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

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

During the pivotal scene in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Colin Farrell’s Percival Graves is revealed to be none other than the storied villain Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp in a short cameo. The casting of Depp, who will have a more prominent role moving forward, has drawn ire from fans and journalists alike due to his alleged physical and verbal abuse of ex-wife and actress Amber Heard. While women everywhere are being empowered to break their silence after suffering years of misogynistic abuse, J.K. Rowling has broken hers to inexplicably stand in support of an abuser.

While Depp and Heard ultimately reached a settlement in their tempestuous divorce proceedings, the evidence of Depp’s abuses have been well-documented via photo and video. The fact that screenwriter and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, herself an outspoken advocate against misogyny, would allow Depp to be cast in her family-friendly film series is odd, to say the least.

It’s actually kind of astonishing that she would publish a statement defending Depp’s casting just one day after TIME magazine revealed their person(s) of the year: The silence-breakers — several women who have bravely come forward to share allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse, leading to a much-needed bursting of the dam.

On her website, Rowling says that although they considered re-casting Depp in the Fantastic Beasts series early on, they’re “genuinely happy” to have the actor on board based on their “understanding of the circumstances.” The author and screenwriter notes that it’s been “difficult, frustrating and at times painful” to stay silent on the issue, but she agrees with series director David Yates — who recently defended Depp’s casting with his own flawed logic.

You can read Rowling’s statement in full below:

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.

One of the most notable things about Rowling’s statement is that everyone involved with production was obviously aware (how could they not be?) of the allegations against Depp while they were filming his cameo in the first film. They could’ve replaced him then, but chose not to. The fact that they continue to employ a known abuser, in a family-friendly franchise no less, is ridiculous — especially in the midst of this watershed moment, as women are being empowered to stand up to their abusers and powerful men are experiencing a long overdue reckoning.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald hits theaters on November 16, 2018.

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