Last week, Johnny Depp announced that despite having previously appeared in the first two installments of the Fantastic Beasts franchise and the start of production on the third he was stepping down from his role of Gellert Grindelwald. The announcement came on the heels of Depp losing a libel lawsuit against a British tabloid that had characterized him as being abusive to his ex-wife Amber Heard, but a new report indicates that the real reason Depp exited Fantastic Beasts is due to the change in studio executives at Warner Bros.
According to a report from Variety, since Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald -- Depp's last major studio film prior to Fantastic Beasts 3 -- AT&T merged with Warner Bros.' parent company Time Warner, a move that prompted sweeping changes for WarnerMedia. Those changes include CEO Jason Kilar and studio chief Ann Sarnoff and per the report, there is an overall lack of tolerance for "the kind of controversy every major studio has had to weather at one time or another when courting mercurial -- but historically popular talent -- like Depp." And while Depp isn't the only controversial figure around Fantastic Beasts -- both costar Ezra Miller and writer JK Rowling have both sparked controversy in recent months -- the report suggests that the verdict in Depp's trial may have been the last straw, as it were, that allowed them to cut ties with the actor.
However, even with Depp departing the Fantastic Beasts franchise, Warner Bros. still had to pay him his full salary for just the one scene he had already filmed due to his "pay-or-play contract" with Warner Bros. 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.
Following Depp's announcement that he was leaving the Fantastic Beasts franchise, Warner Bros. released a statement indicating that they will recast the role. Recasting the role is something that apparently needs to happen quickly as the new film is described 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.
"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," said Warner Bros.' statement.
Fantastic Beasts 3 is currently scheduled to release in theaters in 2022.