J.K. Rowling is speaking out about Johnny Depp’s casting in the Fantastic Beasts movies, and fans might not like what she has to say.
Depp has been cast as villain Grindelwald in the Harry Potter spinoff franchise, with a cameo in last year’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and a much bigger part planned for the sequel, which is due out in November 2018. The choice is controversial because of domestic violence claims made by his ex-wife Amber Heard, who accused the actor of emotional and physical abuse during their divorce proceedings last year. (Depp has denied the allegations, and he and Heard issued a joint statement after their divorce settlement saying that “there was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.”)
On Thursday, Rowling released a statement of her own, responding to lingering controversy over casting Depp. In that statement, she suggested she is not able to speak frankly about the issue because of “the agreements that have been put in place to protect the privacy of two people.” She did, however, give her approval: “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.”
Fantastic Beasts director David Yates also defended Depp’s casting last week in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “Honestly, there’s an issue at the moment where there’s a lot of people being accused of things, they’re being accused by multiple victims, and it’s compelling and frightening,” he said. “With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something. I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He’s full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see.”
Rowling’s statement, however, is much more surprising than Yates’, given that she’s established a reputation for herself as a progressive voice on social media. Her “understanding of the circumstances” line is reminiscent of Lena Dunham’s defense of a Girls’ writer accused of sexual assault, in which Dunham touted “insider knowledge” of the situation. (That writer has denied the accusations against him, and Dunham has since apologized for her statement.)
I can't help but wonder if Rowling has seen the disturbing TMZ video that was leaked last year and what other “circumstances” could possibly mitigate its impact:
Here is Rowling’s full statement as 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.