Why is Johnny Depp Not in ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’?

Johnny Depp Fantastic Beasts

Fans of erstwhile Gellert Grindelwald portrayer Johnny Depp are in for a bittersweet 2022. The third installment of Harry Potter spinoff series Fantastic Beasts is finally set to hit theaters this July after multiple postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Depp will not be returning to play the infamous dark wizard, Grindelwald. And fans, predictably, are making their feelings about the matter felt across the length and breadth of social media.

Depp was controversially asked to resign from the newest film after his very public divorce from actress Amber Heard, during which both parties alleged abuse from the other, resulting in a pileup of negative press and multiple lawsuits. All of this led to Depp’s departure and the part being recast, with Hannibal actor Mads Mikkelsen taking over the reins as Grindelwald.

Although a great part of the furor that erupted around Depp immediately post his 2017 divorce has settled down, emotions — and lawsuits — were still flying immediately prior to March 2020, when it was announced that Depp would be returning to play Grindelwald as expected. Depp was still mired in a 2018 libel lawsuit against News Group Newspapers, the publishers of the U.K. tabloid, The Sun. Amidst Depp’s already tumultuous divorce proceedings, the paper referred to Depp as a “wife-beater.”

The BBC would later report that the High Court of Justice found that several of the violent incidents alleged by Heard were “substantially true.” In Nov. 2020, in a double blow to Depp, the court rejected his claims and accepted allegations by Heard that Depp had done damage to her career.

At this point, Depp had only filmed one scene as Grindelwald, as production had been halted until September due to COVID restrictions. Shortly following the court’s verdict, Warner Bros. asked the actor to voluntarily step away from the role. Depp released a statement via his Instagram, writing, “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.”

Per his contract, Depp was still paid his salary, which was estimated to be between $10-$16 Million by The Hollywood Reporter. Mikkelsen’s casting was announced a few weeks later. Many criticized the studio’s choice and several hashtags regarding the casting, such as #JohnnyDeppisMyGrindelwald, have sprung up regularly on Twitter and other outlets ever since. However, many fans do not seem to consider that the negative findings of the court may well have created negative publicity for the Fantastic Beasts franchise itself, which was already experiencing underwhelming responses to the second installment in the series, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Depp has been cast as King Louis XV in an as-yet-untitled project by French actor and director, Maïwenn.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore premieres in U.S. theaters on April 15.