By James Hibberd
November 06, 2020 at 11:42 AM EST
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Fantastic Beasts 3

Johnny Depp is leaving the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

The controversial actor posted a letter on social media announcing his resignation from the Warner Bros. movie series in the wake of losing his libel case earlier this week against the publisher of Britain's The Sun newspaper. The publication had said Depp was abusive towards his ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, and a judge found the claims "substantially true."

Depp wrote Friday that Warner Bros. asked him to resign his role, despite having already completed some filming on the third Fantastic Beasts film playing the villainous wizard Gellert Grindelwald.

"In light of recent events, I would like to make the following short statement," the actor wrote on his official Instagram account. "Firstly, I'd like to thank everybody who has gifted me with their support and loyalty. I have been humbled and moved by your many messages of love and concern, particularly over the last few days. 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. Finally, I wish to say this. The surreal judgement 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. My life and career will not be defined by this moment in time."

Warner Bros. also confirmed Depp's exit, writing in a statement, "Johnny Depp will depart the Fantastic Beasts franchise. We thank Johnny for his work on the films to date. Fantastic Beasts 3 is currently in production, and the role of Gellert Grindelwald will be recast. The film will debut in theaters worldwide in the summer of 2022."

Depp had appeared in two of the Harry Potter prequel films – 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and 2018's Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

The actor and the studio have been subject to mounting criticism for his role in the film due to claims that Depp was violent during his 2015-17 marriage to Heard.

Franchise author J.K. Rowling and director David Yates had previously stood up for Depp's casting. "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," Rowling wrote in 2017. Since then, Rowling has come under considerable fire herself due to her stance on trans rights issues.

I previously dubbed Fantastic Beasts "the world's most problematic movie franchise" due to its unique combination of talent controversies and dramatically declining box office returns. Warner Bros. originally announced there would be five movies in the ambitious franchise.

At this time many things remain unclear, such as who will take over the role, whether they will be made to look like Depp's unique take on the character, and whether the change will be addressed in some way in the next film (given this is the Wizarding World and Grindelwald is a fugitive, there could be a creative justification in the story for changing his appearance).

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Fantastic Beasts 3

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