Johnny Depp is officially leaving the Fantastic Beasts franchise. On Friday, the actor announced that Warner Bros. had asked him to resign from the fantasy series, in which he played the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.
Depp’s departure comes amidst a series of contentious legal battles. In 2016, his then-wife Amber Heard filed for divorce and a restraining order, saying that he had been abusive throughout their relationship. The two reached a settlement a year later, but last year, Depp sued Heard for defamation after she published an op-ed in The Washington Post. He also sued UK tabloid The Sun after the paper described him as a “wifebeater”—only to have the UK’s High Court of Justice rule against him.
That publicity appears to have been too much for Warner Bros, which is currently working on a third installment of the franchise. The series is a prequel to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, following the adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) as he travels to the United States, and a dark plot to take over the magical world brews—revealed at the end to be orchestrated by Grindelwald in disguise (played by Colin Ferrel, then Depp).
Depp played a more prominent role in 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald—Grindelwald escapes from custody and works to gain power and followers. Depp’s role attracted some controversy because of his then-ongoing legal issues, and reviewers specifically called out Depp’s behavior as an issue for the film.
A third film is in the works, this one set in Brazil, in which the franchise’s main cast (including Depp) were expected to return to reprise their roles. The film was set to begin production earlier this year, only to have those plans derailed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film resumed production in September, and was slated for a November 2021 release, but the studio has confirmed that it will push the movie back into 2022 following Depp’s departure, and that it will recast the role.
Deadline reports that Warner Bros. has set the film’s release date to July 15th, 2022.