Last week brought the surprising news from actor Johnny Depp who announced that, despite the start of production on the new film and previously appearing in the other two movies, he would be stepping down from the part of Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise. The news came after the actor lost a libel lawsuit against a British tabloid that characterized him as being abusive, a new report reveals that this ruling played a major factor in Depp being asked to leave the series by studio Warner Bros. Pictures. Furthermore, even though Depp is no longer on the call sheet, WB has already had to pay him his full salary.
As written in The Hollywood Reporter, Depp had what is known as a "pay-or-play contract" with Warner Bros. for his part in the movie (animation fans might recall this Hollywood parlance getting a shout out during the theme song for Animaniacs). In short, these deals are exclusive for high profile creatives like Depp that mean no matter what happens with the film or their participation within it, they still get paid. According to THR, Depp's salary was in the eight-figure range.
"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," Depp said in a statement. "The surreal judgement of the court in the U.K. will not change my fight to tell the truth, and I confirm that I plan to appeal. My resolve remains strong and I intend to prove that the allegations against me are false. My life and career will not be defined by this moment in time."
To make this hurt the pocket book of WB even more, apparently Depp had only shot one scene for the series before stepping away from the series. It was previously reported that Warner Bros. will recast the role following Depp's departure and the THR report seems to make it clear that they need to move fast, describing the new film as "a three-hander, with Depp, Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne sharing equal screen time." Should that prove to be true, the studio will seemingly find and hire a replacement in the coming weeks as production on the third movie is already well underway.
Previously scheduled for a November 12, 2021, Fantastic Beasts 3 now opens eight months later on July 15, 2022.