Like it or not, Johnny Depp is starring in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, and he is not backing down from the vocal Harry Potter loyalists who protested his continued casting in light of domestic abuse allegations from ex-wife Amber Heard. In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actor addresses the controversy that's become the film's darkest cloud.
When asked how he felt about the fallout, Depp's first thought went to the magical world's creator, J.K. Rowling. "I’ll be honest with you, I felt bad for J.K. having to field all these various feelings from people out there. I felt bad that she had to take that," he said.
Despite support from Rowling and the studio, Depp acknowledged that "ultimately, there is real controversy," and doubled down on his own self-defense. "The fact remains I was falsely accused, which is why I’m suing the Sun newspaper for defamation for repeating false accusations," he said. "J.K. has seen the evidence and therefore knows I was falsely accused, and that’s why she has publicly supported me. She doesn’t take things lightly. She would not stand up if she didn’t know the truth. So that’s really it."
Rowling, for her part, released a statement defending Depp last December, noting that "the inability to speak openly to fans about this issue has been difficult, frustrating and at times painful," but after many conversations, she remained "genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies."
In the same interview, Depp addressed another (way less personal) controversy — how the film would portray young Dumbledore's (played by Jude Law) sexuality. Fans have been eager to see interactions between Grindelwald and the Hogwarts headmaster ever since learning that the two were romantically linked once upon a time, and were understandably disappointed when director David Yates said that Dumbledore is "not explicitly" gay in the second installment of the five-movie series.
"I think it should be left up to the audience to feel it first, and when the time comes … It makes the situation with Dumbledore all the more intense," Depp said after recognizing that "there’s probably a lot of residue left over from days gone by."
He also hints that, at this point in their long history, their passion is still very much alive — it just expresses itself differently than it once did. "When you loved someone, and cared for someone, and it arrives into a [combative] arena — as it has with Dumbledore and Grindelwald — it’s very dangerous when it becomes personal."
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald hits theaters November 16.