Johnny Depp has left the Harry Potter spinoff franchise Fantastic Beasts ahead of a scheduled appearance in the series’s upcoming third installment. The actor made the announcement in an Instagram post today, stating, “I wish to let you know that I have been asked to resign by Warner Bros. from my role as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts and I have respected and agreed to that request.”
The complete Instagram post is below.
The departure comes after Depp lost a libel suit against the publishers of British tabloid The Sun. Depp sued for defamation over an April 2018 article headlined “How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife-beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?” Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard have been tabloid fodder as their divorce played out with dueling accusations of physical abuse being leveled by both parties. The suit was dismissed on Monday by British judge Andrew Nicol, ruling that what the paper published was “substantially true.”
The Fantastic Beasts franchise is a prequel spinoff from Warner Brothers highly successful Harry Potter films adapting the popular YA fantasy novels of J K Rowling. The first film, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them released in 2016, ended with the surprise twist of revealing Depp as the franchise’s villain, the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald. The film’s second installment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, was released in 2018. The third, as-yet-untitled installment is set for release on November 12, 2021. Production had been scheduled to start on March 16 of this year, but was postponed as that was the date of the pandemic-related lockdown. Production did begin this past September, with the studio moving the film’s release date to the summer of 2022.
It is not known how impact Depp’s departure will be on the film and if his absence can be written around or if the production will need to quickly recast.
But while Warners has seen fit to divest themselves of Depp and his surrounding drama in order to protect the Fantastic Beasts franchise, they still find themselves tied to the films’ creator, Rowling. Although she has supported a number of progressive causes in the past, in recent months the author has come out with several statements that were trans-phobic in nature. This prompted an outcry from the LGTBQ community and their allies, an outcry which only intensified as Rowling remained firm and even double-downed on her statements.
Granted, cutting Rowling loose from the series would be a harder task. As creator and architect of the franchise’s overall story arc, she has enormous clout and probably some strong clauses built into her contract that would call for some big financial penalties if they were to ask her to depart. (Most likely, Depp got some sort of payout as he went out the door.) And in a time when all studios are pretty low on cash reserves due to the impact of coronavirus on the entire industry, I don’t expect to see that anytime soon.