While the situation that resulted in Johnny Depp being replaced as the dark wizard Grindelwald in the Fantastic Beasts franchise is still a pretty crappy one, the one silver lining to this dark cloud is that his replacement was Mads Mikkelsen. I’ve been a gigantic fan of the intense Danish actor’s work ever since first checking him out in Nicolas Winding-Refn’s dreamy 2009 viking drama Valhalla Rising (yes, I just went full hipster and declared that I liked him before he was mainstream). Since then, Mikkelsen has had a broad range of roles but has proven himself particularly masterful at playing the type of charismatic and complicated bad guys that makes him perfectly suited to play the legendary Grindelwald in the Harry Potter prequel/spinoff series.
With his bleached hair and eerie mannerisms, Depp has already given us a very memorable take on Grindelwald in the previous films which has resonated with the fans. So how will Mikkelsen approach replacing him? Keep the transition silky smooth and just do what has come before? That would be “creative suicide”, according to what Mikkelsen told Collider.
Nobody’s interested in me going in there and trying to copy anything, that would be creative suicide immediately, especially when it’s been done before and masterfully. So everybody’s expecting us to find a different path. Having said that, we need a bridge between what he did and what I’m gonna do, so those bridges you have to find together, whether it’s a certain look, whether it’s a certain attitude in certain situations, but you have to make it your own. Anything else would be plainly just creatively stupid.
Of course, replacing Depp with another actor as Grindelwald, complete with a change in mannerisms or personality, is not as challenging as it would be in other franchises. Warner Bros. could have gone the Marvel route whereby Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as James “Rhodey” Rhodes after Iron Man 1 and its completely ignored on-screen. But with Fantastic Beasts being set in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, somebody changing faces is just a spell away. In fact, that’s how we first met Grindelwald as [FIVE YEARS OLD SPOILER ALERT!] 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them featured Colin Farrell in the role of Percival Graves who was revealed in the film’s final minutes to have been Depp’s Grindelwald in disguise the entire time. It will be easy to include a reason for the dark wizard to change his appearance again into the script.
The still-untitled Fantastic Beasts 3 was supposed to have started production in early 2020 for a November 2021 release date. However, COVID-19 production delays saw the production only start shooting in September 2020. The film was still sticking to its original release date, but then Depp’s departure mid-shoot as well as additional COVID-19 setbacks forced WB delay the film to 15 July 2022.
Last Updated: May 10, 2021