The Witcher TV series on Netflix was a sleeper hit when it initially aired back in 2019. Fans had initially laughed at the ridiculous white wig star Henry Cavill had to wear, but many warmed up to his portrayal of the stoic, grim Geralt of Rivia. Others (myself included) found the show to be a strange departure from the source material.
In any event, Cavill is out. After three seasons in the role (one of which has yet to be aired,) Cavill will be hanging up the white wig to don the red cape of Superman once more. He’s back in the DC film universe now, leaving little time for him to cavort around the dark fantasy world of Netflix’s series. Geralt will now instead be played by Liam Hemsworth.
But is Superman the only reason for Cavill’s departure? Some fans online have begun to spread a rumor that Cavill resented the show’s production team for wanting to stray too far from the source material–namely, the novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Is there any kernel of truth to these outrageous claims, or are fans just looking for drama where none exists?
What Is the Witcher?
The Witcher is a massive media franchise based on a series of dark fantasy books by the aforementioned Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. The books are excellent, full of the kind of eerie magic and grim heroics that would feel right at home in Game of Thrones or Berserk. The books became smash hits in Poland throughout the 90s, and, upon being translated, became an international sensation.
The franchise was catapulted to further international recognition when Polish video game studio CD Projekt Red picked up the rights to create a game based on its characters. The resulting Witcher games were met with critical acclaim, and the third entry in the series is renowned as one of the best open-world RPGs ever made. The popularity of the video game series led Netflix to buy the rights to a TV show based on the property, which itself turned into a massive success.
When The Witcher aired in 2019, it enjoyed viral success thanks in large part to the popularity of the bard character, Jaskier, and his catchy “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher” tune. While many viewers adored the series, others pointed out that its deviations from both the video games and the novels made it a bit of an odd watch for fans of the existing properties. Beyond this, a narrative developed among some viewers that Cavill himself resented the show for not hewing closer to the narrative in the books.
Henry Cavill gave an official statement after the news broke that he’d be leaving the show. “My journey as Geralt of Rivia has been filled with both monsters and adventures, and alas, I will be laying down my medallion and my swords for Season 4,” Cavill’s statement reads. “In my stead, the fantastic Mr. Liam Hemsworth will be taking up the mantle of the White Wolf.
“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. Liam, good sir, this character has such a wonderful depth to him, enjoy diving in and seeing what you can find.”
Cavill’s warm sentiment was completely the opposite tone that some fans expected to hear, given the suddenness of the news of his departure. Liam Hemsworth, best known for his role in The Hunger Games film series, isn’t the worst choice, as both actors have large physiques, square jaws, and intense demeanors. Still, it’s strange for a big-budget show like this to completely recast its lead actor in the middle of a production, barring odd sci-fi conceits like Doctor Who.
Hemsworth Excited to Join Production
For his own part, Liam Hemsworth was also excited about joining the show. “As a Witcher fan I’m over the moon about the opportunity to play Geralt of Rivia,” he noted in a recent statement. “Henry Cavill has been an incredible Geralt, and I’m honoured that he’s handing me the reins and allowing me to take up the White Wolf’s blades for the next chapter of his adventure.”
Hemsworth went on to direct his comments at Cavill, clearly trying to strike the right tone before heading into a role with so much history and such high expectations. “Henry, I’ve been a fan of yours for years and was inspired by what you brought to this beloved character. I may have some big boots to fill, but I’m truly excited to be stepping into The Witcher world.”
Of course, it’ll be a while before fans see Hemsworth in the role. While filming on Season 3 of The Witcher has wrapped, it won’t come out until the summer of 2023. That season still stars Cavill as the protagonist, and fans have speculated that it might veer even more wildly away from the plot of the books. Before it airs, the spin-off series Blood Origin will hit Netflix in December 2022.
Did Cavill Butt Heads with the Creative Team?
The rumor that Cavill disagreed with The Witcher’s writers has become a common thread across social media. Some fans have cited interviews with Cavill where he’s claimed that he pushes for his version of Geralt to behave more as he does in the novels. For instance, in a series of interviews before the second season aired, Cavill told reporters that he urged the show’s writers to allow Geralt to have more speaking lines.
“This season, I really wanted to make sure that we represented the book’s Geralt more accurately, and that we saw him speak more,” Cavill explained during an interview with Total Film. “I pushed really, really hard for that.” The showrunner, Lauren Hissrich, corroborated this effort on Cavill’s part, stating that the actor was extremely insistent on Geralt being a more three-dimensional character in the second season of the series.
“A lot of the notes he was sending to me were about Geralt’s dialogue—could he, first of all, say more,” Hissrich 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?”
Do the Writers Hate the Books?
Another common thread online is that the writers of the series openly dislike the books and games–something that seems to have originated in an interview with a former producer on The Witcher TV series. Speaking to The Direct, X-Men ‘97 producer Beau DeMayo stated that in his time working on The Witcher, he saw that the writers were often openly dismissive of the source material.
“I’ve been on show – namely Witcher – where some of the writers were not [fans] or actively disliked the books and games (even actively mocking the source material),” DeMayo told the interviewers. “It’s a recipe for disaster and bad morale. Fandom as a litmus test checks egos, and makes all the long nights worth it. You have to respect the work before you’re allowed to add to its legacy.”
These statements seem to corroborate the fan narrative that Cavill was holding out against an openly hostile writer’s room that wanted nothing to do with the original novels. Many fans of Cavill’s portrayal of Geralt have the impression that he was the “glue” holding the show together, and that, without him, it’ll be tough for The Witcher to remain popular.
Time to Play Superman?
There’s another element to all of this that could be another explanation, or perhaps yet another reason for Cavill to leave the show behind. The actor recently revealed that he’d be returning to the DC universe. Cavill has portrayed Superman in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Justice League, all of which received varying degrees of mixed to critical reviews.
Following Justice League in 2017, he seemingly stepped down from portraying the DC character altogether. However, with the enduring popularity of the Zack Snyder cut of Justice League, which was released on HBO Max in 2020, it seems that Warner Bros wants to bring Cavill back to continue the storylines from his earlier films. Cavill himself confirmed his return to the role on social media, leading to many fans speculating that his schedule would be too busy for him to portray both Geralt and Superman simultaneously.
Whatever the case might be, it’s strange for a popular TV series to lose its lead actor midway through its run. As such, fans scrambling to find something resembling a narrative could be a form of denial–the first stage of grief. Sure, The Witcher isn’t gone. Liam Hemsworth will ensure the series carries on. But, many fans fear, the show they once loved is now nothing more than a memory. Or, it will be, once the third season airs next year.