J.K. Rowling Speaks Out About Johnny Depp’s Casting in “Fantastic Beasts” Films

There’s been no shortage of controversy about Johnny Depp being cast as Gellert Grindelwald since he first appeared in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Some people are overjoyed at the casting of such a versatile actor, while others are uneasy with the idea of Depp, who was accused of domestic abuse by his ex-wife Amber Heard in 2016, being allowed to remain in the role for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Today, J.K. Rowling broke her silence on the debate, publishing the following statement in Depp’s defense 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.

Last week, director David Yates also defended Depp’s casting 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. 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. Whatever accusation was out there doesn’t tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with. By testament, some of the women in [Depp’s] life have said the same thing — ‘that’s not the human being we know.’ It’s very different [than cases] where there are multiple accusers over many years that need to be examined and we need to reflect on our industry that allows that to roll on year in and year out. Johnny isn’t in that category in any shape or form. So to me, it doesn’t bear any more analysis. It’s a dead issue.

Many fans are still outraged, believing the allegations against Depp warrant a recasting of the role.

This issue is one that every Harry Potter fan should consider individually. In the wake of a flood of allegations against men in Hollywood, it is up to us to maintain our values and a civil discussion environment. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald premieres on November 18, 2018.

  • So basically, if Depp had a “big tally” of victims THEN maybe Yates would care. Also glad to know you (Yates) find stories of abuse & sexual harassment “compelling”. Thank you David Yates for feeding into rape culture.

    I kind of want to scream & cry; but at the same time I’m not even surprised.

    • Paige Alexander

      Get a grip, seriously! Look at the context of the situation, his whole public and private life to date prior to the so called * incident* and realise that in this case, he was played. I am sorry, but putting him into the category of ‘ abuser’ like the rest of the vermin that is being exposed is inaccurate and cruel. I am more likely to believe people with credibility as those above, than the tabloids and crappy media reporting you are obviously buying into. Rant your anger at those true perpetrators not someone who is accused by his ex gold digger.

    • Iain Walker

      By “compelling”, what Yates means is “plausible” or “believable”. He’s not downplaying abuse accusations in general – quite the opposite. The problem is that he’s downplaying this particular case on such shaky ground.

      The “Oh, he seems so nice and I’ve heard other people say so” approach is the kind of thing that abusers rely upon. That’s what irritates me about Yates’ statement – the sheer lack of self-awareness, not to mention the bizarre privileging of his own experience of Depp as a male co-worker over that of a woman who was married to him. Even if I were inclined to dismiss Heard’s accusations, I’d still recognise this as a dodgy argument.

  • Shawn

    The Twitter comparison to Jamie Waylett’s (Crabbe) case is unfair. Mr. Waylett was caught by law enforcement agents, convicted of a crime and was serving out his sentence during production of the final two films. Regardless of whether or not producers wanted to include him, it would’ve been impractical to shut down or delay production for a cinematically minor character. I’m sure had this happened to a more prominent actor like Radcliffe, Watson or Grint then they would have waited to continue filming they wouldn’t have had any choice. But say Stanislav Ianevski came down with the flu just before production then Vicktor Krum’s cameo would’ve just been written out. Sometimes inclusion or exclusion is simply a matter of practicality.

    In regards to Johnny Depp’s situation he has been accused of domestic abuse by an estrange spouse during a contested and bitter divorce. While domestic violence is both a loathsome and illegal behavior and I believe that anyone convicted of such a crime should not be permitted to work on a family film franchise such as Harry Potter, to date Mr. Depp has only been accused and in most western countries it is an accepted practice that the accused shall be assumed innocent until proven otherwise. To the best of my knowledge there has been no official police investigation into the accusation and he has never been formally charged with a crime. Additionally his appearance in the first film was only a cameo and there was plenty of time between films for Rowling and Yates to investigate the issue behind the scenes so that if necessary they could have easily replaced Mr. Depp before the second film with his expanded role began production.

    I’m also certain that should new evidence be produce that would find Mr. Depp guilty of domestic abuse both Rowling and Yates would have no problem replacing him mid franchise. We saw with the unfortunate death of Richard Harris in the first film series that the Potter production team was able to replace him to the acceptance of the majority of the fandom and general audience. We also know that Rowling is highly sensitive on the subject of domestic abuse and that she’s not concern about money as she’s already given away a vast majority of her fortune once (and probably will again). So if she had any doubts about Mr. Depp whatsoever she’d probably crash her own franchise rather then allow him to collect a paycheck on her universe.

    • Lisa

      When it comes to crimes like domestic abuse or rape, the conviction rate is pretty low. It’s usually a “he said she said” situation, just like in this case. The only thing we know for sure is that we just don’t know what happened and what didn’t happen between him and his ex-wife. The innocent until proven guilty thing while an admirable principle puts the entire burden of proof upon the victim which in cases like these where the violence happens between closed doors is incredibly hard to prove. And to be frank, I don’t think this principle is relevant here. No one is saying Depp should be punished or charged with anything, we’re just saying that in such an ambiguous situation there were better casting choices out there. Starring in a franchise is not a human right and has nothing to do with the right to a fair trial.

  • Lisa

    JKR doesn’t really address anything in what she’s written, it’s more like she’s once again expressing that she’s happy to have him in her franchise and she can’t tell us exactly how but she knows he’s innocent. Just like David Yates apparently knows, nevermind that the fact that Depp is kind and nice to him doesn’t mean he cannot be abusive to his wife. It’s quite possible for abusers to be charismatic, you know, Dave. So yeah, I was happy that JKR adressed this issue but disappointed to read the piece and find even more defence of this casting choice. I’m not saying he should be in jail if he’s innocent, I’m saying that there are other actors out there without such stains on their record. I was expecting more from a woman who claims to stand up for children and other women.

  • Shilani Liva-Liva

    I personally would have never cast Depp in the first place. However, I can see that now that they have cast him, they can’t really dump him and find another actor, so I will watch the rest of the series. However, I am not sure if I will watch any other movies staring Johnny Depp.

  • Iain Walker

    Here’s the thing: Depp may or may not be legally guilty of domestic abuse, but there was enough prima facie evidence of violent behaviour for a judge to issue a restraining order against him on Heard’s behalf. One can hence make a provisional judgement, on the balance of probabilities, that some domestic abuse occurred. That’s not the same as condemning him outright, only to say that the accusations are plausible and should not be dismissed.

    Now, it may well be that such behaviour is out of character for Depp, an exception rather than part of a pattern. And the argument that if the two people involved have drawn a line under it then the rest of us should respect that isn’t entirely without merit. Except this is bigger than Depp. Recasting him wouldn’t have hurt him financially, and probably wouldn’t have hurt him much professionally either. It would, however, have sent a signal that the filmmakers took violence against women seriously. It would be a gesture more than anything else, it’s true, but sometimes gestures matter when it comes to changing a culture. And maybe a little time out for Depp to reflect and rebuild his reputation might not be a bad thing for him, either.

    So for me, the arguments in favour of recasting him still outweigh the arguments against. I don’t think Rowling’s position is entirely unreasonable to hold, but I don’t find it convincing either. That said, I’m not going to let this spoil my enjoyment of the films. I’d rather Depp hadn’t been cast, but I’m not going to make it the sole yardstick by which I measure the rest of the series.

    He’d better give a damn good performance, though.