Here’s the issue, do you go big star to replace Depp? Do you go smaller name to have no other associations with characters other than Grindelwald? The powers-that-be at Warner Bros. have a big deal on their hands because of their latest move to rid the Potterverse of Depp’s presence. Grindelwald, while not Voldemort, is a major precursor to the anti-muggle movement in the wizarding world and not only that, he is the direct antagonist to the most powerful wizard in the world, Jude Law’s Dumbledore.
The key is not necessarily replicating Depp’s physical looks, but getting an approximation of what his presence entails for that world (see: the transition from Richard Harris’ Dumbledore to Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore). Though one could argue that Gambon didn’t fully step into the Dumbledore role, and the presence so easily crafted by Harris, until The Half Blood Prince – in the end I think achieving the feel of Grindelwald is far more important than replicating the tactile features of Grindelwald.
Grindelwald is a character that exudes confidence, calm, terror, and the chance to pop off at any moment if need be. On the other hand, the character has to be charismatic, collected, smooth, and to be honest, he has to hold his own against Jude Law. Being the third installment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, the new film will inevitably draw Dumbledore and Grindelwald closer in conflict, if not outright direct battle. Furthermore, in order to give emotional weight to that fight, the film will also explore the incredibly complex relationship formed by the two wizards in their earlier years. In other words, there is A LOT riding on Fantastic Beasts 3 and they have to get the casting of Grindelwald right.
So, who should replace Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts?
In the following list, you will see some big name choices, lesser known choices, as well as some age variances, but they are all pretty good fit for what I think WB will be trying to accomplish. Here are my choices in the order of preference — and featuring some of my favorite scenes of which they’ve been a part:
1. Lee Pace
Lee Pace is the obvious choice to become the next Grindelwald. His command over his emotions, deep soothing voice, dominant physical presence, and natural charisma (ever seen Halt And Catch Fire?) are his gift to us as viewers. But, as intimidating as he can be, Pace also fields a penetrating vulnerability that is absolutely key to believing the human side of Grindelwald (again, ever seen Halt And Catch Fire?). Not only does Grindelwald have to be terrifying and, in its purest sense, awesome – we have to believe that he is capable of good. Dumbledore saw good in him and we should see it too – so when the famous duel between the two powerful wizards occurs, we understand the pain and irony in that fight. If this doesn’t happen, I am protesting.
2. Tobias Menzies
If Lee Pace is 1a, then Tobias Menzies is a very close 1b. I know you are aware of him as Prince Phillip in The Crown and Edmure Tully in Game Of Thrones. While I quite enjoyed Menzies’ performance in both shows, he is at his absolute best in Outlander. Not only does he portray the ungodly horrifying character of Black Jack Randall (pictured above), but he also portrays a totally opposite character in the same show in Frank Randall (Black Jack’s mild-mannered descendent 200 years later — it’s a long story). Menzies is an incredible actor in every sense and the subtle physical performances he brings to every role give life to his characters that few can achieve (see: The Terror).
3. Dan Stevens
All I can think of when I think of Dan Stevens as Grindelwald is the Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s Batman saying to Jack Nicholson, “Ok, you wanna get nuts, let’s get nuts!” Hear me out. Seriously, I know you are thinking of Dan Stevens as good ol’ Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey — arguably his most famous role — and I acknowledge that is not the best case for him to be Grindelwald. HOWEVA, have you seen him in Legion? Straight up nuts. Or, how about one of the best thrillers of the 2010’s, The Guest? No? The man is straight up bananas in that film and it’s the perfect case for him. Go see it. Now. Better yet, watch this clip and you’ll see why he’d be a great Grindelwald.
4. Daniel Bruhl
I love me some Daniel Bruhl. Oddly enough though, I was not a huge fan until his excellent turn as Zemo in Captain America: Civil War. Of course there is The Alienist, Rush, and a very underrated role in The Fifth Estate along side Benedict Cumberbatch, but it was something about his performance in Civil War really grabbed me. It was his quiet determinism, strict discipline, and searing vulnerability that made me believe he was capable of destroying the Avengers from within. I mean, c’mon, have you seen that final scene with Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa at the end of the film?
5. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers
Oh Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, where have you gone? Our world turns its lonely eyes to you. This is a choice that would be a shocker because it seems JRM has seemed to fallen out of the A-list pop culture status but it would be a perfect choice if it were to be made. JRM is a terrific actor and you don’t have to point to anything other than his turn as King Henry VIII in The Tudors for proof. An actor capable of great sensibility and compassion (see: August Rush), but also fiery passion as well as dogged fury. Again, see: The Tudors. He’s the perfect age, has the right presence, and would be a fitting adversary to the likes of a terrific actor like Jude Law.
6. Cillian Murphy
Cillian Murphy is an interesting choice too. An actor with incredible skill and great range, but he’s never quite shined like some of the counterparts on this list. Perhaps that’s because he hasn’t had that one defining role yet – yes I am quite aware of Peaky Blinders but that has not hit the public consciousness the way it deserves yet. That in mind, if you have seen Peaky Blinders, you know the ferocious and scary actor he can be — all while exuding an air of calm and total control. But a small bit of him also has this effect of total empathy. You needn’t look any further than his role in Inception or his place in the criminally underrated Red Eye for that to come forward. Sure his face is all kinds of calm and reassuring, but there seems to be something in his eyes that screams total bloody pyscho and I can’t think of a better descriptor for Gellert Grindelwald.
7. Jared Harris
Jared Harris is my dark horse pick. He’s a little older than I would probably like to pick but he has a presence about him that is nothing less than captivating. Though he was beyond spectacular as the voice of reason in Chernobyl, and you could see why people would follow him in his role in The Terror, it’s his turn as Moriarty in the (also criminally underrated) Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows. His menace and wit and cool temperament form a perfect antagonist to Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock and I think this style would fit swimmingly with what WB wants for Grindelwald.
The overly obvious choices:
8. Michael Fassbender – Michael Fassbender is my legitimate man-crush. He even made 2017’s The Snowman worthy of a good hate-watch. I loved him in Macbeth, and even the wildly uneven The Counselor from Ridley Scott. Sure we all know him from his role as Magneto in the X-Men franchise (which serves as pretty good counterpart to Grindelwald), and even his awesome performance in Inglorious Basterds, but it’s Fassbender’s performance in Steve Jobs that makes me wish he could be Grindelwald. Someone obsessed with detail, image, and doing what is correct. He’s a leader of people, and someone who is capable of great harm in that pursuit of perfection. But, coming off the heels of the X-Men franchise, I doubt Fassbender would want to dip his toes back into that style of filmmaking again.
9. Mads Mikkelsen – Mads is one of my favorite actors going. He’s awesome in anything he touches. But his greatest achievement is playing Hannibal Lecter in NBC’s Hannibal. Are you telling me you would turn down Hannibal Lecter as Gellert Grindelwald? No frakking way.
In the end these are all the capable actors who I think should replace Johnny Depp in fantastic beasts. How about you?
Who should replace Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts?