Hollywood is going through a bit of a reckoning at the moment when it comes to unacceptable behavior that was allowed to flourish for decades, and it’s starting to impact some major blockbusters—i.e. huge investments—as well. When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, some fans were displeased simply because they felt Depp had overstayed his welcome in the “over-the-top characters” department. However, the situation was complicated when, six months before the release of Beasts, Amber Heard filed for divorce from Depp and obtained a restraining order, claiming Depp had been “verbally and physically abusive” during the entirety of their relationship.
A very public back-and-forth ensued between Depp and Heard, and in the end a settlement was reached and Heard donated all of her proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Subsequently, Heard and Depp released a joint statement saying their relationship “was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain.”
So while Depp and Heard (publicly at least) decided to put this behind them, the mess was already public, and perception of Depp had been tainted. Given that Grindelwald is a major part of the Fantastic Beasts saga, which will span five films, this posed a difficulty for Warner Bros. and the filmmakers. Director David Yates spoke up last month to defend the casting of Depp, and now author/screenwriter J.K. Rowling has broken her silence.
I’m including her statement in full because I feel it’s unfair to break it into pieces. It reads as follows (via her website):
When Johnny Depp was cast as Grindelwald, I thought he’d be wonderful in the rol. 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 supporting 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.
Clearly this was a difficult decision to reach by all involved, and Rowling’s candor is appreciated. I imagine this tumult is not over by a long shot, but we now have Rowling’s thoughts on the matter.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald opens in theaters on November 16, 2018.