Johnny Depp out of ‘Fantastic Beasts’ after losing ‘wife beater’ case

FILE PHOTO: Actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp at the High Court in London
FILE PHOTO: Actor Johnny Depp arrives at the High Court in London, Britain July 23, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

November 6, 2020

By Lisa Richwine and Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Actor Johnny Depp on Friday was forced out of the “Fantastic Beasts” movie franchise days after losing a libel case in Britain against a tabloid that called him a “wife beater.”

Depp, writing on Instagram, said that AT&T Inc’s <T.N> Warner Bros movie studio had asked him to leave his role as villain Gellert Grindelwald. “I have respected and agreed to that request,” he said.

Warner Bros said in a statement that Depp “will depart the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise,” and that the role of Grindelwald would be recast.

The third film in the spinoff from the “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling recently resumed production. Warner Bros said on Friday its release date had been pushed back to summer 2022 from November 2021.

Depp wrote in his Instagram account that the allegations of domestic violence against him were false and that he planned to appeal the judgment against him in the London libel trial. “My life and career will not be defined by this moment in time,” he added.

Depp, 57, star of films including “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Edward Scissorhands”, had sued the publishers of the Sun newspaper which called him a “wife beater” and said he had been violent toward former wife Amber Heard, 34. The newspaper also questioned his casting in the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise.

The three-week libel trial in July heard lurid and damaging claims from both Depp and Heard about a tempestuous marriage marked by violence on both sides and of heavy drinking by Depp.

The judge on Monday ruled against Depp, and said he accepted Heard’s claims that Depp had violently assaulted her during their relationship.

There was no immediate comment from Rowling on Friday about Depp’s departure. The British author had come under fire in 2017 for casting Depp in the first “Fantastic Beasts” movie after initial details of his 2016 divorce from Heard were made public.

Rowling said at the time that the circumstances of the divorce were a private matter. Warner Bros also said in 2017 that it supported to decision to keep Depp.

“Fantastic Beasts,” based on the magical adventures of Newt Scamander, is set some 60 years before the “Harry Potter” films but features several of the same key characters when they were younger.

The first two films in the franchise earned $1.5 billion at the global box office, according to Box Office Mojo.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; Editing by Matthew Lewis)