The casting of young Dumbledore for the Fantastic Beasts franchise has long been the cause of much speculation and discussion, with various names being brought up as possible casting choices. The speculation is all over, though, because Jude Law is now confirmed for the role. He will make his debut as the powerful wizard in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2, which is set to begin filming this summer. Continuing to follow the rise of the dark wizard Grindelwald (Johnny Depp), Fantastic Beasts 2 and the subsequent films in the franchise will see Depp and Law go head to head as Dumbledore fights to stop Grindelwald’s reign of terror. Law will also star alongside Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, and Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange.
Law can currently be seen starring in The Young Pope on HBO, a role that has brought much attention and critical acclaim. In fact, Law’s career is littered with high profile roles and accolades, including Oscar nominations for The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain. Next month, he will star in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, directed by Guy Richie.
Overall, Law seems to be a popular choice. He plays the quintessential Brit well; as evidenced in his portrayal of Dr. John Watson opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the Sherlock Holmes movies. As Watson, Law is quirky; expertly blending dry humor with strong characterization which in turn, delivers a unique and refreshing take on one of literature’s most famous sidekicks.
Fantastic Beasts 2 will pick up with Dumbledore when he is the Professor of Transfiguration at Hogwarts; a role which later lead to him becoming headmaster of the school. As young men, Dumbledore and Grindelwald were inseparable, with Dumbledore harboring romantic affections toward his friend. These feelings changed as the two grew apart. While Dumbledore stayed in the light, Grindelwald opted to follow a much darker path, terrorizing much of Europe with his dark magic. In Fantastic Beasts, he was on the loose in New York, before being captured by MACUSA with the help of Newt.
The character of Dumbledore is complex; he is eccentric, mild-mannered, amusing, but also immensely powerful and even a little scary sometimes. As viewers, we have to believe that this is the man who will one day guide Hogwarts and Harry Potter through battle with Voldemort, and Dumbledore was the only wizard that the Dark Lord ever feared. However, Law will not be playing the Dumbledore fans are used to seeing – with many, many decades of experience behind him – but instead a younger Albus who must deal with his oldest and dearest friend becoming his enemy. J.K. Rowling has stated that Dumbledore is gay and that he had romantic feelings for Grindelwald, while the movies will likely choose not to make this explicit, there will almost certainly be the subtext of both a friendship betrayed and a romantic dream dashed.
According to Harry Potter canon, Dumbledore was not always on the good side of the magical law. Educated at Hogwarts, Dumbledore befriended Grindelwald after the latter was expelled from Durmstrang for his experiments with Dark Magic. Together, the pair sought out the Deathly Hallows, including the Elder Wand. At the time of their collaboration, Dumbledore was living in Godric’s Hollow, caring for his younger sister Ariana, an obscurus, and his brother, Aberforth. Dumbledore became fascinated with Grindelwald’s obsession to end the Statute of Secrecy, which had forced the wizarding community into hiding, due to persecution at the hands of Muggles.
Possibly Dumbledore saw Grindelwald’s power as a way out of Godric’s Hollow, but whatever the reason, the young Dumbledore picked up on Grindelwald’s hatred of Muggles, though he would later become ashamed of his actions during that time. Aberforth confronted Albus over it all, pointing out that he would never be able to accompany Grindelwald on his quest to find the Deathly Hallows since he couldn’t leave Ariana. Grindelwald then used the Cruciatus curse on Aberforth, and a three-way duel erupted. In the midst of it all, a curse went awry, killing Ariana. Grindelwald fled the scene, leaving a devastated Albus Dumbledore in his wake.
Dumbledore returned to Hogwarts as a teacher after his sister’s death. Meanwhile, Grindelwald was still on the loose in Europe, and had the Elder Wand in his possession. No longer able to turn a blind eye to Grindelwald’s terrorizing of both Muggles and Wizards, Dumbledore tracked his old friend down and challenged him to a duel. Dumbledore emerged victorious, and the Elder Wand then entered his possession. He kept it until his death. Grindelwald was sent to Azkaban, and Voldemort later killed him when he refused to give up knowledge of the Elder Wand’s whereabouts; protecting Dumbledore even after all that had taken place.
It’s a complex and confusing relationship, with many monumental events taking place to repeatedly alter the dynamic between the pair. When Fantastic Beasts takes place, Dumbledore is 26 years old. It seems safe to assume the five-movie arc will culminate in the aforementioned duel between Grindelwald and Dumbledore in 1945, which would make the character 64. It’s a large time span, and Law will need to be highly convincing at each step to pull this one off.
Firstly, there will be anger; the death of Ariana has taken place only eight years prior to the events of Fantastic Beasts, and will still be raw for Dumbledore. This, coupled with the realization that (most likely) Grindelwald was only using Dumbledore as a means of furthering his dark work, should mean that in Fantastic Beasts 2 we see a raw, vulnerable, and deeply scarred Dumbledore, if that particular element of the story is given the due care and attention that it deserves, of course.
Can Law pull this off? For many, Law is considered to be overrated, and not the strongest character actor. However, he is capable – and has proven – that he can be a decent romantic lead in movies. Okay, so Fantastic Beasts isn’t The Holiday, but that movie does show that he is capable of showcasing a range of emotions, especially when you compare it to his roles in Cold Mountain and The Grand Budapest Hotel, for example.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Law is taking on a role that has been made so iconic in the Harry Potter books and movies. Whether it’s Richard Harris or Michael Gambon, fans have their idea of their favorite Dumbledore already, and Law will need to satisfy all of them, plus bring something new and fresh to the role. Expectation will be sky-high for his appearance, especially in seeing whether he and Depp have the required amount of angst and chemistry between them to satisfy the story being told.