One of the best things about the Fantastic Beasts franchise, besides all the great magical creatures, is the story of Albus Dumbledore as a young wizard. Jude Law talks about his experience with filling in the gaps in Dumbledore’s story.
Albus Dumbledore has been with us from the start of the Wizarding World, which launched 20 years ago. In this film, how has he changed, and which of his qualities do you think are consistent with the Albus that we know and love?
Jude Law – So it’s not a process of change? It’s more a process of regression. One of the joys that David really allowed me to investigate was, rather than feeling the weight of the brilliant performances, by Michael Gambon and Richard Harris, was to really go back and understand that he’s not the fully formed Dumbledore of the Harry Potter books and films. He’s a man still finding his way, still confronting in resolving his demons. And that’s what I mean by regression. I suppose that in this film, in particular, he’s facing the past. He’s facing himself and his own guilt. But if there were a quality that links him, I would say it’s his mischievousness, his humor, and his belief in people. He sees the positive. You think about how Dumbledore believed in Draco. He believed even in Tom Riddle. He sees the good or the potential good, and I think that’s something that he’s always had.
What appealed to you about diving into this character’s history?
JL – It was kind of a no-brainer. ‘Would you like to play Albus Dumbledore?’ Yes! I felt like I’d been in preparation subconsciously from the minute I started reading the books to my children. There’s just so much in the character to mine and to investigate as an actor. And that’s before you even get into this extraordinary world of magic. That’s just him as a human. But the magic is really fun too.
JL – I remember Eddie telling me that. He talked about if there’s a situation or a problem with a scene, you remember you’ve got magic at your disposal, and the scene in Berlin when I had to basically pass on information to the team went from being a scene where I was basically passing over maps to a scene with a magic hat and all sorts of things flying out, and that was the excuse. ‘Well, yeah, it’s magic. So I can do that.’
Dumbledore was also portrayed by Richard Harris and Michael Gambon. In Harry Potter films like you mentioned before, what was the major lore of the character to you, and did you have to watch those earlier films again to synchronize your portrayal of this much-loved wizard today?
JL – The major lore was just the opportunity to fill in gaps and go back and explore themes and sides of his character that were hinted at in the books and suggested in the films. Any excuse to go back and watch! I was probably caught re-watching them over and over. ‘So what, I’m doing research; I’m studying!’ It was kind of important we felt to free ourselves from the Dumbledore we knew because he wasn’t quite that man yet. But at the same time, there were definite qualities that both Richard Harris and Michael Gambon gave the character that I wanted to steal, I suppose. This sort of humor and the relish of life and impish behavior, but both of them have a sort of gravitas, a sort of soulfulness that I thought was really beautiful and complicated.
This film delves right into the relationship between Dumbledore and Grindelwald as well. It explores what brought them together and what tore them apart. Could you talk us through a little bit about their relationship and how you and Mads also work to establish that rapport on screen?
JL – A lot of it was just sharing our perspective or our imagined take on how they met and what that meant to them. It was always really important to think of who Albus was before he met Gellert. And I always imagined that being Dumbledore was actually quite a lonely place being that he was brilliant and outstanding at a very young age, to the point where he probably felt slightly isolated or someone who was maybe diminishing his own sense of power and self and scope and ambition. And then suddenly, he meets someone who is as brilliant and matches him and inspires him, and that kind of connection is very, very, very powerful. More so when you’re at a very familiar young age, and I think it’s important then to also remember what their time together would have been like incredibly dynamic, incredibly cherished, and special.
JL – And then this awful kind of moment where you realize you’re on a different path, you’re actually moving away from each other, but that doesn’t necessarily take away from the explosive kernel, the firework that went off initially, in fact, it makes it harder. It felt very fortuitous being able to play this character at the age I’m at now because it was wonderful being able to reflect at my age, 25 years back, and sort of think, ‘Who is the person I’ve become? Are their mistakes I’ve made?’ And being able to still sit easily with that and nonetheless still feel how alive it is in you. Really to prepare, we just talked an awful lot about all of those areas, and of course, at some point, his opinion was different from mine because our characters [are so different].