J.K. Rowling has defended casting Johnny Depp as villain Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. Fans have expressed concerns over the casting following domestic abuse allegations against Depp, as detailed by Amber Heard during the former couple's divorce proceedings.
"When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the role," the Harry Potter author began. "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," noting the team "naturally considered" recasting Depp's part.
"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," Rowling wrote, referring to Depp and Heard's mutual desire for their proceedings to remain between them.
She asserted, "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 ends the statement by accepting that some fans are "not satisfied" with Depp's casting, but stands by the decision. "Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing," she finished.
Rowling previously called it a "privilege" to work with Depp on the first film. "Watching him create a character is fascinating," she told MTV News correspondent Josh Horowitz at the Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them world premiere in New York City last year. "It's been quite inspiring to me as the writer. I feel he's got quite an interesting approach to creating a character. It's a privilege to work with someone like that."
Although his role was a mere cameo at the end of the first film, Depp's presence will be much greater in the upcoming four films as the story line moves through Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) teaming up to thwart Grindelwald's rise to power in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, and ultimately reaches Dumbledore and Grindelwald's epic duel for the Elder Wand in the 1940s.
Read Rowling's statement in full on her website.