Mads Mikkelsen replaces Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts 3, but the differences to Grindelwald’s look go far beyond a recast of the character.
After watching Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore — which is now streaming on HBO Max — audiences immediately noticed how different Grindelwald looks from the previous films. Fantastic Beasts 3 showed a very new Gellert Grindelwald in the form of Mads Mikkelsen, taking over for Johnny Depp. Followers of the Harry Potter spinoff franchise are likely already aware of the controversy surrounding Depp’s firing from the Fantastic Beasts series and replacement by Mikkelsen, but the difference in appearance goes further than a simple recasting.
As portrayed by Depp in the first two films, Grindelwald is depicted with a shock of white hair that stood on end, a trim mustache, and different colored eyes — one pale blue and the other dark brown. The villain spends a majority of the first film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in magically transfigured disguise as Percival Graves, played in this form by Colin Farrell. The wizard-supremacist remains in his true form during Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, as he gathers followers to help him gain power over the Muggle world. Mikkelsen takes over for Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, with a noticeably different appearance. The white hair is traded for the actor’s natural color, and the heterochromia is much less pronounced, though still a part of the character.
Mikkelsen’s version of the character, as seen in Fantastic Beasts 3, doesn’t seem to retain any of the striking physical features seen in the previous films. The Hannibal actor’s take on Grindelwald’s look is toned back, with his only truly defining feature being a streak of white hair over his forehead. Depp and Mikkelsen already look very different from one another, but the film seemingly makes very little attempt to keep the distinctive physical characterizations brought to the role by the former. There are two main possibilities for why Grindelwald looks so different, beyond the obvious recasting of actors.
Why Grindelwald Looks Different In Fantastic Beasts 3
The first and most likely reason behind Grindelwald’s change in appearance is to widen the distance between the franchise and Depp. The controversy surrounding the lawsuits between Depp and ex-wife Amber Heard brought bad publicity for the Fantastic Beasts series for a long time, with many viewers uncomfortable with Depp’s prominent role prior to the release of The Crimes of Grindelwald. It’s likely that Warner Bros., and those involved in the film, want to separate the movies from those issues, leading not only to Depp’s recasting but also to the elimination of the physical features that are associated with his version of the character.
The second possible reason for the difference in Grindelwald’s look in The Secrets of Dumbledore could be that Mikkelsen’s (possibly better) Grindelwald has once again disguised himself using magical means, in order to better hide from Dumbledore, Newt, and the others seeking to find him. But this isn’t likely, given that the “Wanted” posters around Berlin all bore Mikkelsen’s image. Given that Grindelwald has already been known to drastically alter his appearance, this would not only make sense for the character but would provide a near-seamless explanation for the major difference, if he were to have changed appearances between the two installments (though, it obviously didn’t work).
Why Fantastic Beasts 3 Doesn’t Explain Grindelwald’s Change
Grindelwald’s stark change in appearance isn’t addressed in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, and there could be several reasons for this. Aside from proving his abilities in being a master of disguise, Grindelwald’s appearance change could be due to the passage of time. After all, Jude Law’s Dumbledore was aged slightly for the third movie, especially in the beard department. Fantastic Beasts 3 takes place nearly a decade after Fantastic Beasts 2, and the contrasting visages could be attributed to that. A simpler explanation would be that the third installment chose not to address this because it wasn’t pertinent enough to the movie. An odd interjected line addressing the change would bring too much focus to the recast. Rather, Mads Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald is integrated into the universe, with Grindelwald’s “Wanted” posters bearing his likeness.
Other options would be to present Mikkelsen’s version of the character as Grindelwald’s true appearance and Depp’s as another disguise. Ultimately, the change in Grindelwald’s appearance went completely unaddressed in Fantastic Beasts 3. Which, if it did, would’ve cheapened the experience and only brought attention to the recast. Either way, avid audiences of the Harry Potter universe are likely more interested in seeing if Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore can save the franchise, given that another movie might not happen.
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore (2022)Release date: Apr 15, 2022
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