Jude Law is playing Dumbledore in the Fantastic Beasts series. Everyone is shook. But the casting choice is actually weirdly brilliant.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like the reaction to the news that Jude Law has been cast as Dumbledore. Even just typing the sentence feels strange.
After the very divisive news broke that Johnny Depp would be playing Grindelwald, fans were probably expecting to be either overjoyed or furious to learn who was bringing the young
pope Dumbledore to life. And while there are certainly people feeling both of those emotions, what most of us are collectively experiencing can probably best be summed up by the following GIF:
I, personally, was mainly just hoping for someone less famous. Even after Depp’s casting and knowing that the producers were probably aiming for a Dumbledore actor to match his cred, I still wanted these iconic roles to be played by actors I wouldn’t automatically associate with other roles.
So when Jude Law’s name was first announced for Dumbledore, my immediate thought was, ‘nope, too famous.’ I just can’t look at Jude Law and not see the cute guy from The Holiday. Others might see John Watson, or Alfie, or the young Pope, but the point is that it’ll be hard to look at Law in the Fantastic Beasts films and not just see a superfamous actor playing make-believe wizardry — but then, we already went through that with Depp (and, to a certain degree, Eddie Redmayne).
The Fantastic Beasts series is going to feature a certain level of stunt casting. We aren’t pulling from the cream of the British stage crop for this one, but from the Hollywood A-lister catalog, that’s just a reality we have to live with.
And, accepting that, I honestly don’t think they could have done much better than Jude Law for this part. Here’s why.
1. They finally got the eyes right
“His blue eyes were light, bright and sparkling behind half-moon spectacles and his nose was very long and crooked, as though it had been broken at least twice…”
After all our moaning about Dan Radcliffe’s eyes not being green, we should really be more excited about Warner Bros. finally doing some proper eye-casting, and getting a Dumbledore whose irises (Iris! The Holiday! Sorry, I’m a really big fan) are the exact right shade.
Just imagine Law with a pair of half-moon spectacles! Honestly, all I need is a close-up shot of those eyes, and I’m good with this.
2. Jude Law is a really bloody good actor
Whether he’s emulating Michael Caine in Alfie, showing off his comedic chops in Spy or stunning on stage, Jude Law is just a really, really good performer.
Obviously his big role right now is in HBO’s The Young Pope (and oh, the meme potential), which ironically enough is probably a very close approximation of how Rita Skeeter envisioned the young rebel!Dumbledore.
That role works for the same reason Alfie and Closer worked: because Law is able to juxtapose his own inherent ceremoniousness with a defiant streak, something like pent-up anger or frustration, a contradictory energy that — if harnessed right, and not drowned in the enforced campiness of the Harry Potter movies — will make for a really damn good Dumbledore.
3. …And, unlike Depp, Law is not a character actor
This isn’t meant to be a dig at Johnny Depp’s acting, which is very good, but just to point out that one of my hang-ups about Depp’s casting in the Fantastic Beasts franchise is that he appears to be doing the Chocolate Factory thing rather than the Chocolat thing.
Based on what we saw of him in the first movie, Depp’s Grindelwald will be larger-than-life, caked in makeup and most definitely a Johnny Depp character.
Jude Law isn’t that kind of actor. (Just as Colin Farrell, as Grindelwald in disguise, wasn’t that kind of actor.) He’ll bring a humanity to Dumbledore, the same humanity he brings to all his roles.
And we’ve already seen him square off against another character actor, Robert Downey Jr., in the Sherlock Holmes films. Law proved with those movies that he can balance out a quirky and bombastic co-star, without fading into the shadows (ha ha).
The force of Jude Law, as a performer, will stand up nicely against Johnny Depp’s Grindelwald, perhaps even eclipse it. And I’m not going to lie — that wouldn’t suck, because I’m definitely here for more Dumbledore and less Grindelwald. (I’m still scratching my head about how they’ll attempt to sell this version of Grindelwald as an enigmatic seducer of young and impressionable wizards, but I guess only time will tell.)
4. Dumbledore’s sexuality is in good hands
Back in the 1990s, Jude Law portrayed a number of non-straight characters, most famously Lord Alfred Douglas in Wilde. See also Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and the slightly more ambiguous (but not really) The Talented Mr. Ripley and Gattaca.
Law’s recent roles may not have been explicitly stated as non-straight, but it’s clear from his body of work that he doesn’t shy away from the implications of non-straight sexualities for his characters.
We can assume that Jude Law’s Dumbledore will neither be camp nor have his sexuality erased for a blockbuster narrative, and even if the Fantastic Beasts movies never allow Dumbledore an ‘exclusively gay’ (thanks Beauty and the Beast) moment, Law has proven that he can layer Dumbledore’s sexuality so seamlessly into the character, we definitely won’t feel like anything is missing.
5. I’m here for a young, sexy Dumbledore tbh
It’s obviously totally against Harry Potter canon that Dumbledore is the sexy one, we all know Grindelwald was supposed to be the heartthrob of the two.
But Grindelwald is, after all, the villain of the piece (I know, I know, he’s not supposed to be another Voldemort, but tell that to the Fantastic Beasts team). Dumbledore — even more so than Newt, as far as we know — is the hero of this tale, and the one who will eventually defeat Grindelwald in the five-part movie saga’s climax. Therefore, a lot of the weight of the narrative is going to rest on his shoulders.
With Jude Law in the role, Dumbledore is now not only the hero, but the hot young-by-wizard-standards hero who just happens to be gay — and, unlike Grindelwald, not a predatory monster who seduces children (seriously, wtf movie?!).
I hope they really lean into Jude Law’s charisma to give us an enigmatic and in-all-ways-attractive Dumbledore. He might have suffered a broken heart and great personal tragedies already, but the Fantastic Beasts saga is also the story of how Albus finds his groove, as it were, and works up the nerve to stand up to Grindelwald and defeat him once and for all.
We can only hope Fantastic Beasts does the character of Dumbledore justice, because if given the opportunity, I believe that — with all due respect to Richard Harris and Michael Gambon — Jude Law has what it takes to make this the best on-screen version of Dumbledore yet.