J.K. Rowling on Whether Dumbledore Will Be Openly Gay in ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’
J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them won’t just be a five-part return to the magical world of the Harry Potter movies; it has the potential to be groundbreaking for Hollywood diversity.
Last month Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts director David Yates revealed Dumbledore will be featured throughout the new spin-off series. While the beloved Hogwarts headmaster won’t be in the first movie, which opens November 18, we will see him in the sequel. Producer David Heyman confirmed earlier this week that Fantastic Beasts 2 will introduce us to Albus Dumbledore as a young man, revealing he’ll share some scenes with Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander. But beyond just satiating fans’ nostalgia for the Harry Potter character, this news is also huge: Dumbledore could be the first major openly gay character in a studio franchise.
While fans have known about Dumbledore’s sexuality for nearly a decade, that doesn’t guarantee Warner Bros. will acknowledge it in the new movies. To find out, I asked Rowling myself. During the press conference on Thursday for Fantastic Beasts in New York City, I asked Rowling if the sequel will portray the younger Dumbledore as openly gay and whether his romantic relationship with Grindelwald will be explored. Here’s what she had to say:
Well, I can’t tell you everything I would like to say because this is obviously a five-part story, so there’s lots to unpack in that relationship. I will say that you will see Dumbledore as a younger man, and quite a troubled man because he wasn’t always the sage. He was always very clever, but we’ll see what I think was the formative period of his life. As far as his sexuality is concerned, watch the space.
While that’s a bit of a non-answer, Rowling has confirmed the future Fantastic Beasts movies will explore Dumbledore and Grindelwald’s relationship, a relationship she described as “formative” for Dumbledore. (Sounds like an unofficial “yes” to me, but maybe I’m just hopeful.)
For those who don’t remember Rowling’s comments about her character’s sexuality, let me give you a quick refresher: In 2007 the author revealed Dumbledore had fallen in love with Grindelwald as a young man and that she always considered the headmaster to be gay. Grindelwald and Dumbledore were close friends until a duel accidentally killed Albus’ younger sister. Grindelwald went on to become one of the most feared Dark Wizards in the magical world until Dumbledore defeated him in a duel in 1945. But while the professor had romantic feelings for his friend, Rowling later clarified that it wasn’t mutual.
With four movies ahead in the Fantastic Beasts series it only makes sense that Rowling will bring the origin stories of Dumbledore and Grindelwald — which we’ve only heard about in book and movie flashbacks or interviews — to the big screen. The first film takes place in 1926, giving the author-turned-screenwriter a nice chunk of time to explore their stories across four movies. We know Johnny Depp will play the adult version of Grindelwald in the series, so perhaps Jamie Campbell Bower will reprise his young Grindelwald from The Deathly Hallows if the new movies flash back to his relationship with Dumbledore.
Besides staying true to her original intentions for the character, an explicitly gay Dumbledore would also mean a lot for the future of queer representation in Hollywood. This summer marked the first time a franchise featured an openly gay character with John Cho’s Sulu in Star Trek Beyond, and the very implicit gay couple in Independence Day: Resurgence. While both movies had flaws, more so the latter, Beyond marked a shift toward a more inclusive Hollywood. And while George Takei was unhappy with the change in Sulu’s sexuality, showing Dumbledore as gay would only keep the Fantastic Beasts films true to Rowling’s initial vision.
Warner Bros. could also use the added diversity. GLAAD’s 2016 Studio Index Report gave the studio a failing grade for LGBT representation, finding only five depictions of queer characters across their 2015 films and only one that passed the Vito Russo Test. Warner Bros. can do better, and exploring the early years of a gay character already known by audiences is the perfect place to begin. But diverse fictional characters can also play a role outside of the movie theaters.
I’ve written before how essential positive and prominent depictions of LGBTQ people in blockbusters are, and now in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, that’s become even more important. The last two days have been difficult, terrifying, and deeply upsetting for many Americans, but especially for LGBTQ people, along with all other minorities. Members of the LGBTQ community are now living in fear for what the future presidency and the Supreme Court vacancy will mean for their rights, their health, and their safety. Though we often think of movies as entertainment and an escape from reality, they can also offer glimmers of hope.
Thinking and writing about movies these past couple days has personally been incredibly challenging and taxing for me, but the thought that a film franchise, and a movie universe I’ve grown up loving, could star an openly gay character has lifted me up. Including prominent queer characters in movies doesn’t only mean more diverse storytelling, but opens up the potential to educate and accelerate acceptance among non-LGBTQ audiences, to prove that the fictional heroes we love and look up to most can be queer or transgender. Dumbledore is a character fans have loved for 15 years, one full of warmth, wisdom and compassion, an ideal character to show all audiences a positive and celebratory look at queer identity. I can hardly bear the thought of how much our nation may change in the next 70 days or what impact the next four years will have on the LGBTQ community, but a gay Dumbledore is a little bit of hope worth holding on to. Now it’s up to Warner Bros. to make it happen.