JK Rowling responds to backlash over casting of Johnny Depp in ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’

'Harry Potter' author says sticking with Depp is the "right thing" to do

JK Rowling has spoken out about the controversial casting of Johnny Depp in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequel.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second instalment in the Harry Potter spin-off series, is set for release on November 16, 2018. The first film, titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, hit cinemas in November 2016 and was a critical and commercial success.

Depp’s villainous character of Gellert Grindelwald was introduced at the end of the first movie and will play a bigger role in the second film. Following the announcement of the sequel, fans expressed their anger at Depp being cast, with some threatening to boycott the movie.

The actor was previously accused of assaulting ex-wife Amber Heard. As the pair battled for divorce in court, Heard alleged that Depp had been physically abusive during their relationship. Depp denied all claims of domestic violence and the pair later settled their divorce and the domestic abuse case.

Writing on her official website, Rowling – writer and producer on the film – says that she initially thought that Depp would “be wonderful in the role” of Grindelwald but was “deeply concerned” when allegations emerged.

She goes on to describe the “questions and concerns” about continuing to work with Depp as “legitimate” and admits that the “possibility of recasting” was considered.

Johnny Depp stars as Grindelwald

“For me personally, the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful,” Rowling writes. “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.”

“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,” the author says.

Stating that she “accept[s] that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor”, Rowling adds that “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”.

Read Rowling’s statement in full below:

“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.”

Fantastic Beasts 2 director David Yates recently defended the casting of Depp, describing the matter as a “dead issue”.