the forthcoming sequel.

“Rhe beasts feature slightly less in the second film, and Grindelwald takes more of a foreground. Currently. But we love the beasts so much.”

A younger Dumbledore is also set to appear in the forthcoming film, with the casting process reportedly underway for the role.

Last month, Rowling revealed that Fantastic Beasts will be extended into a five-part film series, prompting some to question the decision on social media.