Johnny Depp has officially stepped down from his role in the Fantastic Beasts franchise following his highly-publicized failed UK libel suit against The Sun tabloid over a 2018 op-ed that labelled him a “wife beater.” The actor plans to appeal the decision.
It’s been a tumultuous week for the divisive actor, who has engaged in off-and-on court battles with ex-wife Amber Heard since 2016. On Nov. 6, Depp posted a lengthy letter on Instagram citing that, at the request of Warner Bros., he will no longer portray the villainous wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the big-screen adaptations of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spinoff.
“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 wrote. “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. followed up Depp’s revelation with a news release stating that the role will be recast. The third Fantastic Beasts film is currently in production, albeit it with stringent COVID-19 guidelines. The upcoming instalment is slated for a summer 2022 release.
Depp had sued News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an article that accused the actor of physically assaulting his then-wife. Both Depp and Heard provided testimony in the high-profile court battle. Justice Andrew Nicol eventually tossed out the case, stating that the accusations against Depp were “substantially true.”
Depp and Heard wed quietly in a private ceremony in 2015, but by May 2016 the actress had filed for divorce and requested a restraining order against Depp, citing physical and verbal abuse at the hands of the actor. Although the divorce was finalized in 2017 and a $7 million settlement was reached out of court, Heard still faced significant backlash from Depp fans who accused the actress of lying for attention.
In 2018, to counter the online claims, Heard wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post about the abuse she endured, both from Depp and the court of public opinion. “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” Heard wrote in the piece.
Fantastic Beasts, a prequel franchise set in the Harry Potter universe, includes 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.