Most 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 Depp 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. Now Warner Bros have issued a terse statement on the matter that confirms that Depp is out and they’re searching for a new Grindelwald:
“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 Depp saying 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. 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 his choices were resigning or be fired.
Getting rid of Depp is especially embarrassing for Warner Bros as it’s not like they couldn’t have seen this coming. When Depp was first announced there were very loud calls for Warner Bros not to cast a suspected domestic abuser. Right now their 2017 decision not to drop Depp prior to The Crimes of Grindelwald looks like a very bad call, especially Rowling’s public statement that:
“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, star Ezra Miller was caught on camera choking a fan, and now they’re having to recast the villain of the movie. If this movie flops like The Crimes of Grindelwald it’s likely that we’ll be seeing much less of the Wizarding World in future.