The first time the internet saw DCU Superman star Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia in Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher, it howled in collective laughter over the terrible wig. Four years later, fans are losing their minds that Hollywood’s leading himbo won’t be reprising the role after season three ends. One obvious explanation for why is that Cavill has signed on to shoot a new Superman movie, but fans think the real reason Cavill is leaving is that he’s tired of fighting with Netflix to keep The Witcher true to its literary source material.
The surprising news of Cavill’s impending departure was shared yesterday in a statement by Netflix that also announced Liam Hemsworth of Hunger Games fame would be taking over the role in season four. “As with the greatest of literary characters, I pass the torch with reverence for the time spent embodying Geralt and enthusiasm to see Liam’s take on this most fascinating and nuanced of men,” Cavill was quoted as saying. “Liam, good sir, this character has such a wonderful depth to him, enjoy diving in and seeing what you can find.”
While many were disappointed that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would no longer be caught growling “Roach” at horses in future seasons, Witcher fans took the news especially badly. Subreddits for the books, games, and Netflix series blew up with disbelief, frustration, and memes, while conspiracy theories got passed around on Twitter that Cavill had been more or less forced out over creative differences with a production that has at times taken generous liberties with Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s original novels. Certain parts of the Witcher fandom have always had a toxic relationship with the show, fuming over certain casting choices and plot deviations, and Cavill’s departure is now being taken as validation of every criticism they’ve ever had.
henry cavill has been fighting the show-runners for years and it looks like he finally gave up his fight 😢 pic.twitter.com/2E7nlAKtgK
— ariel 🪴 (@cursedhat) October 29, 2022
To support their theories, fans point to a breadcrumb trail of previous interview quotes by Cavill about his desire to keep Netflix’s Geralt true to the one originally put to paper in the pages of fantasy magazine Fantastyka back in 1986. Less than a year ago the actor said he told the Hollywood Reporter he was “absolutely” committed to the show’s seven-season plan “as long as we can keep telling great stories which honor [author Andrzej] Sapkowski’s work.”
During the media tour around season two’s release last year, Cavill spoke repeatedly about campaigning to bring more three-dimensionality to Geralt, noting that in addition to a brutish monster slayer he’s also wise, thoughtful, and an “amateur philosopher.” “This season, I really wanted to make sure that we represented the book’s Geralt more accurately, and that we saw him speak more,” he told Total Film at the time. “I pushed really, really hard for that.”
Then there was showrunner Lauren Hissrich’s own comments about Cavill’s preparation for season two. “A lot of the notes he was sending to me were about Geralt’s dialogue—could he, first of all, say more,” she told Hollywood Reporter. “Everybody came out of season one laughing and loving Geralt’s fuming. But Henry was saying that when you read the books you spend a lot of time in Geralt’s head. So how can we put that on the page?”What about Cavill’s aspirations for the future of the series? “I’m a huge fan of the books and staying loyal to them, and it’s about making sure that story happens without too much in the way of diversions or side things going on to muddy the waters,” he said during a Netflix Geeked conversation last year. Adding fuel to the fire was a recent interview with Beau DeMayo, a former producer on The Witcher who is now running X-Men ‘97 on Disney+, where he said some writers “actively disliked” and even “mocked” the source material.
Some fans’ takeaways from these soundbytes has been that while Hissrich was focused on making the show what she wanted it to be, Cavill was the only one interested in trying to keep it grounded in the original version of the characters. This comes in the context of long Reddit threads like this one where fans have detailed all of the ways season two was different from the books, with fears that season three, not set to air until the summer of 2023, might include even larger departures.
While the theory is a compelling one when collapsed into a couple of viral tweets, the show’s place within the larger fandom has always been more complicated than that. Hissrich was temporarily chased off Twitter prior to season one’s release when racist fans petitioned Netflix to only let a white woman play the lead role of Ciri, Geralt’s adopted daughter. Then there were those on the edge of the fandom with no knowledge of or interest in the grimdark fantasy series until Netflix spent tens of millions bringing it to life. “Book purists are hurting the experience for new fans,” wrote one user on the show’s subreddit last year. Then there are fans of CD Projekt Red’s Witcher video game trilogy which takes huge liberties with the storytelling, and has effectively created its own parallel lore.
Whether Cavill was a purist on set is almost beside the point. His role in season two clearly did little to prevent some of the narrative departures fans took the biggest issue with. But he was clearly the glue holding the show’s disparate fandoms together. The fact that he loves PC gaming and painting Warhammer miniatures in his free time, and obviously was a big fan of Sapkowski’s books, gave him huge street cred with even the worst diehard Witcher fans. Normies and newcomers loved him too, not because he’s a pedant when it comes to the lore but because he’s a charismatic presence that did, in the end, manage to combine tenderness, ruthlessness, and a morbid wit into something deeper than his Halloween Spirit costume initially suggested. “I think the glue that held it together really was Henry Cavill as Geralt,” former Kotaku senior critic Harper Jay said during a 2018 VG chat about the first season.
With that glue gone, The Witcher season four has its work cut out for it with the circumstances around Cavill’s leaving dogging it at every turn. Whether Hemsworth is up to the task or not, the news at least comes with season three already wrapped. Fans will get one last chance to return to that world with Cavill as an anchor. I’m sure it will all go fine, and not stoke even more conspiratorial speculation over creative differences.
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