Why Mads Mikkelsen Is Fantastic Beasts’ Perfect Grindelwald Replacement


Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore replaced Johnny Depp with Mads Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald — here’s why it’s the right decision and he’s perfect in the role. Based on J.K. Rowling’s popular guidebook of the same name, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them followed the sprawling Harry Potter saga as the next corner of the Wizarding World to become a cinematic franchise. Set decades before Harry’s birth and miraculous survival story, the film centered on Eddie Redmayne’s Newton “Newt” Scamander, a “magizoologist” hunting down some accidentally released magical creatures. Ultimately,  Newt became embroiled in a plot by the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald that revolved around a creature known as an Obscurus. Mads Mikkelson’s performance in Fantastic Beasts 3 already proves he’s a better fit as the villainous Gellert Grindelwald.


Mads Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald is very different than Johnny Depp’s – and better for several reasons. In an interview with GQ, Mikkelsen spoke on his new role, the recast, and what he looks forward to after joining Fantastic Beasts 3. In terms of his own characterization of Grindelwald, Mikkelsen said, “To copy him [Depp] would be creative suicide… We had to make it our own.” The interview went on to address Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s romantic relationship, an overdue plot point that will finally surface in The Secrets of Dumbledore. His daughter, Violet – a lifelong Harry Potter fan herself – convinced Mikkelsen to take on the part.

Related: Fantastic Beasts 2 Set Up The Secrets Of Dumbledore In 6 Ways

As the actor stated, studios had to be careful with the Grindelwald recast in order to make the character entirely new yet still feel a part of the franchise. Mads Mikkelson’s Grindelwald look is very different from his predecessor. Where Johnny Depp featured a cartoonish style, Mikkelsen’s iteration proves to be more natural, though no less sinister. Mads is the perfect choice to play Grindelwald, as the actor has experienced a varied number of parts over his lengthy career. He has more than enough experience playing different types of roles, though he particularly succeeds as the villain. Here’s why Mads Mikkelsen is Fantastic Beasts‘ perfect Grindelwald replacement.

Why Fantastic Beasts 3 Proves That Mikkelsen Is The Perfect Grindelwald

Gellert Grindelwald extracts Yusuf's memory in Fantastic Beasts 3

The release of Fantastic Beasts 3 finally proves that Mads Mikkelson’s Grindelwald is the perfect replacement for Depp’s. It’s true that his characterization is different, however, it works better for the franchise as a whole. While Depp is a talented actor, Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald felt too “quirky” and at some points even “campy” in his demeanor and delivery. Mads Mikkelson’s Grindelwald is much less clunky, and the actor is fully capable as he shows off his skills as the silver-tongued manipulator. Mikkelsen’s performance is much more understated but no less intense in Fantastic Beasts 3. Ultimately, he seems much more like a man who could amass a global following. If his dance of subtlety mixed with cruel severity in Fantastic Beasts 3 isn’t proof enough, then imagine the actor giving Grindelwald’s compelling speech at the end of The Crimes of Grindelwald. Really, he should’ve been playing the character all along.

What Other Mikkelsen Roles Make Him Perfect For Grindelwald?

Mads Mikkelsen Hannibal

Much of Mikkelsen’s fervent support has come for his three-season turn as Hannibal Lecter on Bryan Fuller’s NBC series, Hannibal. It’s this very role, in fact, that further supports just how perfect the actor’s casting is. Unlike the outwardly inhuman Voldemort, Grindelwald is designed to be a more compelling and charismatic villain. Mads Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald is a character that can win followers to his side with more than just fear — and even managed to captivate Albus Dumbledore. In playing Hannibal Lecter, Mikkelsen proved that he could deliver a charming monster in his sleep. And since Mikkelsen can translate even one percent of the chemistry he had with Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham to his scenes with Law’s Dumbledore, the tension (subtextual and otherwise) is off the charts.

Equally, Mikkelsen recently played the villainous Kaecilius in the MCU’s Phase Three adventure, Doctor Strange. As such, he has very specific experience that lends itself to bringing the iconic magical duel between Dumbledore and Grindelwald to life in spectacular fashion. Plus, further separating him from Voldemort, who simply doesn’t care about right or wrong, Grindelwald largely believes he is doing the right thing. Though his goals also include world domination, he also showed an aim to avoid his people being caught up and losing their lives in such future events as World War II. Kaecilius similarly believed in the perceived greater good of his aim. Mikkelsen does just as effortlessly add the same kind of nuanced complexity that Depp afforded the role. As Mads Mikkelson’s Grindelwald interview reveals, and as seen with taking on Hannibal Lecter after Anthony Hopkins, he makes the role entirely his own.

Related: One Fantastic Beasts Theory Could Solve A Harry Potter Plot Hole

What Critics Are Saying About Mikkelsen’s Performance As Grindelwald

Mads Mikkelsen As Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

So far, reviews about Mads Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald have been nothing but positive. Many are saying that his subtler take has only added to the character and that the actor should’ve been cast from the start. Mikkelsen’s reviews have been overwhelmingly optimistic in the face of often lukewarm takes on the rest of the movie. Most cited that Mads Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald exudes a more believable charisma and charm than Depp’s did, while simultaneously unmasking the true dangers behind his intentions. Insider‘s Kirsten Acuna wrote, “Mikkelsen plays Grindelwald with a suave, charming charisma that convinces you of why anyone would be seduced by this alluring, handsome wizard and be suckered into fighting a war for him.” Dumbledore’s romance with Grindelwald is also cited in critics’ reviews, saying that Mikkelsen’s portrayal is calculating and palpable at the same time. In terms of the Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship The Times of London reviewer Kevin Maher had this to say: “Mikkelsen’s simmering intensity adds a new layer of menace to the character but also suggests a credibly torrid romantic history with Dumbledore.”

Why Was Johnny Depp Replaced By Mads Mikkelsen In Fantastic Beasts?

Johnny Depp and Mads Mikkelsen as Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts

Mads Mikkelsen replaced Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts 3 due to the controversy around Depp’s 2019 libel case relating to his ex-partner Amber Heard. Written by Rowling and directed by David Yates, the first of four planned sequels was released in 2018. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald saw Johnny Depp step fully into the villainous role after a brief cameo in the first installment. Despite the best efforts of Newt, a younger Dumbledore (Jude Law), and several allies, Grindelwald was able to escape imprisonment and further his tyrannical plans for the world — retconning what was previously known about Dumbledore in the process. In November 2020, however, it was revealed that Depp would not return for 2022’s delayed outing. The decision divided fans, with some calling for Depp to be reinstated and others believing Colin Farrell should return (having previously played Grindelwald’s Percival Graves disguise).

Warners Bros seems to have other ideas, however, with Mikkelsen replacing Depp as Grindelwald. Whatever the case, there is just no denying that he is a perfect choice for the role. For starters, no matter which side of the fence one sits on regarding the situation surrounding Depp, the last distraction any studio wants is one of their tentpole films being overshadowed by an actor’s very public court battles. Johnny Depp himself has graciously acknowledged the recast and accepted the state of play. Mikkelsen is, conversely, entirely baggage-free. Furthermore, Mikkelsen has, in recent years, become an almost universally beloved figure. As a result, his casting brings a wave of passionate support to the project, with some non-Harry Potter fans likely even paying attention because of his involvement. As such, with Farrell apparently unavailable to play Grindelwald, everybody involved in bringing Fantastic Beasts 3 to life really need not look any further.

Next: Fantastic Beasts 3: Dumbledore & Grindelwald Backstory Explained

  • Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)Release date: Apr 15, 2022

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