For Jude Law, the opportunity to portray Albus Dumbledore “was kind of a no brainer”.
In the lead up to the release of Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, Law, accompanied by his fellow cast as well as returning director David Yates and more at a global press conference, said he felt like he’d been “in preparation subconsciously from the minute” he read the Harry Potter book to his children.
“There’s just so much in the character to mine and investigate as an actor, and that’s before you even get into this extraordinary world of magic – that’s just him as a human,” he enthuses.
Approaching such an iconic character is a little easier when you’re taking on a younger version.
“One of the joys that David really allowed me to investigate was, rather than feeling the weight of the brilliant performances by Michael Gambon and Richard Harris, was to really go back and to understand that he’s not the fully formed Dumbledore of the Harry Potter books and films; he’s a man still finding his way, still confronting and resolving his demons,” Law offered.
“In this film, in particular, he’s facing the past, he’s facing himself and facing his own guilt. But if there was a quality that links him [to the older Dumbledore], I would say, it’s his mischievous, his humour and his belief in people; he sees the positive. You think of how Dumbledore believed in Draco, he believed in Tom Riddle – he sees the good… or the potential good. I think that’s something that he’s always had.”
In The Secrets of Dumbledore, Dumbledore treats Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander more like an equal, giving him more responsibility as they prepare for an epic battle against Gellert Grindelwald, who is moving to seize control of the wizarding world; “I love the Newt- Dumbledore relationship,” Redmayne said. “For me, what I love, is that’s it got that complexity of ‘master’ and ‘apprentice’, but it’s evolved throughout the movies to being something almost fraternal, I would say, in this one; sort of older brother, younger brother.
“There’s a moment in this film, where Newt even takes it upon himself – sees the vulnerability in Dumbledore – and tries to pass on wisdom to him. But that progression, what I love about Newt is fundamentally he’s an introverted guy and he’s most comfortable with his creatures and in his own world, but Dumbledore has seen a quality in him that has the potential for leadership, albeit in an unconventional way.
“What I love about this movie, it’s like a wizard heist movie in which this group of outsiders all band together – all of us are unconventional – and the leader is unconventional, and there’s a kind of wonder in that.”
Redmayne was working on his third Fantastic Beasts film, while Law his second. For Mads Mikkelsen, who took over the reins of Gerald Grindelwald, one of the most powerful dark wizards, he had to quickly find his bearings.
“Yeah, I was thrown into it a little later than the rest of the gang,” Mikkelsen said. “I mean, they’d done two films and then they were halfway through [The Secrets of Dumbledore] when I joined the party. It’s a family you visit and you can only hope that they will adopt you – and they did. The whole gang is fantastic, the crew is fantastic, David is fantastic – and if they are the family, [David’s] the godfather and he’s done this so many times he makes everybody feel at home. My journey was fast, swift, but I felt at home right away.”
Mikkelsen worked hard to balance the menace and charm of his Grindelwald.
“For this character, he’s very, very linked to Dumbledore and so me and Jude had quite a few conversations about what that relationship looked like, so my character was shaped out of that world. But I mean, nobody in history started out saying, ‘I’m going to be the bad guy.’ So we have to figure out what his mission is; what’s his goal? Why is he trying to make the world a ‘better place’ in that manner?
“So, I think that [Grindelwald and Dumbledore] started out having a common and mutual goal, as young adults… or big children, and then it got blurry; the ways of getting to that goal were different than they imagined.”
During the event, filmmaker David Yates was praised for his “major” contributions to the cinema history of the Wizarding World, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and just continues to get more popular.
“I think what’s enduring about these movies [is] they become a safe place to go to for lots of people,” Yates said. “They celebrate certain values; loyalty, love, friendship, empowering the outsider/the person you always underestimate – things that resonate for a lot of people out in the real world, and they do it in this magical space. It’s a beautiful thing to be part of, stories that create a safe space for people when they go into the movie theatre to watch them and I’m very proud of that.”
Yates noted that they wanted Secrets to be “not only emotional”, but “enjoyable and a real treat”.
“We wanted to lean into some of the values of the earlier Harry Potter films that had whimsy and charm, humour and humanity,” he said. “We showed it to a little audience a few weeks ago and there was this very young man in the audience – I won’t name him – but he was a kid, and everyone turned to him when the lights came on and said, ‘What do you think?’ Because he’s one of our first audience members, and he looked at me and said, ‘I liked it – it’s really human.’ And I thought, ‘I’ll take that.’ We’ve made a film with all this extraordinary stuff in it and the one thing he takes away from it is, ‘It’s really human.’ And that’s a testament to the performances and the story.”
‘Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore’ – only in cinemas April 7
LEAD IMAGE (L-R): JESSICA WILLIAMS as Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, CALLUM TURNER as Theseus Scamander, FIONA GLASCOTT as Minerva McGonagall, DAN FOGLER as Jacob Kowalski, JUDE LAW as Albus Dumbledore and EDDIE REDMAYNE as Newt Scamander ‘FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE SECRETS OF DUMBLEDORE’