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Johnny Depp departs 'Fantastic Beasts' after 'wife beater' ruling

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Johnny Depp will no longer appear in the Fantastic Beasts franchise after losing his libel suit against a tabloid that called him a “wife beater.” The actor confirmed he was asked to step down following a judge’s ruling that it’s “substantially true” he abused ex-wife Amber Heard. In a statement, Depp maintained his innocence and said he plans to appeal.

“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,” Depp wrote Friday on Instagram. “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.”

Warner Bros. asked Johnny Depp to resign after his legal blow in the U.K.
Warner Bros. asked Johnny Depp to resign after his legal blow in the U.K. (Photo: Getty Images for ZFF)

Depp portrayed dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the first two installments. The third film is in production.

“Finally, I wish to say this,” Depp continued. “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. My life and career will not be defined by this moment in time.”

Warner Bros. confirmed Depp’s role will be recast.

“Johnny Depp will depart the Fantastic Beasts franchise. We thank Johnny for his work on the films to date,” the studio told Yahoo Entertainment in a statement. “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 has vehemently denied Heard’s abuse allegations since 2016, claiming she was the aggressor in their relationship. The former spouses faced off in a London court this past summer as Depp sued News Group Newspapers (NGN), owner of the Sun, and the tabloid’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article that called him a “wife beater.”

Heard was the main witness for the defense and submitted 14 instances of alleged abuse at the hands of Depp. It was enough to convince the judge.

High Court Judge Andrew Nicol dismissed the lawsuit, writing in Monday’s judgment he believes the “wife beater” claim to be “substantially true.”

Nicol added, “I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms. Heard by Mr. Depp have been proved to the civil standard,” meaning the claims are more likely than not to be sound.

Depp is suing Heard for $50 million in the U.S. for defamation over her 2018 Washington Post op-ed about domestic violence. The actor initially sought to delay the trial as he would be filming Fantastic Beasts 3. The trial, as of now, is expected to take place Jan. 11 through Jan. 28, 2021.

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