Johnny Depp’s Fantastic Beasts replacement, and other silver screen switcheroos

Warner Bros. Pictures have found their new Fantastic Beasts antagonist, replacing Johnny Depp with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.

Mikkelsen, who is known for his roles in Casino Royale and Hannibal, will take over the role of Gellert Grindelwald, following Depp’s highly publicised dismissal. 

The studio announced the part of the evil wizard would be recast following a ruling in Depp’s libel case against News Group Newspapers that he had assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard.

Depp confirmed the news in a statement, indicating he attended to appeal the High Court’s decision.

“I wish to let you know that I have been asked to resign by Warner Bros. from my role as Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts and I have respected and agreed to that request,” Depp wrote in an Instagram post.

“I’d like to thank everybody who has gifted me with their support and loyalty. I have been humbled and moved by your many messages of love and concern, particularly over the last few days.”

Fans of the Harry Potter prequel franchise have voiced mixed feelings about Depp’s departure, with some applauding the studio’s decision to drop a star accused of domestic violence.

Other fans have felt the sacking was unfair, and are concerned that switching actors following the first two instalments will spoil the magic.

But Depp isn’t the only celebrity who has been recast or replaced between feature films.

Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter 

Depp and Mikkelsen’s Grindelwald switcheroo isn’t the only swap in the Harry Potter universe.

In the decade between the first and last film, a number of actors were quietly replaced in the series.

There was Ralph Fiennes, who took over from Richard Bremmer as Voldemort, plus the controversial recasting of Lavender Brown, which saw the role taken from Jennifer Smith, a woman of colour, and given to Jessie Cave, who is Caucasian. Elizabeth Spriggs also was replaced, seeing The Fat Lady go to Dawn French.

But the biggest and most notable change in the series was the character of Albus Dumbledore.

Harris played Dumbledore to please his super-fan granddaughter. Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures / IMDB

Originally brought to life by Richard Harris in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the elderly wizard headmaster was replaced by Michael Gambon for the remaining seven films.

Sadly, Harris passed away from Hodgkins lymphoma a year after the first film was released, though he was aware of his health conditions when he accepted the role.

“I’ll keep doing it as long as I enjoy it, my health holds out and they still want me, but the chances of all three of those factors remaining constant are pretty slim,” Harris said at the time.

Gambon took on the role for the remaining films. Photo: Warners Bros. Pictures / IMDB 

But the iconic role almost went to someone else entirely.

Sir Ian McKellen was offered the position before it eventually went to Gambon, but he declined due to the fact that Harris had once called him a “passionless” actor.

“Then they called me up and said would I be interested in being in the Harry Potter films, they didn’t say in what part. I worked out what they were thinking, and I couldn’t take over the part from an actor who I’d known didn’t approve of me,” McKellen said.

Victoria in Twilight 

The famous fantasy franchise replaced its flame-haired villain with a totally different actress for the final three films.

Victoria, the evil vampire out to kill Bella, was original played by Rachelle Lefevre in Twilight and New Moon, with the role being one of her first major Hollywood gigs.

Lafevre said the switch left her “stunned”. Photo: Summit Entertainment / IMDB 

But Lefevre was replaced with Bryce Dallas Howard, who had previously turned down the role, suggesting it was “too small of a part”.

Summit Entertainment attributed the decision to a 10-day scheduling conflict, much to the surprise of Lefevre, who had turned down other roles in order to play Victoria.

In a statement at the time, Lefevre expressed confusion and disappointment over the switch.

“I was fully committed to the Twilight saga, and to the portrayal of Victoria,” she said.

“I turned down several other film opportunities, and, in accordance with my contractual rights, accepted only roles that would involve very short shooting schedules.

“Given the length of filming for Eclipse, never did I fathom I would lose the role over a 10-day overlap. I was happy with my contract with Summit and was fully prepared to continue to honor it. Summit chose simply to recast the part.

“I will be forever grateful to the fan support and loyalty I’ve received since being cast for this role, and I am hurt deeply by Summit’s surprising decision to move on without me.”

Bryce Dallas Howard originally felt the vampire villainess wasn’t a big enough part for her. Photo: Summit Entertainment / IMDB

Tony Shepherd in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus 

Doctor Parnassus director Terry Gilliam almost walked away from the film after Health Ledger’s shock accidental overdose in 2008.

Ledger had already shot most of his scenes as Tony Shepherd at the time of his death, and Gilliam had rejected the idea of using CGI to complete the film.

Ledger’s death almost caused the film to be canned. Photo: Infinity Features / IMDB

Instead, three of Hollywood’s biggest names stepped in to finish the last few scenes on the late actor’s behalf.

Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell all pitched in to see the film out, with Gilliam stating the plot of the film allowed some room for movement with the additional actors.

“This way, it might be a more entertaining film. It’s certainly more surprising, because you don’t know who you’re going to see next. But it was important to me not to change anything,” Gilliam said.

“The scene with Princess Di and James Dean and all of that, a lot of people think it was written as a eulogy to Heath. It was exactly what was written before he died.

“Christopher Plummer didn’t want to say the line in the monastery when he’s talking about different stories: ‘It could be a comedy, a romance, a tale of unforeseen death’ – that was after Heath died.

“I said, ‘You have to say it. That’s the film that Heath and I were making. You don’t change these things’.”

Farrell was one of three stars who took over for Ledger. Photo: Infinity Features / IMDB 

Topics: Cinema
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