On Monday, London’s High Court ruled against Johnny Depp in his libel case against The Sun, after the paper called Depp a “wife-beater” over allegations he had abused Amber Heard in 2018. In his decision, Judge Justice Nicol wrote, “I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved to the civil standard.” Now, following the judgment, Depp has been asked to resign from The Fantastic Beasts movies.
In a statement on Instagram, Johnny Depp wrote, “Firstly I’d like to thank everybody who has gifted me with their support and loyalty. Secondly, 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.”
Depp also claimed that the “surreal judgment of the court in the U.K. will not change my fight to tell the truth and I confirm that I plan to appeal. My resolve remains strong and I intend to prove that the allegations against me are false.”
Monday’s judgment in London’s High Court came after weeks of arguments heard in July, where Depp’s lawyers portrayed Amber Heard as the abusive partner in the marriage. In a statement to E! News on Monday, his lawyers echoed his appeal claims, telling the outlet, “Most troubling is the Judge’s reliance on the testimony of Amber Heard, and corresponding disregard of the mountain of counter-evidence.”
Warner Bros.’s decision to oust Depp from the franchise, more than the actor’s flailing for an appeal, is the most startling turn of events. In 2017, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them director David Yates told EW:
“With Johnny, it seems to me there was one person who took a pop at him and claimed something. I can only tell you about the man I see every day: He’s full of decency and kindness, and that’s all I see. Whatever accusation was out there doesn’t tally with the kind of human being I’ve been working with.”
With this support, Warner Bros. appeared to draw a line in the sand: No matter what happened in court, Depp would stay. That December, international menace J.K. Rowling also waded into the turbulent waters and defended Depp’s casting in the film’s sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Rowling wrote in a blog post, “Based on our understanding of the circumstances, the filmmakers and I are not only comfortable sticking with our original casting, but genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.” She continued:
“I accept that there will be those who are not satisfied with our choice of actor in the title role. However, conscience isn’t governable by committee. Within the fictional world and outside it, we all have to do what we believe to be the right thing.”
The same week Rowling published her blog, Variety reported that the studio had said in a statement: “Based on the circumstances and the information available to us, we, along with the filmmakers, continue to support the decision to proceed with Johnny Depp in the role of Grindelwald in this and future films.”
After an overwhelming amount of support from the filmmakers, creator, and studio executives, it is quite a heel turn to suddenly ask that Depp resign from the Fantastic Beasts series. However, something tells me this is not a decision motivated by morals, and instead by optics and cash.