‘Fantastic Beasts’ Jude Law on playing Dumbledore, acting

JUDE LAW as Albus Dumbledore in Warner Bros. Pictures' fantasy adventure "FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE ...

When asked to take on the role of a young Albus Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, British actor Jude Law reacted like any other Muggle.

“This is a no-brainer. That was my response,” says the 49-year-old actor, best known for “Sherlock Holmes” and “The Holiday.” “It goes something like this … ‘Would you like to play Albus Dumbledore in a prequel movie?’ And you say, ‘Yes, I would! When do we start filming?’ ”

Law returns to the big screen this week in “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore.” In the film, Albus (Law) finds out that powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen) is making moves to seize control of the wizarding world. Dumbledore can’t stop him alone and must team with magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) to lead a team of wizards and witches. They must deal with new beasts as they come up against Grindelwald’s growing group of followers.

“It’s not a process of change. It’s more of a regression,” Law says in a Zoom interview.

Law’s progression took him from his early childhood days in Lewisham, South London, where his parents were teachers and his sister was an artist. It wasn’t long before he opted for his own life in the arts, landing a TV role at age 17.

These days, he lives in London with his children, Raff, Iris, Rudy, Sophia and Ada. He’s married to his second wife, psychologist Phillipa Coan. Law welcomed his sixth child with Coan in 2020.

Next up for Law is another turn as Dr. John Watson in “Sherlock Holmes 3.”

Review-Journal: When you look at the original films, how do you feel that Dumbledore has changed over the years?

Jude Law: He’s a man still finding his way, still confronting and resolving his demons. In this film, he’s facing himself and his own guilt. But, if there were a quality that links him to the Dumbledores of the past, I would say it’s his mischievousness, his humor and his belief in people. One of the joys of doing this role was that I was allowed to investigate various ages of his character. But rather than feel the weight of the past performances, this was someone new.

What do you personally love most about this beloved character?

He’s beautiful and complicated. I love his relish of life and his English behavior. I love his humor and the fact that he’s a true gentleman. He seeks the positive. He truly believes in Draco Malfoy and Tom Riddle. He sees the potential of good — and that’s one of his best traits.

Other actors have played Dumbledore, including Richard Harris and Michael Gambon. How did you make this character your own?

I think that I started subconsciously thinking about him when I started reading the books to my children when they were young. (They’re 25, 21, 19, 12 and 7). There was so much of this character to mine, and that’s before you start talking about the magic. This film has him being human. But the magic is fun, too.

Didn’t your co-star Eddie Redmayne give you good advice?

He said, “If you have a problem with a scene, just remember that you’ve got magic at your disposal.” And there’s a scene in Berlin where I had to basically pass on information to the team. It went from being a scene where I was basically holding a map to a scene where I had a magic hat with things flying out. The excuse was: “It’s magic!”

Was doing the new movie a good excuse to watch the old films?

Any excuse to sit in front of those films is good for me. I found myself watching them over and over again. It’s all in the name of research! It was important for me to free myself of the Dumbledore I knew because he wasn’t that man yet.

Describe your early influences.

I’d say my parents, who were teachers, but they had a passion for theater and film, so there was a lot of it around our house. Music was always on. As a teenager, I was off on the train to London to watch films, and by 17, I had a role on the TV series “Families.” I’m fortunate to say I had a very happy childhood filled with love and the arts. And then I was off on my own with a bit of money and my own flat.

What is the lure of acting?

It’s like the most amazing therapy. When you develop a character, you must examine yourself — both the good and bad places. You throw open all the doors in the same way you would in a good therapy session. And then it’s your job to put it all back together again while a person emerges. It’s a daunting and exhilarating process.

One of your movies, “The Holiday,” seems to be on cable every single day — holiday or not. Did you know it would be such a career hit?

How wonderful that it has become to some people part of their annual festivities. I really wanted to take on the challenge of this romance. Could I pull it off? I studied a bit of Clark Gable and Cary Grant. We wanted to capture the ambiance of a great rom-com with a light touch. At the time, I had been fighting against being the romantic lead because it can be a trap. But I wanted to take on the challenge with this film and pull it off.

What did you make of all the paparazzi attention over the years?

It’s odd when you recognize the same person who has been sitting outside your house for four months trying to get a snap at you.

What is your idea of a great Sunday?

Not rushing. Gardening. I love being domestic and making a nice meal for my kids.