Johnny Depp will not be playing the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the upcoming third entry of the Fantastic Beasts franchise. The actor took to Instagram over the weekend past to announce the surprising news. In his social media post, Depp revealed 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 role will be recast while the still-untiled third Fantastic Beasts film has now been delayed from November 2021 to mid-2022.
Depp’s exit from the Harry Potter prequel/spinoff franchise comes just days after him losing a libel case against British tabloid The Sun (via Variety) over a 2018 article in which they referred to Depp as a “wife-beater”. This was in relation to his messy divorce with Amber Heard which became public in 2016. As their matrimonial fiasco kicked into high gear, Heard made some shocking accusations about Depp’s behaviour, prompting The Sun to write their article.
While things looked dire for Depp’s career at the time (this was right in the peak of the #MeToo movement, as well), WB, director David Yates, and Harry Potter creator/Fantastic Beasts screenwriter JK Rowling all defended the actor, citing inside knowledge about affairs. Over time, as the divorce case dragged on with more mudslinging becoming public, it appeared that while Depp hadn’t been the model husband due to his substance abuse issues, he had mostly been the aggrieved party. Damning evidence came to light revealing that Heard had fabricated some of her more serious accusations and had also been the abusive one in the relationship.
With that in mind, Depp losing the libel case was already unexpected, with the judge ruling that The Sun’s description was justified as the actor’s behaviour had left Heard “in fear of her life”. Whether you agree with that description is moot now as WB has already pulled the trigger, clearly wanting to distance itself from what they feel will be a problematic personality. Which makes absolutely no sense.
If there had ever been a time for the studio to dump Depp, it would have been a few years ago when this mess began and Depp “looked” very guilty. Instead, they chose to stay with him until he was reportedly shown to be innocent and then kicked him to the curb. And yet, WB is still standing by Heard, who is currently still cast as Mera in the inevitable Aquaman sequel and just got called back a few weeks ago to do additional reshoots on Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
On top of all of this, WB has also not spoken out against JK Rowling. At the start of the Fantastic Beasts films, the author had already begun to wear thin the patience of fans with post-release tweaks and reveals of Harry Potter characters that were labeled as queer-baiting. However, things truly turned nasty when Rowling made a series of transphobic statements on social media that drew ire from around the world. This resulted in several key members of the Harry Potter film cast publicly admonishing Rowling’s statements and distancing themselves from her. When a recent Harry Potter video game was unveiled, development studio Warner Bros. Games even made sure to stipulate that Rowling was not involved in any way. She was rapidly being canceled by the internet, and yet WB didn’t say a thing and will now be going ahead with the Rowling-penned third Fantastic Beasts film.
It’s at this point that we have to ask, “Why?”. 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a solid and entertaining enough start to this prequel series, with that film’s final moments revealing that Colin Farrell’s mysterious Percival Graves had actually been Depp’s evil Gellert Grindelwald in magical disguise the entire time. On the other hand, 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which saw Depp take centre stage as the primary baddie, received iffy reviews and ended up being the lowest-earning entry in the entire Wizarding World film franchise. Combined with the stink around Rowling (not to mention more controversy with cast member Ezra Miller), why is WB not just pulling the plug on this whole thing? Folks barely cared about The Crimes of Grindelwald and by the time the third film drops it would be a gap of nearly four years, killing the tiny bit of momentum the franchise had.
Not to mention having to go through the hassle now of recasting the role of Grindelwald. The easy fix would just be to go back to Farrell (who was, admittedly, superb), using some kind of magical mumbo jumbo to explain his regression back to his disguised form. But again… Why? All this effort is not worth this franchise. Especially not if WB is just going to dance around the big problem of Rowling’s involvement, killing off more goodwill than they’ve just done by getting rid of Depp.
Last Updated: November 10, 2020