Ever since the first photo from Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald was revealed, fans have been urging J.K. Rowling to comment on Johnny Depp's casting as the film's title character. Many wanted to an explanation as to why Depp, whose ex-wife Amber Heard accused him of domestic abuse during the couple's 2016 divorce, was chosen to appear in the film. Now Rowling finally has commented on the Grindelwald casting on her own website, but fans are not happy with the way she's addressing the allegations. (Rowling's rep told Bustle this is the only comment she will be making on the matter.)
Rowling tweeted, "I'm saying what I can about the Grindelwald casting issue here," and shared the link to her post on her website, which shortly after sharing went down "due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems." But in the short time it was live for all to see, a fan pulled a segment of Rowling's message, which read:
"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."
The same fan tweeted, "So basically Johnny Depp told you he didn't do it and you believed him. This is sh*t, JK Rowling."
In Rowling's open letter to fans about Depp, which she later shared on Facebook, she wrote that stories about the actor's alleged domestic abuse "deeply concerned me and everyone most closely involved in the franchise." (Depp ended up agreeing to a $7 million settlement in his divorce with Heard. A joint statement released to TMZ by the two actors claimed that Heard planned to donate the money to charity and that "there was never an intent of physical or emotional harm.")
Rowling also said and that the creators of the film did discuss re-casting the role of Gellert Grindelwald, which was introduced in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Ultimately, they decided not to. It's a decision Rowling knows some will not understand, but she closed her note with a message to those who disagree:
"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."
That explanation didn't sit well with fans, who questioned how she could so easily support the actor. "The Harry Potter franchise is something so meaningful to me and the other actors are amazing," one fan tweeted. "I am just sad and disappointed that they brought an abuser. I can not agree with that."
Another fan agreed that Depp being part of the film sent a bad message to those who have spoken out against sexual abuse.
"He's an abuser. And what's his punishment?" the fan asked. "Being part of a big movie, in a big caracter [sic], because they keep protecting him. That's why the fans don't want him as Grindewald, we don't want abusers being protected anymore."
Other fans agreed that the decision to keep Depp on the film was another way that Hollywood protects powerful men. Something the industry claimed it would no longer do in the wake of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others. (Weinstein's rep previously denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex in a statement to the New York Times).
"Instead of facing repercussions he get paid millions bc they keep protecting him," someone wrote. Another person tweeted, "I can’t focus on fantasy and lose myself in a world that a self-admitted abuser is occupying."
This message comes a week after a fan alleged Rowling blocked them on Twitter after they asked her about Depp's casting. But, Rowling isn't the only person from Fantastic Beats who has publicly come to Depp's defense in recent days. The film's director David Yates told Entertainment Weekly last month, "I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He’s full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see."
According to Deadline, Warner Bros released a statement of their own earlier today, which echoed much of what Rowling had said:
“We are of course aware of reports that surfaced around the end of Johnny Depp’s marriage, and take seriously the complexity of the issues involved.
This matter has been jointly addressed by both parties, in a statement in which they said 'there was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.'
Based on the circumstances and the information available to us, we, along with the filmmakers, continue to support the decision to proceed with Johnny Depp in the role of Grindelwald in this and future films.”
The question now is will fans continue to support Fantastic Beasts with Depp in a leading role. Judging from Twitter right now, the answer might be "no."