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J.K. Rowling Defends Casting of Johnny Depp in ‘Fantastic Beasts’

Warner Bros., director and producer of 'Fantastic Beasts' also back the decision

J.K. Rowling has defended the decision to have Johnny Depp in the new “Fantastic Beasts” movie despite allegations of domestic violence that were leveled against the star.

On her official site, the author said she and the film’s producers were concerned by the stories in the press about Depp and acknowledged fans’ concerns, but stood by their casting decision. On Twitter, Rowling linked to her blog post and said: “I’m saying what I can about the Grindelwald casting issue.”

Depp was accused of domestic abuse during his divorce from Amber Heard, which was settled in January. He denied the allegations and at the time of the settlement the couple issued a statement saying “there was never any intent of physical or emotional harm” by either party. But some fans of the “Harry Potter” and “Fantastic Beasts” movies reacted strongly against Depp’s casting as dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” sequel, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”

Rowling, who wrote the screenplays for the  two films, often interacts with fans on social media and went public Thursday with her thoughts on Depp after allegedly previously blocking a follower who had questioned her about his casting. She said she and the producers had considered ditching the actor, but decided against it.

“‘Harry Potter’ fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role,” she said. “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.”

She added that she has wanted to address the issue with fans but only felt able to do so now.

“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 [Depp and Heard], 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.”

Rowling said she understood that some fans would still not be happy with Depp’s inclusion: “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. also defended the decision to stick by Depp. Noting that it took seriously the complexity of the issues involved, the studio said Thursday: “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.’ 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.”

David Yates, the director of the upcoming installment in the Wizarding World franchise, and producer David Heyman echoed Rowling and Warner Bros.’ sentiments in their own statement. Yates had previously spoken publicly in Depp’s defense and said that, in his experience, the actor was “full of decency and kindness.”

“None of us involved in Fantastic Beasts would ever let our appreciation of talent obscure other, far more important considerations,” Yates and Heyman said in a joint statement. “We recognized 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. We stand by our decision to have Johnny in the films.”

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