In the wake of a heated social-media campaign demanding that Johnny Depp be removed from his role as villain Gellert Grindelwald in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts sequels, J.K. Rowling is finally giving her two cents.
While Rowling has never been one to shy away from addressing controversial issues — usually in the form of a Harry Potter analogy — she has been pretty quiet on the (since-dropped) abuse allegations against Depp, simply saying last year that he gives an “incredible” performance, and more recently blocking a fan who dared to press her on the issue. (Director David Yates has given vocal defenses of Depp in the press, calling it a “dead issue”).
Now, in a short piece on her website — which appeared to be down as of 11.30 a.m. this morning, perhaps due to capacity issues — Rowling elaborates on her defense of Depp. Rowling acknowledges that she and the filmmakers considered recasting, given that “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.” (She is presumably referring here to allegations of physical and emotional abuse by Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard, which were dropped in the settlement process).
However, in the rather cryptic passage that follows, she defends their decision to keep Depp in the film. She writes:
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 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.”
So, to put this in morally unambiguous Harry Potter analogy terms: J.K. Rowling is Harry, Johnny Depp is Sirius Black, and outraged people on social media are … Death Eaters? Are you getting all this down?