Some Fantastic news: Jude Law has just been cast as Young Pope Albus Dumbledore in the sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a spinoff-prequel to the Harry Potter books. (There will be five Beast movies altogether, unless J.K. Rowling runs out of gibberish names for CGI animals sooner.)
Variety broke the news that Law would be filling (well, pre-filling) the shoes of Michael Gambon and the late Richard Harris, both of whom played Dumbledore in his later years in the original HPs. (Gambon took over as a more blunt Dumbledore after Harris, who played the character with a quiet mischief, died after the release of the second film.)
Though you can see (above! look what I did!) that it’s very fun to superimpose Dumbledore beards onto Young Pope faces (and I’m not the only one — only a couple of hours after news broke, “Youngledore” is, inevitably, already a big thing on Twitter), the Dumbledore of Fantastic Beasts will likely have a very different look than what we’re familiar with: The film is set after the first (1920s-set) Beasts movie, so long ago that Dumbledore is not even Hogwarts headmaster yet, but rather a professor of transfiguration — not to mention a Jude Law.
According to Variety, there were other Dumbledore contenders, including Richard Harris’ son, Jared, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Christian Bale. But ultimately, the studio decided on Law, who will, as per David Yates, “brilliantly capture all the unexpected facets of Albus Dumbledore as J.K. Rowling reveals this very different time in his life.” As with the first film, and as is the plan for all the rest, Rowling is writing the screenplay.
Though the main cast of the first film — Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler — are set to return, it appears the second will shift its focus more towards the rise of the seemingly Hitler-allegorizing Gellert Grindelwald, the central narrative of this series of films. Grindelwald was, in the first movie, seen in news stories from overseas, conquering the European wizarding world, and the new film will take place in Paris and Watford rather than the New York of the first film, as noted by the Hollywood Reporter.
One of the most potentially interesting aspects of this series is the possibility of a(n extremely) complex gay relationship in a mainstream young adult fantasy film. Following the publication of the original Harry Potter books, Rowling famously retroactively outed Dumbledore, revealing that he’d been in love with Grindelwald, before he’d become a murderous maniac and such. That was a cute gesture on Rowling’s part! And it’ll be so much better if ends up represented onscreen, beyond a postmortem aside.
Rowling had described their relationship as such: “Dumbledore fell in love with Grindelwald, and that added to his horror when Grindelwald showed himself to be what he was.” Now, THR quotes her saying, “[In the sequel] you will see Dumbledore as a younger man and quite a troubled man. We’ll see him at that formative period of his life.”
Recently, the whole world (or at least the media, in an overzealously positive way, and Russia and Malaysia in a grossly homophobic and censorial way) freaked out when it was announced that there would be a LeFou-centric “gay moment” in the live-action Beauty and the Beast. The fact that a film in which a socially-rejected sycophant dances with another man for a single second at the very end was somehow newsworthy speaks to just how far behind the times big budget Hollywood films can be — especially ones based on canonical works.
Of course, the one thing that makes this whole Grindelwald/Dumbledore plot a bit less enticing is, well, Grindelwald. (Spoiler alert.) At the end of the first film, the villain’s Colin Farrell-shaped disguise was shed and, surprise! He became Johnny Depp, slipping on yet another silly wig and set of overwrought vocal tics. The persona didn’t exactly seem rife for intense, troubled romance. Still, Jude Law could probably make a hook-up scene with Willy Wonka worth watching.