Most had assumed Johnny Depp would face career consequences after he lost his high-profile libel trial in London, but few expected the hammer to fall so fast. Yesterday, the bombshell dropped that Warner Bros. had asked Depp to leave Fantastic Beasts 3 and that Gellert Grindelwald would be recast. This is a particularly tough blow for the actor, given that both the studio and Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling had previously stood by him and defended him from criticism.
Now, in the wake of a British judge finding Amber Heard’s allegations credible and saying it’s not libellous to call Depp a “wife beater,” him being in the movie has become untenable. Following the news breaking, Warner Bros. issued a terse statement on the matter that confirms that Depp is out and they’re searching for a new Grindelwald, saying:
“Johnny Depp will depart the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise. We thank Johnny for his work on the films to date. ‘Fantastic Beasts 3’ is currently in production, and the role of Gellert Grindelwald will be recast. The film will debut in theaters worldwide in the summer of 2022.”
This, in combination with the actor stating that he was “asked to resign,” sounds like a PR strategy aimed at causing as little drama as possible. I suspect the reality behind the scenes is substantially different, though. There are several humungous egos at play here and I’m betting there were some fierce arguments at Warner Bros. over whether to do this, not to mention Depp’s reaction when he learned that his choices were resigning or be fired.
Getting rid of him is especially embarrassing for the studio as it’s not like they couldn’t have seen this coming. When he was first announced to have been cast, there were loud calls for WB not to work with a suspected domestic abuser. Right now, their 2017 decision to not drop the actor prior to The Crimes of Grindelwald looks like a very bad call, especially with Rowling’s public statement that said:
“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.”
Pop that one in the “things that haven’t aged well” folder…
All this could add up to a perfect storm for the Harry Potter franchise. 2020 has seen Rowling trash her reputation with a series of transphobic comments that have turned fans against her, Fantastic Beasts 3 has been severely delayed by COVID-19, star Ezra Miller was caught on camera choking a fan, and now they’re having to recast the villain of the movie. If the pic flops like The Crimes of Grindelwald, it’s likely that we’ll be seeing much less of the Wizarding World in the future.