Last week it was leaked that Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp was joining upcoming Harry Potter prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, with many fans speculating that his role (a cameo in the first film with more significant appearances in future instalments) could be that of oft-described dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.
Now, the film’s producer and director David Heyman and David Yates have confirmed that Depp will indeed be playing Grindelwald – and that they were surprised the truth didn’t come out sooner.
“I was amazed,” Heyman told the Leaky Cauldron website.
”It was completely bonkers. I was convinced it [would be leaked] you can keep very few secrets nowadays, especially something like that! When he came to Leavesden and we filmed for two days…and it didn’t come out. That’s mad.”
Of course the casting of Depp hasn’t been without its controversies, stemming both from Depp’s reputation as a showy actor and domestic abuse scandals surrounding him in recent months, but Yates was keen to emphasise that the decision was taken on a purely artistic basis.
A picture believed to be of Depp in the new film
“The whole principal of casting the movie was go with the best actor,” Yates said.
“Go for the most inspired, interesting, right fit for that character. And as we approached Grindelwald we thought, ‘who’s going to take this in an interesting direction?’ In this business, it’s a weird old business. You’re brilliant one week, people are saying odd things the next, you go up and down. But no one takes away your pure talent.”
“Johnny Depp is a real artist. He’s created several characters who have really resonated in our popular culture. He’s a really brilliant, brilliant actor. We were excited about seeing what he would do with this guy, the character. He’s fearless; he’s imaginative; he’s ambitious. We thought he would do something fun and special. So we went for him, purely on that selfish basis. We don’t care if he’s famous or not famous. We just know he’s interesting.”
Heyman added: “Grindelwald is an iconic character, so it was important to have someone who had that weight. There’s a reason why he has that weight. It’s because, you know, he’s a fine actor who makes unexpected choices.”
Only time will tell if the fans feel the same way.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be released in UK cinemas on the 18th November