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Johnny Depp has responded to the controversy surrounding his casting in the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

Fans criticised the decision to keep the actor in the role of Grindelwald following assault allegations after he was accused of physical and emotional abuse by ex-wife Amber Heard.

Depp first appeared as the villain in a surprise twist at the end of the first Fantastic Beasts movie. Both JK Rowling and David Yates defended his casting.

“I’ll be honest with you, I felt bad for JK [Rowling] having to field all these various feelings from people out there,” Depp said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “I felt bad that she had to take that. But ultimately, there is real controversy.”

He continued: “The fact remains I was falsely accused, which is why I’m suing The Sun newspaper for defamation for repeating false accusations. JK has seen the evidence and therefore knows I was falsely accused, and that’s why she has publicly supported me. She doesn’t take things lightly. She would not stand up if she didn’t know the truth. So that’s really it.”

Rowling’s original statement reads: “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.”

Heard, who accused Depp of domestic violence in May 2016 before settling the case months later, seemingly responded to Rowling’s words by reposting the joint statement released after the couple’s settlement was finalised.

“To pick and choose certain lines and quote them out of context, is just not right,” she wrote. “Women, continue to stand up and stay strong. Love, Amber.”

Rowling has been forced to defend several controversies over the past year; the most recent furore surrounded the casting of South Korean actor Claudia Kim in the role of Voldemort’s snake, Nagini.

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald will arrive in UK cinemas on 16 November.

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