Last week, JK Rowling finally broke her silence on the controversy surrounding Johnny Depp’s casting as the titular character in Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald. Now, following a backlash from Harry Potter fans, Amber Heard has seemingly suggested that the author intentionally misinterpreted the agreements put in place after her divorce from Depp.
When Depp was unveiled as the ‘Big Bad’ of the Harry Potter prequels, there was something of a backlash online. Some were disappointed that an English actor wasn’t selected for the role, while others insisted that the Fantastic Beasts films should offer opportunities to unknown actors – just as the original wizarding films did.
The majority of the complaints, though, cited Depp’s high-profile divorce from Amber Heard, insisting that a man accused of domestic abuse should not be part of such a huge film, even if the case had been settled out of court.
Now, in the wake of the ongoing conversation about the cycle of abuse by powerful men in Hollywood, Rowling has finally spoken out on the issue – but her comments came as something of a surprise to many of her fans.
Writing on her website, Rowling said: “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.”
Rowling continued: “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.”
She added: “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.”
Linking to the statement on her Twitter account, she said she was saying “what I can about the Grindelwald casting issue”.
Now, Amber Heard has seemingly responded to Rowling’s comments .
Taking to Instagram, Heard posted an image of the joint statement she and Depp released on the day their divorce was finalised.
She also added a message which seemingly addressed Rowling directly, which read: “For the record, this was our FULL joint statement.
“To pick and choose certain lines and quote them out of context, is just not right. Women, continue to stand up and stay strong. Love, Amber”
Many fans, including survivors of abuse, have since taken to Twitter to publicly denounce Rowling’s statement – and criticised the author for continuing to support Depp at this time.
“No survivor wants to spend their lives dwelling on the actions of a monster. No abuser wants people to talk about their crimes,” wrote one. “Ms Heard’s understandable desire for closure does not give the industry free reign to validate an abuser.”
Another added: “Of course both parties want to ‘move on’. But that doesn’t mean we forget or ignore. It’s basically shrugging your shoulders and saying… well, they don’t want to think about it so we’re good!”
“This response from JK Rowling is so wrong and painful for survivors,” wrote another, adding that the comments had been “harmful and silencing”.
“I understand you aren’t in control of the casting, but to hear a statement of support from a woman who got me through literal hell is beyond gutting to me,” agreed another disappointed fan.
One more insisted: “He’s an abuser. And what’s his punishment? Being part of a big movie, in a big character, because they keep protecting him. That’s why the fans don’t want him as Grindelwald, we don’t want abusers being protected anymore. But he, as many others, kept his lives like nothing happened.”
However, despite the backlash, there were those who thanked Rowling for taking the time to comment on such a divisive issue.
“The fact that you took the time to explain shows how much you care about the opinions of the fans – I like Johnny as Grindelwald but I can understand why others are against his casting,” said one, addressing Rowling directly. “Fair play to you”
And, of course, there were those who were quick to defend Depp from criticism.
“Warner Brothers is rewarding him for his acting ability. Full stop,” wrote one. “No employer has the power, nor the right to punish bad behaviour that happens outside the scope of employment.”
Another added: “How do you know he is an abuser! Were you there or taking the word of someone else?!?”
According to court documents published in People, Heard said she was physically abused by Depp on “two separate instances,” including one night when Depp allegedly gave her a black eye. She was granted a temporary restraining order.
The two settled the case out of court, and, in a joint statement, said their relationship had been “volatile”, saying: “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love.”
It also said there was no “intent” to cause physical harm.
Heard donated the financial settlement to the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the American Civil Liberties Union – a move which would seem to go against previous claims from Depp’s lawyers, filed in court papers, that she was trying to “secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse”.
Images: Rex Features