JK Rowling has released a statement in defence of the casting of Johnny Depp as key antagonist Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them films.
The Harry Potter author – who has written the screenplays for the first two films – used her website, Pottermore, to have her say on the controversial casting which has come under criticism from fans in light of the assault allegations made against Depp by his ex-wife Amber Heard.
Rowling said: "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."
Rowling goes on to acknowledge that "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."
But the author's defence of her leading actor remains unswayed. "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," she writes. "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."
Depp and Heard have since settled their divorce and her domestic abuse case and released a joint statement saying: "there was never an intent of physical or emotional harm. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gains."
The actor made a brief appearance in the first Fantastic Beasts film which was released in cinemas in November 2016. His character was concealed for much of the film as Director of Magical Security, Percival Graves, played by Colin Farrell.
Rowling concludes: "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."
The second film in the franchise, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, is currently filming and is scheduled for release in November 2018. Depp will star opposite Jude Law, who plays young Albus Dumbledore, and returning stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol and Ezra Miller.