The future of the Fantastic Beasts franchise just become even more uncertain as Mads Mikkelsen said that it's not impossible for Johnny Depp to return to the series. At the time of this writing, it's not even clear if there will be a fourth movie in J.K. Rowling's controversial run of prequels. However, if there is Mikkelsen believes that Depp may return for the next film in spite of his bad publicity.
Mikkelsen played the character Gellert Grindelwald in this year's Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, and he admitted many times that it was nerve-wracking to take over the role previously played by Depp. He repeated that sentiment this weekend at the Sarajevo Film Festival, according to a report by Deadline. Speaking to fans at a public panel, he seemed to hint that Depp could return to the series, making Mikkelsen's performance an even more bizarre bump in the road.
Asked about replacing Depp, Mikkelsen said: "It was very intimidating. Obviously, well, now the course has changed – he won the suit, the court [case] – so let's see if he comes back. He might. I'm a big fan of Johnny. I think he's an amazing actor, I think he did a fantastic job."
Mikkelsen's assertion that Depp "might" "come back" to the Fantastic Beasts franchise doesn't seem to be based on anything besides his own personal inference and speculation. Depp, Rowling and Warner Bros. have all been silent on fans' calls for him to return. Although Depp was awarded compensatory and punitive damages in his lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard, he has certainly not been decisively vindicated in the court of public opinion.
On top of that, there would need to be more installments of Fantastic Beasts in order for Depp to "come back" at all. That is far from assured. The series premiered in 2016 and was originally planned as a trilogy, but Rowling later said that she intended to write it as a series of five films. However, Warner Bros. continued to order the movies one at a time and did not make any promising remarks this year.
Fantastic Beasts was commercially successful in 2016 as fans were eager for more "Wizarding World" content. However, it got lukewarm reviews from critics, and the critical reception was downhill from there. It may have impacted the commercial performance as well. In 2018, The Crimes of Grindelwald was not as successful at the box office and was far less successful with critics, dropping to a 36 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Secrets of Dumbledore faced an uphill battle, overcoming the weak reception of the previous installment and the recasting of Grindelwald along with the frustrating delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It also struggled with pandemic-era ticket sales, and it was one of the movies Warner Bros. moved to HBO Max after just 45 days in theaters. The movie got a 46 percent positive score on Rotten Tomatoes.
According to a report by Variety back in April, Warner Bros. planned to make a decision on the future of the Fantastic Beasts franchise based on the commercial success or failure of The Secrets of Dumbledore. That does not bode well, and there are the added complications of scandal to consider. Celebrity controversy has hit the franchise from all sides, including Depp's spousal abuse allegations, Rowling's outspoken transphobia and Ezra Miller's alleged criminal activities.
All three Fantastic Beasts movies are streaming now on HBO Max. So far, the studio has not publicized any plans regarding the franchise.