The Witcher is starting to become just as dramatic as The Continent. Last October, series star Henry Cavill announced that he would be stepping down as Geralt and passing his role onto Liam Hemsworth. If you know anything about the internet, you already know how this saga is unfolding: People are mad.
It’s always shocking when a major star leaves an iconic role. But when it comes to Henry Cavill’s relationship with The Witcher, the writing has been on the wall for a while. As sad as it is to see Cavill go, the star has been hinting at his behind-the-scenes frustration for a years now. While we don’t know exactly why Cavill is leaving this Netflix original, we have some theories.
Is Henry Cavill Leaving The Witcher Because of Creative Differences?
We don’t officially know the reason for Cavill’s departure, but this one seems most likely. On Saturday, October 29, 2022, Cavill announced that he would be stepping down as Geralt of Rivia after The Witcher Season 3. Instead, Liam Hemsworth would be taking up the swords of the White Wolf.
As upsetting as this news has been for fans of the series, it’s not entirely surprising. Cavill has been quietly hinting for years that he hasn’t been happy with the creative director of the Netflix original.
Cavill has always been a fan first when it comes to The Witcher. It’s widely known that he’s a fan of the CD PROJEKT RED games, and roughly a year after it was announced that Netflix was moving forward with a Witcher TV series, Cavill started to actively campaign for the role. “I pursued, pursued, pursued,” Cavill recalled for a feature with The Hollywood Reporter. The man loves Geralt and Andrzej Sapkowski’s brutal world.
But during the Season 2 press tour for the series, the cracks between Cavill’s genuine love of Geralt and showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich’s vision for the series began to show. In the same feature, Hissrich revealed that Cavill sent her several notes about Geralt’s dialogue for Season 2. “Everybody came out of Season 1 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?” Hissrich said.
During an interview with Philstar, Cavill clarified that he didn’t just want more lines in Season 2. He wanted to create a more book-accurate Geralt. It’s a fair complaint. As Cavill outlined, the book version of Geralt is far more complicated than the Netflix version. He often philosophizes and has interesting thoughts about the gray areas between good and evil he typically occupies. Sure, the novels have the judgmental silences and grunts that have come to define this character. But book Geralt is just as good at emo grunting as he is at delivering morose monologues and making snarky jokes.
“It’s important for me to have the character be three-dimensional,” Cavill said in December of 2021. “And it’s tricky to do, as I was saying earlier, because there’s a certain vision and there’s a certain set storyline and plot. And so, it was about me trying to find Geralt’s place within that. All of my asks and requests were along the lines of just being faithful to the source material.”
Season 2 of The Witcher was certainly a step in the right direction for Geralt. Especially when it came to his conversations with Ciri (Freya Allan), Cavill was given more heartfelt speeches. But even with these changes, the Netflix version of Geralt is noticeably quieter, more severe, and more emotionally distant than the book or even the video game version of this character.
There’s also the issue of The Witcher’s direction as a whole. The Witcher books and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are undoubtably Geralt’s stories. They’re primarily told through his perspective, and the biggest moral quandaries are given to him. That’s not true of The Witcher show. Though Geralt is a huge part of this story, Hissrich’s adaptation centers around Ciri and Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), giving the Child Surprise and the sorceress the juiciest, most character-challenging quests. In that way, Hissrich’s series often sidelines the White Wolf to focus on these other stories.
So you have an actor who loves this role on a personal level, is devoted to the source material, and has a history with disagreeing with the showrunner. That actor is also a bankable movie star with a huge fanbase and is likely the primary reason why certain fans even watch this show. And that showrunner has been taking wild swings with the source material from day one. Nine times out of 10, that’s an equation that ends with leaving due to creative differences. As much fun as it’s been for Cavill to live out his “childhood and adult life fantasies,” it simply seems as though he’s sick of not being able to play Geralt the way he wants.
Photo: Warner Bros/courtesy Everett Collection
Is Henry Cavill Leaving The Witcher to Focus on the DC Extended Universe?
This was likely the explanation fans of the Snyderverse want. Last year Cavill reappeared as Superman in Black Adam. At the time, fans believed that Cavill’s cameo was proof that despite whatever was going on at Warner Bros. Discovery, and the studio still wanted Cavill to be its Superman. Then James Gunn and Peter Safran were handed the keys to the DC Extended Universe. Soon Cavill gave fans a bittersweet update on his own Instagram, explaining that while he was told in October 2022 to announce his return as the Man of Steel, the new architects of the DCEU had other plans. Cavill was out.
So while Cavill might have left The Witcher believing he would once again be Superman, we know that’s not what came to pass. Yesterday news broke that Hollywood and Pearl standout David Corenswet would be playing Superman alongside Emmy-winner Rachel Brosnahan as Lois Lane in Gunn’s upcoming film Superman: Legacy.
If that’s the main reason Cavill left The Witcher — for the chance to be Clark Kent on the big screen again — then that’s quite disappointing.
Are There Any Other Theories About Why Henry Cavill Is Leaving The Witcher?
There are always the basic theories to consider. Cavill could be leaving the series due to contract negotiations, for personal reasons, or because he simply wants a break. But his current film schedule implies that the latter two options aren’t likely.
Cavill recently signed onto director Guy Ritchie’s (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare. He’s also set to star in the spy drama Argylle, the romance The Rosie Project, and is rumored to be starring in the new Highlander movie. This is all to say that Cavill has a busy schedule at the moment, but it’s not obscenely busy for a star of his caliber. This doesn’t seem like the schedule of a star who needs to halt everything to deal with a personal emergency. It’s also a schedule that seems as though it would allow room for passion project. Once again, we’re leaning towards creative differences.
Photo: ©Quibi/Courtesy Everett Collection
How Can Liam Hemsworth Be The Witcher?
Cavill’s Instagram post was very clear. Hemsworth won’t be starring in this fantasy series as another witcher. He will be replacing Cavill as Geralt. This is odd on several levels, the first of which is that Geralt of Rivia isn’t a code name like James Bond. He’s one monster hunter whose fate changes the entire history of The Continent.
Only a few shows have ever managed to pull off changing a lead actor in the middle of their run. When it has worked, it’s often a show with major time jumps like The Crown. Those don’t really exist in The Witcher novels. Occasionally, the narrative will skip forward a couple of weeks or months, but the time jumps aren’t so extreme that Geralt should look any differently. And even if Season 4 does include a time jump, it would have to go back in time for this casting choice to make sense. Though Cavill is only seven years older than Hemsworth, he looks far more mature than the Hunger Games star.
Hopefully one day we’ll look back at all this hand-wringing and it’ll look silly. Maybe The Witcher Season 4 will be a surprise prequel series about young Geralt, hence the younger replacement. Maybe one day Cavill will return to reclaim his two swords. Maybe future seasons will take place in an alternative universe that explains this abrupt recasting. But for now, The Witcher losing its figurehead as well as its biggest fan is a devastating blow.