Today, Fantastic Beasts author J.K Rowling broke her silence on actor Johnny Depp’s continued involvement in the film franchise. For those unfamiliar with the abuse allegations leveled against Depp by actress Amber Heard, the bare bones breakdown is as follows: Heard filed abuse charges against Depp, using them as grounds for a temporary restraining order (and to justify the divorce that she filed for a few days prior). After a lengthy court battle, Heard eventually dropped the abuse charges and the two settled in court. If you’re gross and running to the comments to call Ms. Heard a gold digger, you should probably know that she then donated the entirety of that settlement to charity.
Now that we’re all caught up on the history, J.K. Rowling had this to say about Warner Brothers deciding to stick with Depp in the role of Grindelwald –
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.
If you’re not familiar with J.K Rowling’s history, she herself is a domestic abuse survivor. Frankly, that’s what makes this statement so shocking. It’s not Harry Potter, and the history many people of my generation have with those books. She created a piece of art that has very significant meaning to some of us, and Harry and the world she created amplifies her voice, yes. But it’s the fact that she did so after enduring the abuse that so many other women have that makes sentences like “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” so troubling.
There are a myriad of legal things that can come into play with a statement like this. There’s contracts with studios, with the actors themselves, and a whole army of lawyers involved across multiple business units insisting that no one speak until they give the go-ahead. There are surely countless things going on behind the scenes that none of us know, but it’s hard to think of a scenario that would make it acceptable for Rowling to say the above. She clawed herself up from rock bottom to become one of the most powerful women in the world, and to see her make a statement like that is disheartening to say the least.
There is at least one part of Rowling’s statement that does ring true. “Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing.” Standing with an alleged abuser by no means undoes all of the good that J.K Rowling has done in this world, but it does bring up a moral question for those who want to support her going forward. There’s already been fallout from this statement, and more will undoubtedly follow, but at the end of the day all any of us can do is what we believe to be right when it comes to supporting the Fantastic Beasts franchise.