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Mads Mikkelsen Didn’t Want to ‘Copy’ Fired Johnny Depp for ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Role: ‘That Would Be Creative Suicide’

"It would almost be like an Easter egg to reality to point out we swapped actors."

Mads Mikkelsen, Fantastic Beasts premiere

Mads Mikkelsen


Mads Mikkelsen is no stranger to playing villains — see: “Casino Royale,” “Hannibal,” “Doctor Strange” — but stepping into the role of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald for “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” proved to be a more complicated task both on and off screen.

Mikkelsen took over the Grindelwald character after Johnny Depp exited the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise with a headline-making $16 million payout. Mikkelsen replaced Depp as Grindelwald in 2020.

“It was quite chaotic,” Mikkelsen told The Hollywood Reporter. “You don’t want to copy anything [Depp was] doing — that would be creative suicide. Even if [a role has] been done to perfection, you want to make it your own. But you still have to build some sort of bridge between what came before.”

Director David Yates opted to “tone down” Grindelwald’s appearance to tailor the character for Mikkelsen.

“I wanted Mads to explore a version of Grindelwald that suited his strengths as an actor — and that inevitably meant a departure from what Johnny brought to the role,” Yates noted.

Mikkelsen called the approach “very deliberate” to forge a distinction between the two Grindelwalds. “Everybody knows why [the actors changed]. The entire world knows why,” Mikkelsen said. “It would almost be like an Easter egg to reality to point out we swapped actors. Hopefully we drag them in with the first scene and from there they accept this world.”

The “Another Round” star also clarified past comments that he wanted to connect with Depp about the role: “I wasn’t like, ‘Oh please let me talk to him,'” Mikkelsen said. “It would have been great to touch bases, ‘clean the room’ in a sense. Maybe I’ll see him in the future.”

Mikkelsen previously told Entertainment Weekly that it was a “tricky” casting change mid-franchise.

“There has to be a bridge between what Johnny did and what I’m going to do. And at the same time, I also have to make it my own,” Mikkelsen said prior to the film’s premiere on April 15. “But also we have to find a few links [to the previous version of the character] and some bridges so it doesn’t completely detach from what he’s already masterfully achieved.”

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