When Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them made its debut in cinemas back in 2016, one of the film’s biggest secrets was the casting of actor Johnny Depp in the role of Gellert Grindelwald – the movie’s big villain. Depp had been cast in the movie without any major fanfare, so when it was revealed the actor was in the picture, playing the ‘big bad’ of the story, it came as a surprise to audiences.

But for that first film in the Fantastic Beasts series, Depp only made a brief appearance in the movie, taking over from Colin Farrell, who embodied a disguised version of the villain for the majority of the picture. It wasn’t until the second entry, 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crime of Grindelwald, that Depp was given plenty of screen time to make his mark, which in turn set him up for future reappearances in the series.

However, by the time 2022’s Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore came along, there was something very noticeable about Grindelwald: He was no longer being played by Johnny Depp. The high-profile actor who had previously inhabited the role of Grindelwald was nowhere to be seen and in his place was actor Mads Mikkelsen.

So, what happened? After playing the role for two movies, why did Johnny Depp not return to the role of Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore?

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures
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Johnny Depp did not reprise the part of Grindelwald for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, because he was asked by Warner Bros. to resign from the role. The studio made this request after Depp was surrounded by negative publicity connected to his personal life.

Between the filming of the second Fantastic Beasts movie and the filming of the third entry, Depp and his ex-wife (and fellow actor) Amber Heard, became involved in a very public divorce, which attracted a great deal of media coverage. Most of this coverage focused on alleged violent behaviour that existed within the relationship, and placed both actors in a less-than-favourable light.

The estranged pair then subsequently became involved in a series of court cases, including a libel case between Depp and News Group Newspapers – owners of the British tabloid, The Sun. In 2018, The Sun published an article in which it alleged Johnny Depp was a “wife beater”, and Depp set out to challenge this allegation.

But despite refuting the claims, the court case ended in favour of News Group Newspapers rather than in favour of Depp. Summing up the case, Judge Mr Justice Nicol commented (via the BBC) that “the Sun had proved what was in the article to be “substantially true”.”

Shortly after the career-damaging verdict was announced in November 2020, Depp left the role of Grindelwald at the request of Warner Bros.. Speaking about his departure from the Harry Potter-spin-off franchise, via Instagram, Depp said: “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.”

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures
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So, how did Depp’s departure impact filming of the new movie? Well, as it would happen, it didn’t impact production all that much.

Although production on the third Fantastic Beasts movie was officially scheduled to begin in March 2020, months before the verdict of the libel case was announced, filming on the picture had been put on hold throughout the spring and summer due to the outbreak COVID-19. Production then remained on hold until mid-to-late September 2020, meaning the shoot was still very much in the early days of filming when Depp agreed to leave the picture   

As the actor had only filmed one scene by the time of the announcement, Depp’s exit and subsequent replacement was less tricky than it could have been, had he shot more scenes. However, for the studio, this still meant finding a new actor who could take over the role rather quickly.

But mere days after Depp announced his departure, Mads Mikkelsen joined the project. It was made clear that he would take over the role of Grindelwald, and due to the change-over in actors, as well as enforced delays because of the pandemic, the movie’s release date would be pushed back from 2021 to 2022.

Although some fans were less than happy about the recast, others felt it was an acceptable development in light of all the negative publicity. Warner Bros. then pushed forward and completed the picture, with Depp no longer attached to the series.

And now you know.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post about Fantastic Beasts – I hope it has proved useful. For more posts, which could prove equally as useful, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.

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