The Harry Potter series has gone from being one of the most profitable ventures in the entertainment world to becoming a significant issue for Warner Bros. It all started when the studio decided to go full steam ahead with its prequel series, starting with Fantastic Beasts and How to Find Them (which flashed a few early warning signs). This came with the casting of Johnny Depp as the dark wizard Grindelwald, a decision that was met with mockery from fans after allegations surfaced that Depp had physically attacked his ex-wife, Amber Heard. This controversy, combined with incredibly poor reviews, undoubtedly resulted in a significant drop in ticket sales, with Grindelwald’s Fantastic Beasts and Crime sequel grossing just over $665 million worldwide (via Mojo’s Box Office).
While there are still plans to make a third movie in the series, Warner Bros. moved forward, allowing Depp to move away from the role of Grindelwald. This comes after Depp and his lawyers filed a libel lawsuit against News Group Newspapers in July 2020. against him on November 2. Days after the court ruling, Depp posted a notice on Instagram to his fans that while he would continue to fight his case and appeal the court’s decision, he would step down from the Fantastic Beasts series, a decision that appears to be in line with the studio’s wishes. While some fans will certainly be relieved to see Depp leave the series, others feel that Depp was treated unfairly throughout the process. Surprisingly, one person who appears to be staying out of this conversation (at least for the time being) appears to be J.K. Rowling, the creator and writer of Harry Potter, in J.K.’s Fantastic Beasts films.
J.K. Rowling didn’t push Warner Bros. to keep Depp:
JK Rowling has long been a supporter of Depp’s efforts to keep him in his films. Rowling made a statement when he was first cast as Grindelwald in which she clearly expressed her support for the actor. She wrote that she understood why some fans were concerned about Depp’s involvement in the series, but added, “For me, not being able to speak openly with fans about it was difficult, frustrating,” and sometimes hurting. However, you must respect the agreements that were put in place to protect the privacy of two people, both of whom have expressed a willingness to deal with their lives. Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I not only feel comfortable with our original cast, but we enjoy having Johnny as the lead character in the movies. The Hollywood Reporter, a source, says Rowling did not fight to keep Depp in the film, which is significant given the amount of influence he likely had at Warner Bros. Harry Potter is still the studio’s main cash cow, so, undoubtedly, if Rowling wanted to keep Depp, there’s a good chance Warner Bros. would at least listen to her.
Fantastic Beasts has been plagued by personnel issues:
It’s also possible that Rowling herself is trying to control her injuries a bit, given the amount of pushback she has received over the past year due to comments she tweeted that many found insensitive and transphobic. Eddie Redmayne, who plays Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts, and other former Harry Potter stars, such as Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, also disapproved of what Rowling said about the transgender community. There’s also the case of Ezra Miller, who plays Credence Barebone in the Fantastic Beasts series; he’s another guy fans would love to see as well. Earlier this year, a movie was released where Miller chokes and slaps a fan on the ground, which has caused a mass of petitions to be removed from future Fantastic Beasts films as well as the upcoming Flash movie. At the time of writing, Miller is still set to reprise his role in Fantastic Beasts 3, but considering that Warner Bros. didn’t mind letting go of Depp after they had already started filming, anything could happen in the future. The Hollywood Reporter says Fantastic Beasts 3 has been postponed again to its release date on July 15, 2022. There’s no word on who will replace Depp as Grindelwald (if they decide to transform at all), so stay tuned for updates as this behind-the-scenes turmoil continues to unfold.