Johnny Depp will no longer play the role of Gellert Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise, the actor announced today via Instagram. He claims that Warner Bros. asked him to step down from the role, and he agreed to do so. Warner Bros. has confirmed for ComicBook.com that Depp will leave the franchise, and released a short statement of their own, but did not comment on the nature of the separation or confirm that they asked him to go. Depp appeared in the second film in the franchise, but was not the lead of the series. He was expected to appear in upcoming installments, although since the films are not based directly on books like the Harry Potter franchise, it is hard to know how big a role or how many films were planned.
Coming just days after he lost a libel lawsuit against a British tabloid that characterized him as being abusive, it's likely that this is related to the ongoing controversy surrounding back-and-forth abuse allegations between Johnny Depp and his ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp did not specifically link the two in his letter, but he did bring the trial up, pledging to appeal the ruling.
You can see his statement, made via Instagram, below.
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"In light of recent events, I would like to make the following short statement," Depp's statement reads. "Firstly, I'd like to thank everybody who has gifted me with their support and loyalty. I have been humbled and moved by your many messages of love and concern, particularly over the last few days."
"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," he added, saying that "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."
Warner Bros. released a brief statement of their own, saying, "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."
The character of Grindelwald was originally played by Colin Farrell in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, with the character transforming to Johnny Depp when he was "unmasked." It's plausible the role could go back to Farrell, who has a good relationship with Warner Bros., currently appearing in Matt Reeves' The Batman.
We will have more details on this story as it develops.