Johnny Depp exits 'Fantastic Beasts' franchise, Warner Bros. will recast

  • Johnny Depp will no longer portray Gellert Grindelwald in Warner Bros.' "Fantastic Beasts" films.
  • The actor was 'asked to resign by Warner Bros.,' he wrote in an Instagram post.
  • Warner Bros. said it will recast the role and the film will debut sometime in summer 2022.

Actor Johnny Depp will no longer don the robes of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in Warner Bros.' "Fantastic Beasts" films, the actor announced Friday.

"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 wrote in a post on Instagram.

Depp's exit comes days after the actor lost his libel case against The Sun, a British tabloid that published an article in 2018 that alleged he was a "wife beater." Depp plans to appeal the ruling.

Warner Bros. said it will recast the role and the film will debut sometime in summer 2022.

The "Fantastic Beasts" franchise is a five-film prequel series set decades before Harry Potter was born.

Since it's debut in 2016, the franchise has faced harsh criticism from fans and industry critics. Enough so that Warner Bros. brought on Steve Kloves, who helped adapt the original "Harry Potter" books into films, to assist author J.K. Rowling with the third film's script. "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" and "The Crimes of Grindelwald," were solely scripted by Rowling and were not based on published books.

It's not entirely surprising that Kloves has been added as a writer for "Fantastic Beasts 3." Critics panned "The Crimes of Grindelwald" and fans balked at several canon-altering plot points. The film holds an underwhelming 37% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Not only that, but "The Crimes of Grindelwald" had the lowest box-office haul in the U.S. and internationally of any "Harry Potter" film. It made only $160 million domestically and just under $500 million in foreign markets. While the international box office helped boost the film over its $200 million production budget, it's a paltry showing compared with the rest of the franchise.

Comparatively, moviegoers worldwide shelled out more than $814 million to see "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" in 2016 and $1.3 billion in 2011 to see the final film in the original series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."

"Fantastic Beasts 3" was supposed to begin shooting in the spring of 2020 and arrive in theaters on Nov. 12, 2021. However, the coronavirus pandemic halted filming. Now the film is looking at a summer 2022 release.

The film will be set in Rio de Janeiro and feature Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander and Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore. Also returning is Ezra Miller (Credence/Aurelius Dumbledore), Alison Sudol (Queenie Goldstein), Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski) and Katherine Waterston (Tina Goldstein).

It is unclear who Warner Bros. is looking at to take on the role of Grindelwald. Explaining the change in actor will be easy, as the Harry Potter world is full of magic and potions that can alter what people look like. In fact, in the first "Fantastic Beasts" film, Grindelwald was portrayed by Colin Farrell, who was pretending to be a member of a U.S.-based magical organization known as the Magical Congress of the United States of America.

"Ultimately, I don't think the character has become prolific enough beyond core fans for the change in casting to move the needle much on its own," Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, said. "That's not a comment on Depp or Farrell's abilities so much as it is the fact these prequel films have mainly appealed to the core fan base, in contrast to the broader popularity of the Potter movies."

"In a way, it could be looked at as an ironic mirroring of the revolving door of Dark Arts professors in the original books, or akin to other franchises such as James Bond, 'Doctor Who,' and a litany of superhero films that have weathered and even embraced major casting shakeups," he said.

Disclosure: Comcast, the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC, owns Rotten Tomatoes. NBCUniversal licenses the rights to "Harry Potter" at its theme parks.

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