Fantastic Beasts 3 director David Yates reportedly wants actor Mads Mikkelsen to replace Johnny Depp in the role of villain Gelert Grindelwald. Depp announced that he had left the project this weekend amid his ongoing legal battle with his ex-wife, Amber Heard. Days later, sources close to the production told Deadline Hollywood that Yates has his eyes on Mikkelsen for the replacement.
The insiders said the Mikkelsen is already in talks with Yates and Warner Bros. to take over the role of Grindelwald — which makes sense since the movie is nearly two months into production. The studio reportedly hopes to cast Mikkelsen quickly and maintain the current production schedule, so that it can still release Fantastic Beasts 3 in 2022. The Harry Potter spin-off stars Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, and Jude Law as a younger version of Albus Dumbledore.
So far, Mikkelsen and Warner Bros. have not officially commented on this casting rumor, though the news of Depp's dismissal has been confirmed. Depp revealed on Instagram on Saturday that he had been asked to resign from the movie, and that he did so willingly. That means that the actor will still be paid his full eight-figure salary for the film, although he reportedly only shot one scene.
Depp was dropped due to his controversial legal battle with his ex-wife Amber Heard, in which his die-hard fans are heavily invested. Many are active on social media, predicting that Fantastic Beasts 3 will flop without him.
This backlash is a very real fear for the studio, which has invested heavily in the Harry Potter prequel series. Fantastic Beasts is set in the early 20th century and centers around characters who were obscure at best in J.K. Rowling's original novels. It has also tried to expand her "Wizarding World" universe in many ways, even introducing the United States equivalent of Hogwarts — Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was a financial success in 2016, though it got mixed reviews. The sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, was less successful — pulling in less money with even more mixed reviews. This film also featured Depp most heavily, and the studio was criticized for keeping the actor on board after allegations of domestic abuse emerged.
Of course, some fans have soured on the Fantastic Beasts franchise altogether, as Rowling is now embroiled in a public debate about transgender rights, which has repeatedly drawn her fans' ire. Rowling is writing the scripts to these movies herself, and many fans have already cast doubt on the plan to make five of them in total. Now, with a major role recast, that doubt is stronger than ever. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3 is currently slated for release in the summer of 2022.