‘Harry Potter’ Spin-Off Franchise ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Has Been Derailed By Controversy


When Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was announced as the first installment in the Harry Potter spin-off franchise back in 2013, it seemed like a surefire hit. With J.K. Rowling on board, expanding the hugely popular wizard world seemed like easy money. And for a while, it was. But the last two films have been mired by the divisive actions of some cast members and Rowling, with the latest, The Secrets of Dumbledore (out this weekend), caught squarely in the crossfire. Per reporting in Variety, the series is now in limbo after a long string of controversies has turned it into a lightning rod.

Fantastic Beasts has been dogged by the actions and comments of some of its most high-profile stars. First there’s Rowling (who made her official debut as a screenwriter on the Fantastic films) who of course has been widely criticized for transphobic comments over the last several years. Rowling has been increasingly less of a public presence Harry Potter-related endeavors notably not appearing in last year’s HBO Max documentary and doing little social media promotion for Fantastic Beasts 3.

Then there was the resignation of Johnny Depp, who originally played antagonist Gellert Grindelwald, which was requested by Warner Bros. after he lost a libel case brought against British tabloid paper The Sun. Depp shared the news via Instagram in November 2020. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner is still paying him his full quote of $16 million for the new film, despite only shooting one scene with Depp before his departure. The legal battle between Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard continues to make headlines, and, with that, attract negative attention to his past involvement with the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

But while Depp was removed from the film, another crucial Fantastic Beasts actor has courted controversy, too. In March, Ezra Miller, who has appeared in all three movies as the wizard Credence Barebone, was arrested and charged with harassment stemming from an incident at a Hawaii bar. (A Hawaiian couple who filed for a restraining order against Miller nullified their request as of mid-April.) Miller also drew negative attention for an April 2020 video that appeared to depict them choking a woman at an Iceland bar.

The franchise was originally conceived as a five installment series, though, as Variety noted, there is no script written for a fourth movie and the success of the latest film will ultimately determine whether the franchise moves forward. That looks like a tricky proposition, especially since Jude Law’s Dumbledore being an openly gay character–something Rowling first revealed in 2007, but never explored in the books–could mean access to the film is restricted in some more conservative parts of the world. The first two Fantastic Beasts films made more than 70 percent of their gross outside of the United States, further making overseas success the lynchpin of the franchise’s future.





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