On Dec. 7, 2017, J.Ok. Rowling posted a prolonged assertion to her web site in protection of Johnny Depp, the actor solid to play the notorious darkish wizard Gellert Grindelwald within the “Unbelievable Beasts” film franchise, a part of Rowling’s “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” media fiefdom. For over a yr, Depp had been dogged by headlines surrounding his disintegrated marriage to actor Amber Heard, who alleged Depp had repeatedly bodily and verbally abused her. Even earlier than the #MeToo motion exploded in late 2017, lots of Rowling’s followers had made clear how upset they have been that, after briefly showing in 2016’s “Unbelievable Beasts and The place to Discover Them,” Depp was set to headline the follow-up, “Unbelievable Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” regardless of Heard’s claims.
In her assertion — which was bolstered by comparable statements from director David Yates and Warner Bros. — Rowling sought to guarantee followers that whereas she understood and appreciated their issues, “based mostly on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are usually not solely snug sticking with our unique casting, however genuinely joyful to have Johnny enjoying a serious character within the motion pictures.”
Nearly three years later, on Nov. 6, Depp introduced on Instagram that Warner Bros. had requested him to “resign” from enjoying Grindelwald within the third “Unbelievable Beasts” movie. “I’ve revered and agreed to that request,” the actor wrote. Warner Bros. confirmed Depp’s withdrawal with a short assertion, thanking Depp “for his work on the movies” and confirming “the function of Gellert Grindelwald shall be recast.” Whereas a supply near the manufacturing says Rowling signed off on Warner Bros.’ choice, thus far, the writer has but to make any public remark about Depp leaving the franchise.
Whereas “Unbelievable Beasts 3” has been taking pictures for roughly two months largely within the UK, Depp left the undertaking after taking pictures only one scene, sparing the manufacturing any expensive, Christopher Plummer-style reshoots. A alternative actor, nonetheless, must be discovered with dispatch. The obvious candidate, Colin Farrell — who performed a disguised Grindelwald within the first “Unbelievable Beasts” movie — is probably not obtainable, Selection has realized, given the calls for of enjoying the Penguin in “The Batman,” additionally at the moment in manufacturing in London.
So what’s modified from the second to the third “Unbelievable Beasts” film to trigger Depp’s departure? Three letters: AT&T.
On Nov. 2, Depp misplaced his libel case in opposition to Information Group Newspapers, which he sued in British courts for a 2018 article in The Solar that referred to as Depp a “spouse beater.” Choose Andrew Nicol wrote that he discovered the defendants had proved that what they’d printed was “considerably true,” a discovering that provides important cowl for different UK journalists to characterize Depp in comparable vogue. (In his Nov. 6 assertion, Depp stated he plans to attraction the decision within the trial and “show that the allegations in opposition to me are false.”)
However whereas the trial did embrace some disturbing new allegations about Depp — and about Heard — the broad define of Heard’s unique abuse allegations from 2016 didn’t substantively change from when Warner Bros. and Rowling elected to help Depp’s casting in “The Crimes of Grindelwald.”
That movie, nonetheless, considerably underperformed in theaters when it opened in 2018, grossing $654 million globally, the bottom take of any of the “Wizarding World” movies by far. It was additionally Depp’s final main studio movie previous to “Unbelievable Beasts 3.” That very same yr, by distinction, Heard starred reverse Jason Momoa in “Aquaman,” the best grossing adaptation of a DC Comics property ever (sure, much more than “The Darkish Knight”). Heard is anticipated to reprise the function subsequent yr in HBO Max’s “Justice League” mini-series from Zack Snyder, and within the inevitable “Aquaman” sequel.
Most crucially, since “The Crimes of Grindelwald” wrapped manufacturing, AT&T merged with Warner Bros.’ mother or father firm Time Warner, ushering in sweeping adjustments at what’s now dubbed WarnerMedia, together with a brand new CEO in Jason Kilar and a brand new studio chief in Ann Sarnoff. Sources with an understanding of how the corporate operates say one of the vital pronounced adjustments because the merger has been an general lack of tolerance for the sort of controversy that each main studio has needed to climate at one time or one other when courting mercurial — however traditionally standard — expertise like Depp.
In addition to, Depp is much from the one controversial determine orbiting the “Unbelievable Beasts” franchise. Fellow costar Ezra Miller was caught on video in April showing to choke a lady in Iceland, the place Miller was situated for “Unbelievable Beasts 3” earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic briefly shut down manufacturing. Neither the studio nor Miller, who’s additionally set to headline Warner Bros.’ “The Flash” film, have but to publicly touch upon the video.
Rowling plunged herself right into a hornet’s nest of controversy this summer season when she repeatedly defended her views questioning the info of transgender id, inflicting much more followers to query their loyalty to a franchise they’ve identified since childhood. Warner Bros. responded to the uproar with an announcement about “inclusiveness,” “a various and inclusive tradition,” and valuing “the work of our storytellers” that by no means talked about Rowling or trans individuals by title.
With so many clouds of controversy swirling round “Unbelievable Beasts,” the decision in Depp’s trial was apparently what the studio wanted to lastly lower the actor unfastened. Nominally, anybody who replaces him as Grindelwald would additionally should commit to 2 extra “Unbelievable Beasts” motion pictures, since Rowling introduced upfront of the primary movie’s debut that it might be a five-film franchise. However “Crimes of Grindelwald” was sufficient of a essential and business disappointment that the third movie will virtually actually have to solid a mighty highly effective spell with audiences to ensure that Warner Bros. brass, and their AT&T bosses, to see the franchise as well worth the ongoing complications.