Johnny Depp "felt bad" for J.K. Rowling after facing criticism for standing by his casting in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise as he battled allegations of domestic violence.
The actor made his debut as villain Gellert Grindelwald in a brief appearance at the end of 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and he reprised his role for its upcoming sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
However, Depp's reputation took a big hit in the months leading up to the launch of the first movie in the Harry Potter prequel series, as actress Amber Heard accused the Pirates of the Caribbean star of physically and emotionally abusing her throughout their short-lived marriage - claims he vehemently denied.
Rowling previously admitted she had been "deeply concerned" about the allegations, but subsequently decided not to dump Depp from the line-up and recast his part.
Her statement of support led British columnist Dan Wootton to question Rowling's judgement in an April (18) article for The Sun, titled, "How can J.K. Rowling be 'genuinely happy' casting wife-beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?"
Depp has since filed a libel suit against Wootton and bosses at publishing company News Group Newspapers Limited, and in his first comments about the movie scandal, the 55 year old admits he sympathised with Rowling as the backlash rumbled on.
"I'll be honest with you, I felt bad for J.K. having to field all these various feelings from people out there," he tells Entertainment Weekly. "I felt bad that she had to take that. But ultimately, there is real controversy.
"The fact remains I was falsely accused, which is why I'm suing the Sun newspaper for defamation for repeating false accusations. J.K. 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."
Depp's case against The Sun's parent company officials is set to be heard in court next month (Nov18).