Fans thought they knew what they were getting when the Harry Potter fandom expanded to include the new Fantastic Beasts franchise. Warner Bros. Pictures billed it as a standalone trilogy featuring the gentle Newt Scamander and his posse of magical animals. But there was a bait and switch at the end of the first film, when small-time baddie Colin Farrell morphed into Johnny Depp, revealing the character as Grindelwald. However, based the latest news to come from the francise, fans are now asking, will Mads Mikkelsen replace Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts? According to reports, that may be the case.
On paper, one can see why producers thought Depp was originally perfect for this part. A master of transforming his appearance, he came with over three decades of high-profile roles in both indie films and blockbusters. Making him the larger-than-life evil wizard Grindelwald, thus kicking off the reveal of an ideological war spanning generations and five films, would show Fantastic Beasts as an ambitious set of tentpole films, with a high wattage cast to match.
However, on Nov. 6, it was announced Warner Bros. asked Depp to step down from his role within the franchise. The decision came just days after Depp lost his libel case against News Group Newspapers, publisher of Britain's The Sun, over a 2018 article alleging he was a “wife beater.” Depp addressed both the movie news and the court decision in an Instagram post, writing: "I intend to prove that the allegations against me are false. My life and career will not be defined by this moment in time."
Warner Bros. also released a statement about the decision, saying:
Johnny Depp will depart the Fantastic Beasts franchise. We thank Johnny for his work on the films to date. Fantastic Beasts 3 is currently in production, and the role of Gellert Grindelwald will be recast. The film will debut in theaters worldwide in the summer of 2022.
That leaves the franchise without its main villain at a critical juncture. The second film, Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald, sank in both box office numbers and critical ratings. The third film has already been pushed back twice, first from its original November 2020 slot back a year, to November 2021, and now to July 2022.
But, there are now reports that Hannibal star Mads Mikkelsen is the leading contender to take over Depp's role, so things could be looking up.
The Danish actor already had a two-decade-long career overseas before being cast as the titular lead in NBC's Hannibal in 2013. From there, he's gone on to star as the evil villain in blockbusters like Doctor Strange and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. According to Deadline, which broke the news of Mikkelsen being in talks for the role of Grindelwald, Fantastic Beasts' director David Yates is a "big fan" of Mikkelsen.
If these talks work out, Fantastic Beasts 3 will feature Grindelwald once again changing faces, as the character did from Farrell to Depp at the end of Fantastic Beasts 1. Hopefully, it will be the last time the character's face changes, not unlike the recasting of Dumbledore after the death of Richard Harris between Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban. But with two more Fantastic Beasts films tentatively scheduled to follow this third one, perhaps changing Grindelwald actors on the regular will become a running theme.
Fantastic Beasts 3, which does not have an official title, is currently slated for July 15, 2022.