After months of protests and speculation about Johnny Depp's casting in the Fantastic Beasts sequel, franchise author and screenplay writer J. K. Rowling has opened up about the casting decision. She says that she is happy to have Depp as a part of the film. Depp plays the role of the antagonist Grindelwald.
Rowling's comment has not been received favourably by fans of the Harry Potter franchise as Depp has been facing backlash since actress Amber Heard filed for divorce from him, citing domestic violence as the reason.
Rowling had said on her website that filmmakers had considered recasting the role of villain Gellert Grindelwald for "Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald", reports theguradian.com. However, they decided to stick with their original choice.
"'Harry Potter' fans had legitimate questions and concerns about our choice to continue with Johnny Depp in the role. 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," posted Rowling.
"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," she added.
Warner Bros. supported the casting decision on Thursday. Director David Yates and producer David Heyman also issued a joint statement saying that they recognise the "magnitude of the issues raised" but still stand by their choice. Yates added that Depp is "full of decency and kindness."
"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," he said. "With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something... Whatever accusation was out there doesn't tally with the kind of human being I've been working with," read the statement.
This led fans to express their concerns about Depp portraying the iconic role as they did not want the favourite franchise from their childhood to be tainted with domestic violence accusations. Also, during a time when Hollywood is denouncing big names and important personalities like Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer due to sexual abuse claims, the defence of Johnny Depp comes as a big surprise.
'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' is the second instalment in the Fantastic Beasts series, which is a spinoff of the Harry Potter universe. The movie is scheduled to be released in November 2018 and will be followed by three more sequels.
The creator of Harry Potter, Rowling, has always been seen as an advocate for women's rights and a beacon of inspiration for many. Additionally, she has been rumoured to have had an abusive marriage with journalist Jorge Arantes.
Although Rowling never confirmed the rumours, Arantes has described an incident with his then-wife to the Daily Express. While talking about the night of their split, he said, "I had to drag her out of the house at 5 in the morning, and I admit I slapped her very hard in the street."
In the light of these reports, Rowling's defensiveness towards Depp has disturbed Harry Potter fans, most of whom are impressionable youngsters and young adults.
Depp had a divorce with Amber Heard in August 2016, when they released a joint statement saying that their marriage was "intensely passionate and at times volatile but always bound by love', adding that there was "never any intent of physical or emotional harm."
With inputs from IANS