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SYFY WIRE Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

How Mads Mikkelsen invented his own backstory for Grindelwald in new 'Fantastic Beasts' sequel

Why does Gellert Grindelwald hate Muggles so much? Mads Mikkelsen has an answer.

By Josh Weiss & Vanessa Armstrong
MADS MIKKELSEN as Gellert Grindelwald

The third Fantastic Beasts movie — officially subtitled The Secrets of Dumbledore — is now playing on the big screen, and with it comes the introduction of a new actor playing Dumbledore’s nemesis/former lover, Gellert Grindelwald.

That new actor is Mads Mikkelsen, who took over the part after Johnny Depp’s alleged domestic abuse against his former wife, Amber Heard. Mikkelsen’s take on Grindelwald is vastly different than Depp’s, something that Mikkelsen acknowledged in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "Even if [a role has] been done to perfection, you want to make it your own,” the actor known for starring roles in Hannibal and Rogue One explained. “But you still have to build some sort of bridge between what came before.”

Part of Mikkelsen’s work in understanding the character was to try to understand why the wizard was so violently anti-Muggle. The actor didn’t have the chance to talk with the Wizarding World’s creator and co-writer of Secrets of Dumbledore, J.K. Rowling, to get her take on it, and so he created his own backstory for Grindelwald.

"My reason is that something happened to his entire family when he was a child that explains the hate he carries around,” he said. “It’s a fantastic, detailed, complex universe [Rowling’s] created, and I’d love to hear her thoughts on it. I hope I will do more than this one [film].”

While the seventh and final Harry Potter novel (Deathly Hallows) doesn't provide much in the way of Grindelwald's backstory, it does explain that a young Albus Dumbledore fueled his vision for a world ruled over by witches and wizards. Albus, of course, lost his nerve after the tragic death of his sister, Ariana, but Grindelwald continued on the path they had originally planned to follow together. The new movie immediately addresses their checkered past during a scene in which the two characters discuss their opposing views over a cup of tea at a Muggle restaurant. Moreover, the dialogue confirms that Dumbledore was deeply in love with Gellert all those years ago.

"I love that scene,” Mikkelsen said. “It puts aside that they’re wizards and it’s just two grown-up people with a painful and beautiful past. Their past obviously meant the world to them, but was also full of disappointment. We wanted to establish that warmth before we went into the dilemma of the scene.”

You can check out Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald — as well as Jude Law’s Albus Dumbledore — in Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, which is now playing in theaters everywhere. Rowling co-wrote the screenplay with longtime Potter adapter, Steve Kloves.

All eight Harry Potter films and the first two entries in the Fantastic Beasts series are available to stream on Peacock under the Hogwarts Cinematic Universe section.