The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise is the Harry Potter prequel that fans always wanted. It delves into the pasts of Albus Dumbledore, the dark wizard Grindelwald, and the wider wizarding world, thus answering some of the questions posed in the original books. And Jude Law, the acclaimed actor playing the younger version of Dumbledore, has been told some secrets by J.K. Rowling herself.
The first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film was unsurprisingly one of the biggest hits of 2016. It starred Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, a “magizoologist” who finds himself having to track down his misplaced collection of creatures in 1926 New York. It grossed $814 million worldwide, an impressive total indeed.
But that was only the beginning. Fantastic Beasts was set to be a massive franchise. In October 2016, just before the first film debuted, writer J.K. Rowling revealed all at a Cineworld event. “We always knew it was going to be more than one movie, and we said a trilogy as a placeholder. But I’ve done the plotting properly, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be five movies,” she said, according to The Guardian.
And the second movie was set to be even more exciting than the first. The original cast would all be returning – Redmayne as Scamander, Dan Fogler as Jacob, Katherine Waterston as Tina, Alison Sudol as Queenie, Ezra Miller as Credence and, finally, Johnny Depp as Grindelwald. The latter would apparently be the main villain, as the film was titled Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
But there would be a lot of new actors appearing in the movie, too. These included Claudia Kim as Nagini, Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange and Callum Turner as Newt’s brother, Theseus. However, perhaps the most exciting bit of casting came with the news that Jude Law would be playing the younger self of one of the most beloved Harry Potter characters: Albus Dumbledore.
Several other actors had been considered for Dumbledore before the filmmakers settled on Law. Mark Strong, Christian Bale and Benedict Cumberbatch had all been in the running, apparently, as had been Jared Harris. The latter’s father is Richard Harris, the actor who first portrayed Dumbledore in the Potter films before his death in 2002.
The website Pottermore announced the news in April 2017, alongside a quote from Crimes of Grindelwald director David Yates. “Jude Law is a phenomenally talented actor whose work I’ve long admired, and I’m looking forward to finally having the opportunity to work with him,” Yates said. “I know he will brilliantly capture all the unexpected facets of Albus Dumbledore as J.K. Rowling reveals this very different time in his life.”
In the original Potter books, just enough was revealed about Dumbledore’s early life to start fans wondering. He was once allied with Grindelwald, for instance, who held prejudices against non-magical people. However, that all came to an end when Dumbledore’s sister Ariana was killed during a duel between himself, Grindelwald and his brother Aberforth. None of them knew who dealt the fatal blow.
There was also one important detail about Dumbledore that didn’t actually make it into the books. During October 2007, in response to a fan question at an event, J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore was gay. His relationship with Grindelwald had in fact been a romantic one, on Dumbledore’s part at least.
This was one of the many things Law discussed with Rowling when it came time to prepare for the role. “Jo Rowling revealed some years back that Dumbledore was gay. That was a question I actually asked Jo, and she said, ‘Yes, he’s gay,’” Law told Entertainment Weekly in July 2018. “But as with humans, your sexuality doesn’t necessarily define you. He’s multifaceted.”
Dumbledore’s sexuality had been a matter of debate for a long time. He was never said to be gay in either the Potter books or the movies, but people were hoping it might be acknowledged in the Fantastic Beasts franchise. However, in January 2018 David Yates told Entertainment Weekly that The Crimes of Grindelwald probably wouldn’t address the matter.
When asked if the movie “makes it clear that Dumbledore is gay,” Yates gave the answer: “Not explicitly.” He went on to add, “But I think all the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas and ideology and each other.”
Fans weren’t necessarily happy to hear the “not explicitly” part. J.K. Rowling received much of the backlash, and she wasn’t happy, either. “Being sent abuse about an interview that didn’t involve me, about a screenplay I wrote but which none of the angry people have read, which is part of a five-movie series that’s only one installment in, is obviously tons of fun,” she wrote on Twitter.
Non-straight characters are still somewhat of a rarity in blockbuster movies. In 2018 the LGBT media advocacy group GLAAD released statistics stating that out of 109 big film releases in 2017, only 14 of them featured any LGBT characters. And there have yet to be gay characters in franchises such as Star Wars, for example.
Nonetheless, it seems that Rowling and Law are working together to create a Dumbledore everyone will be satisfied with. In January 2018 Law told Entertainment Tonight that he “sat in a room for an afternoon with J.K. Rowling” and she “was kind enough to share with me the whole backstory and her future hopes for this young character of Dumbledore. And, really, that set me on the path.”
And in Law’s Entertainment Weekly interview, he went into more detail. “[Dumbledore] has a youthful, mercurial approach to life. But there’s something that hangs heavy in his heart, in his past, that underlies all of that,” Law said. “There’s a root of good humor and good heart and sense of self and a sense of past.”
Law also revealed a little something about Dumbledore’s job. When asked if Dumbledore was a Transfiguration teacher like in the books, Law answered “He doesn’t teach Transfiguration, actually, not at this stage.” And later, he added, “I’m not sure I’m allowed to say what he teaches…” So, some aspects of the movie are still shrouded in secrecy.
Law did reveal one fairly big detail, though: there were no Dumbledore-Grindelwald scenes in the film. “I don’t actually have any scenes with Johnny [Depp]… In many ways that suits the relationship, as it’s been many years since they’ve seen each other,” Law explained. And he did also strongly imply that Dumbledore’s sexuality would eventually come to the forefront.
“What you’ve got to remember, this is only the second Fantastic Beasts film in a series. And what’s brilliant about Jo’s writing is how she reveals her characters, peels them to the heart over time,” Law said. “You’re just getting to know Albus in this film, and there’s obviously a lot more to come. We learn a little about his past in the beginning of this film, and characters and their relationships will unfold naturally, which I’m excited to reveal.”
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald will hit movie theaters on 16 November, 2018. And after that, chances are Harry Potter fans will be seeing a lot more of Law’s young Dumbledore when the rest of the series is released. It’s a very exciting time for J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.