If you thought Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was Newt Scamander’s story, think again. Here’s what we know about J.K. Rowling’s newest wizarding world saga: In total, the five feature films will span 19 years, ending in 1945 — and most importantly, Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald will play significant roles in the story.
So who will play the young future Hogwarts headmaster opposite Johnny Depp’s radicalized Dark Wizard in the forthcoming Fantastic Beasts sequels? We have a few suggestions. Keep in mind, producer-director David Yates isn’t looking for a dapper twentysomething here. Canonically, Dumbledore would be about 45 when the Fantastic Beasts saga kicks off in 1926 — and in his sixties by the time the franchise concludes in 1945. Silicone prosthetics and makeup can go a long way in Hollywood, but ideally, they’re looking for a British actor in his forties or early fifties — one that can stand toe-to-toe with a movie star like Depp. Let’s take a look at some contenders.
I’m not being hyperbolic when I say Bridge of Spies’ Rylance is one of our greatest living actors. (There’s a reason he’s become Steven Spielberg’s right-hand man.) Whoever lands the role of Dumbledore needs to carry a certain emotional gravitas, and Rylance is that guy. “You will see Dumbledore as a younger man and quite a troubled man,” Rowling said at a Fantastic Beasts press conference. “He wasn’t always the sage.” Rylance can find the nuance and depth in any character, and one as complex as Dumbledore would benefit greatly from having someone like him at the helm.
McGregor is the obvious choice. After all, he’s done this before. He played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the much-maligned Star Wars prequels, skillfully embodying a young Alec Guinness and turning out a memorable supporting performance. You can knock a lot of things in those prequels, but you can’t knock McGregor. He also tends to play the role of the optimist, a trait that would certainly describe Dumbledore. He’d be the light to Depp’s darkness. Plus, Fantastic Beasts needs an actor with star power — and McGregor has loads of it.
At the end of the day, is there anyone more astutely British than Colin Firth? He’s portrayed not one but two Mr. Darcys, and his electrifying performance in Kingsman: The Secret Service proved that the 56-year-old is still a bit of a badass — an underrated quality of Dumbledore’s character. The physicality and charm are there.
OK, Law may not be the first choice you’d think of for Dumbledore, but one flash of that wry grin and it all starts to make sense. He’s endlessly charming, sure, but he’d also add a bit of cunning to the beloved character. Remember, this is the same wizard who pretty much primed Harry Potter to be killed by Voldemort for years — he’s more Machiavellian than we give him credit for.
Do I want to see Hugh Laurie as Dumbledore? Of course I do. Would this ever in a million years happen? Nope, no chance. But a girl can dream. Laurie would give a young Dumbledore some edge without losing the character’s complexities and whimsical demeanor.
There’s only one actor who can out-camp Johnny Depp — and that’s Eddie Izzard. The British actor-comedian has proven that he can handle comedy, drama, tragedy, and even the fantastical: all prerequisites for playing Albus Dumbledore. He’s also openly nonbinary and knows what it’s like to feel like an outcast, which could be key to Dumbledore’s confusing younger years. In the years since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ release, Rowling has since confirmed that Dumbledore was gay — and that his first crush was none other than his former best friend, Grindelwald.
Who better to portray Dumbledore than the son of the late Richard Harris, a.k.a. the original Dumbledore? (I’m tearing up just thinking about it.) But it’s not just his name that should get Harris the role; he’s a superbly talented actor. His most recent performance as King George VI in Netflix’s The Crown is a heartbreaker, proving that, like his late father, he’d be able to enchant audiences as Dumbledore. Harris is already a favorite among Harry Potter fans to play the younger version of Hogwarts’s greatest headmaster.
Call me crazy, but Hiddleston could actually be our Dumbledore. He’s younger than the other candidates, but with a bit of movie magic, he’d look the part. And as the star of Warner Bros.’s upcoming Kong: Skull Island, Hiddleston also has a relationship with the studio. Does that make him a more appealing choice? Perhaps. There’s also the fact that all of Hiddleston’s performances strike the perfect balance between whimsy and pathos. Plus, Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne in one franchise?! Be still my heart.