Why is Henry Cavill leaving The Witcher?

Image: The Witcher/Netflix
Image: The Witcher/Netflix /
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It’s a sad time on The Continent. This weekend, Netflix hit us with the shocking news that Henry Cavill will not be returning as Geralt of Rivia in season 4 of The Witcher. In his place, Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) will be donning the platinum blonde wig and twin swords.

While it’s nice to get a confirmation that The Witcher has been renewed beyond season 3, which wrapped filming with Cavill in early September and is due out summer 2023, this announcement is very bittersweet, with emphasis on the bitter. Cavill’s performance as Geralt has been the one universally praised thing about the show from longtime fans of the books and games as well as newcomers to The Witcher universe. To say he embodied the role feels like an understatement; Cavill reassured fans that he got the character, and that The Witcher was in good hands.

What will The Witcher even look like without him? It’s hard to say, and it’s always best with recasts to reserve judgment until we actually see the new actor’s performance (though I do not envy Liam Hemsworth the enormous task of stepping into this part.)

Considering how hard Cavill fought to get the role, it has become pretty clear that this was a passion project for the actor. When it was first announced that the streamer was making a Witcher series, Cavill got in touch with them before they had even started casting to express his interest in the part. After being initially passed over for the role, he was eventually invited to audition a second time after Netflix considered around 50 other White Wolf hopefuls. His agent reassured him that he didn’t need to bother if he didn’t want, since it was essentially giving Netflix a second chance. Cavill’s response was “Of course I’ll do it, it’s Geralt of Rivia.” The story of how he landed the part has become the stuff of Hollywood legend.

Even just last year, Cavill told The Hollywood Reporter that he was committed to The Witcher showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich’s plan for the show to run seven seasons. “Absolutely,” he said. “As long as we can keep telling great stories which honor [author Andrzej] Sapkowski’s work.” So what changed?

As with any casting news like this, we won’t know more details until someone actually involved tells us. However, there have been enough stories about behind-the-scenes issues, coupled with other opportunities that have recently cropped up for the actor, that could help explain why he jumped ship.

Ultimately, the only person who can tell us for sure why Henry Cavill left The Witcher is Henry Cavill himself. Until then, we read the tea leaves.

Henry Cavill (Superman / Clark Kent) in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Photograph by Courtesy of HBO Max
Henry Cavill (Superman / Clark Kent) in Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Photograph by Courtesy of HBO Max /

Henry Cavill is returning as Superman in the DCEU

Let’s start with the easiest theory for why Henry Cavill is leaving The Witcher: he got offered another gig. Starting with 2013’s Man of Steel, Cavill played Superman/Clark Kent in a handful of DC movies, culminating with Justice League (and later, the Zack Snyder’s Justice League director’s cut). He was one of the core characters in DC’s first real attempt to create an interconnected universe of films to rival Marvel.

However, after Justice League, DC Studios head Walter Hamada decided he wanted to take Superman in a different direction, aiming to reboot the character with a screen treatment by Ta-Nehesi Coates and a Black actor in the role. Things never really got rolling on that movie, and it eventually became clear that many fans still wanted Cavill back.

Things got more interesting with the newly released Black Adam, which finally sees Cavill return as Superman in a post-credits scene that sets up future movies. The behind-the-scenes story of how that came together is fascinating; Hamada initially shot down Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s idea to have Cavill return, so he went over Hamada’s head to the higher-ups at Warner Bros.

It’s impossible to know exactly what went down, but we know that Cavill returned as Superman in Black Adam, with his end credits stinger scene being filmed a mere month before the movie’s release. Hamada stepped down as head of DC Studios after 15 years the same week Black Adam hit theaters, and a short while later it was announced that The Suicide Squad director James Gunn and Peter Safran would be taking over as co-chairs of DC Studios. This was amidst rumblings about DC Studios finally figuring out a new direction for its superhero franchises, something Johnson has talked about a lot.

Adding a bit more fuel to the fire, Cavill announced that he was officially back as Superman after Black Adam released, saying there’s a “bright future ahead” for the character. It’s widely speculated that he will be appearing in multiple more movies as the caped hero, including a possible Man of Steel 2. Dwayne Johnson has also stated his antihero Black Adam and Superman will “absolutely fight” on screen in the future.

So yes, Henry Cavill is definitely back as Superman. But would getting that offer alone be enough to make him leave The Witcher? After all, Cavill fought to become Geralt of Rivia. Would he really have just dropped the twin swords at the first opportunity to put back on a cape?

There are rumors swirling that both Cavill’s management and Warner Bros. don’t want the actor to feature in television shows anymore given the big screen opportunities rolling his way. Grace Randolph, the creator and host of Beyond the Trailer, claims, “His management feels he’s a movie star now with the #Superman cameo,” and it’s said that Warner Bros. holds to this stance as well. It’s important to note that these are only rumors; we don’t have any substantial information to back them up.

Regardless of whether Cavill’s return as Superman is the main reason or, more likely, one factor amidst several, it’s reasonable to think it was at the very least relevant to his decision to leave The Witcher. However, there might be another angle to consider…