When news broke that Johnny Depp was set to “co-star” in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2, the sequel to this month’s wizarding world expansion Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, speculation immediately zeroed in on who Depp might play. Given that Gellert Grindelwald, former friend/crush of Albus Dumbledore, supposedly has a major role to play in this new Fantastic Beasts franchise, folks began wondering if Depp might be bringing the dark wizard to life. Well, yes, it’s true: Johnny Depp is playing Gellert Grindelwald.
The news was confirmed by director David Yates himself, who directed the final four Harry Potter films as well as Fantastic Beasts and is returning for the sequel. In speaking with The Leaky Cauldron, he revealed why they chose Depp to fill such a pivotal role:
“The whole principal of casting the movie was go with the best actor. Go for the most inspired, interesting, right fit for that character. And as we approached Grindelwald we thought, ‘Who’s going to take this in an interesting direction?’ In this business, it’s a weird old business. You’re brilliant one week, people are saying odd things the next, you go up and down. But no one takes away your pure talent. Johnny Depp is a real artist. He’s created several characters who have really resonated in our popular culture. He’s a really brilliant, brilliant actor. We were excited about seeing what he would do with this guy, the character. He’s fearless; he’s imaginative; he’s ambitious. We thought he would do something fun and special. So we went for him, purely on that selfish basis. We don’t care if he’s famous or not famous. We just know he’s interesting.”
So there you have it: Johnny Depp is playing one of the most iconic characters in Harry Potter history. Grindelwald will have a cameo in Fantastic Beasts as the character has recently gone missing from Europe after reigning terror with the Elder Wand. We know he’s eventually captured and, while in prison as an older man, murdered by Voldemort when quizzed about the whereabouts of the Elder Wand. But in this Fantastic Beasts universe, it appears we’ll be seeing Grindelwald at the height of his power.
I’ll be honest: I’m really not crazy about this casting. The casting for all of the Potter films was incredible, and the same team is onboard this Fantastic Beasts franchise (including screenwriter J.K. Rowling), but Depp has a tendency to get overwhelmed by his colorful characters, resulting in something more akin to a caricature than a realistic, empathetic character (see: Alice in Wonderland, Yoga Hosers, etc.). I have great trust in this Fantastic Beasts team, but this casting really gives me pause.
We also know they’re beginning a casting search for a young Dumbledore (well young-ish) to appear in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2, but Yates and producer David Heyman were tight-lipped about that as the process is ongoing. They did reveal that Fantastic Beasts 2 will return the wizarding world action to Europe after the America-set first film:
“We do go back to the U.K. in the second film as well–it’s U.K. and Paris. I’m not sure where Jo is setting the rest of the movies, but they’ll be European-centric. I think it will be difficult to ignore America, but the next one is predominately Europe.”
And finally, Yates teased that Ezra Miller’s character Credence plays a pivotal role in the follow-up:
“Credence, we follow Credence further. He becomes quite pivotal actually, Credence is quite crucial.”
Early word on Fantastic Beasts seems to be quite positive, which is a good thing seeing as how Rowling has already mapped this out as a five-film franchise. Audiences at large get to see the first installment when it hits theaters on November 18th, but rest assured there’s plenty more to come with Johnny Depp as our Big Bad.