Mads Mikkelson had 2 days to decide whether to replace Johnny Depp as Grindelwald

Mads Mikkelson only had a couple of days to decide whether to replace Johnny Depp in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, a film that releases in theaters Friday even as Depp is embroiled in a court battle with ex-wife Amber Heard.

Though Depp played the dark wizard in 2018’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, he was ousted from reprising the role in 2020 after losing a court case in London following a highly publicized and messy divorce from Heard. Depp sued U.K. newspaper The Sun for describing him as a “wife beater” in an article, but the judge sided with the publication.

The verdict spurred Warner Bros. to expeditiously recast the Pirates of the Caribbean actor in the midst of the threequel’s production. In a phone call, producers gave Mikkelsen two days to decide if he wanted to take over the role, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Mikkelsen described the turn of events as “quite chaotic,” occasioning him to quickly watch the first two films and read the script for Secrets. Upon reading the script, he said he thought the story was “great,” but soon began contemplating how he would set his own performance apart from Depp’s interpretation of the character.

“You don’t want to copy anything [Depp was] doing — that would be creative suicide. Even if [a role has] been done to perfection, you want to make it your own. But you still have to build some sort of bridge between what came before,” Mikkelsen said.

In addition to Mikkelsen switching up Grindelwald’s demeanor to make it his own, the filmmakers also altered the character’s appearance, dialing back the platinum hair and albino right eye from the Depp version of the character. They were still some subtle changes made to Mikkelsen’s hair and right eye, making it the seventh role in which the actor’s eyes were altered in some way.

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore hits theaters Friday.

About the author

Danny Peterson

Danny Peterson

Danny Peterson covers entertainment news for WGTC and has previously enjoyed writing about housing, homelessness, the coronavirus pandemic, historic 2020 Oregon wildfires, and racial justice protests. Originally from Juneau, Alaska, Danny received his Bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Alaska Southeast and a Master's in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Oregon. He has written for The Portland Observer, worked as a digital enterprise reporter at KOIN 6 News, and is the co-producer of the award-winning documentary 'Escape from Eagle Creek.'