Fantastic Beasts' Grindelwald Is Very Unlikely To Be Recast
Given the backlash that Johnny Depp's casting as Gellert Grindelwald has attracted, not to mention the fact that the first movie featuring Depp as the main antagonist proved less successful than Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, some may be wondering if the production delay could be down to Warner Bros. figuring out a way to recast the role. Colin Farrell's performance as a disguised Grindelwald in the first movie was highly praised, and Rowling could probably figure out a way to work in Grindelwald adopting his Percival Graves disguise again.
That being said, at this point Depp is extremely unlikely to be recast - not least because the actor presumably has a contract covering all five movies. Responding to criticism over Depp being cast as Grindelwald, Rowling remained steadfast, saying, "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 went on to add, "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." It seems as though she, director David Yates, and the studio have made their decision, and they're unlikely to be swayed from it. Moreover, Depp himself has already confirmed that he'll be returning.
The situation might be different if Depp's performance had been a major criticism of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, but by all accounts the problems with that movie weren't any single actor, but rather its overall structure, pacing, and story. And based on what we know so far, the production delay is designed to address those problems.
The Production Delay Allows For More Development & Prep
According to the original report about Fantastic Beasts 3's production delay, the fundamental reason is a need for more prep time. The film's naturally need a lot of pre-production for design purposes, since each new movie introduces fantastical new creatures and locations, but it's also the result of a general change in Warner Bros.' approach to producing movies. Per Deadline:
Previous Warner Bros. administrations had the tendency to rush event films to meet release dates, and in this case Fantastic Beasts 3 was rumored to be 2020. Warner Bros. executives now have a new approach of allowing big productions to brew as needed.
Warner Bros. has been burned recently by the race to meet release dates. The script for DC movie Suicide Squad was written in six short weeks and filming began almost right away, resulting in heavy (and expensive) reshoots being required to refine the film into what the studio thought audiences wanted, which in turn led to overwhelmingly negative reviews. More recently Warner Bros. has placed less priority on meeting originally planned release dates, and more emphasis on being sure that they deliver the best possible version of the movie. For example, Wonder Woman 1984's release date was pushed back to June 2020, after having previously been moved up six weeks from December to November 2019.
It could be argued that trying to churn out a new Fantastic Beasts movie every two years was simply too ambitious for a franchise that doesn't have a clear road map (like the Harry Potter movies did). There is still plenty of time to right itself, and there's no shortage of criticism for the filmmakers to take on board after Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. With luck, those extra few months in the planning stage will result in a strong middle act that puts the Fantastic Beasts franchise back on the right track.