Mads Mikkelsen on playing Gellert Grindelwald in ‘The Secrets of Dumbledore’

What was it like for actor Mads Mikkelsen to step into the shoes of Gellert Grindelwald? How was his experience filming Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, and what were the most important things he learned now that he is part of the Potterverse?

Learn more about his foray into the Wizarding World in the following Warner Bros. interview:

Q: I just want to start by asking what it was like for you to step into the Wizarding World for the first time?

MADS MIKKELSEN: Well, it was quite overwhelming, to be frank. My daughter was a big fan of the Harry Potter universe. But I had to read up on some of it and, obviously, I’d seen some of it with my daughter. And I love the universe. I think it’s a fantastic, brilliant world that opens up for creativity and fantasy and bursting through borders. Your mind can go anywhere when you’re dealing with this universe, so that was overwhelming.

Q: And you got to portray one of its most powerful Dark wizards, Gellert Grindelwald. How did you approach that?

MADS MIKKELSEN: Stepping into the shoes of one of the Wizarding World’s greatest wizards…. Well, as an actor, I assume that Grindelwald has taken it for granted since he was quite young. Obviously, he is at the same level as Dumbledore — equal powers, equal goals of the world leaving a better place, but by different means. So, I approached it like that: as a man who thinks he has virtue on his side, just as Dumbledore believes he does.

© 2022 WBEI Publishing Rights © JKR TM WBEI

Q: Grindelwald is in possession of a very coveted wand. Did you know about the Elder Wand?

MADS MIKKELSEN: I did know about the Elder Wand, and I did tell my daughter right away that was in my possession, and she freaked out. It’s a beautiful wand, obviously, and extremely powerful. It was a funny experience, because we all got very attached to our wands, so every time there was a cut, or any kind of break, or lunch break, we had numerous people coming around to pick them up, because they wouldn’t risk that we might stuff it into our sleeves (laughs). We all wanted to take them home.

Q: More than any previous film, this film delves into the relationship between Grindelwald and Dumbledore, and how, in a way, what brought them together, ultimately tore them apart. Can you talk about that aspect of their relationship?

MADS MIKKELSEN: We touch upon it in this film. It does seem as if they started out as very, very talented wizards who united at a young age because they knew that they were more talented than anyone else. I also have a line in the film, I will be paraphrasing it, but Grindelwald does say to Dumbledore, that, “It was you who said that we could reshape the world.” And that has probably been a dream, a mutual dream within the two of them to reshape the world. And then, down the line, something happened, and their paths split, probably because the means of reshaping the world were quite different from Dumbledore and Grindelwald.

Q: Did you have a lot of conversations with Jude Law about that? And can you talk about working with him?

MADS MIKKELSEN: We did have quite a few conversations. One of the first scenes I had was one of the first scenes in the film, where we see Dumbledore and Grindelwald in a restaurant, and where we touch upon their past. There is a mutual respect for each other in the room, and a mutual love, I would say, and also a mutual fear. So, it was quite an interesting scene. It was as if — and we don’t go down that path in the film — but it is as old lovers who know each other very, very well. And there’s a bitterness, and there are still a whole bunch of emotions in it. So, that was a very interesting scene to start out with. It was almost like being not wizards, but just two very old friends who had somehow disappointed each other. And so, we took it from there. And then the wizards element was on top of everything, but we knew that would unfold throughout the film, so we didn’t have to do it in that scene, specifically. And Jude is just a lovely, fantastic actor to work with, and I was very blessed that one of the first scenes was a real acting scene with him. So, that was off to a good start.

SMILE. Mads Mikkelsen attends the “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore” world premiere at The Royal Festival Hall on March 29, 2022 in London, England. Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images for Warner Bros. © 2022 WBEI Publishing Rights © JKR TM WBEI

Q: Grindelwald and Dumbledore have something else in common in terms of the way they are able to manipulate people, with very different motives, of course. Just as Dumbledore needs Newt, Grindelwald uses Credence, because they both need other people to help them accomplish their goals. Can you talk about Grindelwald’s relations with Credence and what he wants from him?

MADS MIKKELSEN: Well, Credence is this unspoiled, unpolished diamond, whose powers we probably never have seen before. It’s kind of uncontrollable, but if I want to get to Dumbledore, I need him — first of all, because of his power; secondly, because I have a special relationship with Dumbledore, in the sense that we can’t move against each other because of the blood troth. It’s a no-go zone; it can’t happen. So, both Dumbledore and Grindelwald need other people to do the dirty work when it comes to taking on the other.

Q: Grindelwald also has someone else in his circle, Queenie, who clearly is having some doubts about what’s going on. So, why does he trust her…or does he trust her?

MADS MIKKELSEN: Oh, Grindelwald doesn’t trust her at all. But there’s something about Queenie — she can read other people’s minds, but she’s also a very bad liar at the same time. So, Grindelwald has a hunch he can trust her to the degree that she can’t lie straight to his face. And then, as was said before, both Dumbledore and Grindelwald have this tendency to manipulate people around them. The difference is that Grindelwald doesn’t mind people around him that could be dangerous for him. He finds it interesting. It’s a little game. Life becomes more interesting when you have people around you that might turn on you. It keeps him on his toys.

Q: I believe this was your first collaboration with David Yates. Can you talk about how he helped you develop this character, and also about working with him as a director?

MADS MIKKELSEN: David is very open to any creativity regarding the characters coming from the actors. He’s also obviously done some of the Harry Potter films, and you can tell he has a special love for this entire universe. But as I said, he is very open, and also very positive in a sense that even when we went somewhere that he might not approve of, he thought it was super interesting. Then we would go down that path a few more takes, and he had equal praise for all the versions. And eventually, he would guide us into where he wanted us to go and often end up with exactly what he wanted. So, it was a beautiful, productive way of working. I loved it.

© 2022 WBEI Publishing Rights © JKR TM WBEI

Q: This being your first time in a Wizarding World movie, it was also your first time on sets created by the legendary Stuart Craig. Can you talk about what it was like to step into the world that they created on the Leavesden backlot?

MADS MIKKELSEN: I would say for any actor who comes from a different part of the world than the United States, it is always mind-blowing when you enter a created world like this. It’s just not something we can do with our budgets back home in Denmark, or in Europe for that matter. And when you walk onto any set, everything is so real and so amazing. And for us, it’s just a dream. We didn’t have to pretend. It’s a minimum of green screen work; everything is there. And that also helps us to create the illusion that we are kind of magical — we might even be wizards, just for an hour or two. When everything is there, we don’t have to imagine it anymore. It’s just fantastic.

Q: The Wizarding World has endured for more than 20 years now. Why do you think it continues to draw people to it? What is the appeal of this magical world?

MADS MIKKELSEN: Well, I think the easiest word is escapism. Our world is what it is; we live in it, and we have our daily lives 24/7. And everybody needs something to escape with, a tool, something, whether you watch a football game, or you watch an old movie. You’re escaping when you’re watching it. And the Wizarding World is the ultimate escapism because there are plenty of characters in there who you can identify with. And once you step into those shoes for two and a half hours and fly away, it takes the edge off an everyday life. You can fly somewhere. You can imagine stuff. You can pretend you are flying. And I think that is something everybody needs. – Rappler.com

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore will be shown in Philippine theaters starting Black Saturday, April 16.

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