With J.K. Rowling’s help, Jude Law builds a new Dumbledore
By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr.
AP Entertainment Writer
Tuesday, November 13
LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Jude Law met with J.K. Rowling about portraying the younger version of Albus Dumbledore, the two discussed how to rebuild the fan-favorite character from the “Harry Potter” films.
Law spent an afternoon jotting down notes from Rowling who talked to him about Dumbledore’s life before becoming the world’s most powerful wizard. The British actor walked away with a vote of confidence from the famed author, alleviating some pressure on him.
“When the boss says ‘I like you,’ it gives you a little bit of comfort,” Law said of Rowling, screenwriter of the “Harry Potter” prequel series that is based on her 2001 book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” ”You can’t help but step into something like this, playing a part like this without feeling a sense of responsibility, a fear of letting someone down. But when the creator gives you the thumbs up, it’s a blessing.”
Dumbledore was a Hogwarts headmaster in the “Potter” franchise commonly known for his silver hair and long beard, sporting a loose robe. He was played by Michael Gambon after inheriting the role from the Richard Harris, who died in 2002.
Law’s youthful version enters in his mid-40s wearing a three-piece suit with short auburn hair in the sequel “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald ,” which will be released Friday. It’s the second part of a five-film franchise that started with 2016’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” which grossed $813 million worldwide.
In “Grindelwald,” Law’s character works with his former student Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander to thwart the divisive wizard leader Gellert Grindelwald, played by Johnny Depp. The film also stars Katherine Waterston, Zoe Kravitz and Ezra Miller.
For research, Law read several Harry Potter books that referenced Dumbledore, rather than solely watching the previous films featuring the elder character. With the help of Rowling and director David Yates, they wanted to build from the “ground up.”
“I was then given the opportunity to create him without feeling the pressure to mimic or impersonate or indeed hang the character too much on past representations by the other actors,” Law said. “There were certain traits I wanted to include. I loved his humor, the twinkle he had. He sees the good in almost everyone. He has a good heart. But I was able to layer him up a little more.”
Redmayne said the studio perfectly cast Law as Dumbledore, who doesn’t necessarily show his true powers and appears only in about six scenes — most of which are interactions with Scamander.
“Being a formidable, formidable actor with great gravitas and weight and yet at the same time, he has this kind of playful quality,” Redmayne said of Law. “And I’ll never forget our first scene, which was the first time we see each other in the film. I just saw his back, basically. And the way he turned around, it was instant. It was like in one look, he had managed to inhabit that. I hadn’t had any expectations about Dumbledore. But somehow it was solidified in one look.”
The sequel picks up after Grindelwald was captured by the Magical Congress of the United States of America with the aid of Newt at the end of the first film. But the villainous wizard finds a way to escape custody and assembles a group of pureblood wizards who support him to rule over all humans in 1920s Paris.
Law says the film opens the door to many dramatic paths and explores a more troubled time in Dumbledore’s life along with his once-close relationship with Grindelwald.
Rowling announced in 2007 that Dumbledore is gay after the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows,” the final book in the series. Some on social media criticized the author’s decision to unveil and tinker with the beloved character’s sexuality, but she has defended her actions.
Law assures the story is more focused on his character’s complicated relationship with Grindelwald from decades ago, rather than Dumbledore’s sexuality.
“His sexuality doesn’t define him, but the relationship with Grindelwald does,” Law said. “I believe, and (Rowling) would agree, that Albus had many intimate relationships. And the one he has is the love of his life, which is damaged. It becomes even poisonous and sends the two of them in opposite directions. He’s now in his middle age, around my age 45, and he’s still recovering from a relationship that he’s trying to work out from when he was 20. That’s a long time. I could barely remember what life was like when I was 20.”
The actor applauded Rowling for being fearless in creating “layered” and “diverse” characters such as Dumbledore in a fantasy world with “escapism and magic.”
“Isn’t it wonderful that we’re in a world where finally, finally a franchise like this has a great character and it doesn’t matter. But (Rowling) is brave enough to put it out there and say ‘Let’s do this.’ People should be able to handle this. They can. It’s as we should be.”
Law called his introduction as Dumbledore a good “warmup” as the franchise progresses. The actor has a few big films ahead on his plate including “Captain Marvel” and “Vox Lux,” but is looking forward to filming the third installment of “Fantastic Beasts” next summer.
It’ll give Law time to grow his beard.
“Finding all those pieces of him were fun” he said. “I eased into the part, but the line was drawn at the end of this one. It’s only going to get deeper.”
AP Entertainment Writer Ryan Pearson contributed to this report in Los Angeles.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31
Michelle Obama’s Becoming is an insight into inequality, feminism and a FLOTUS who broke the mould
November 13, 2018
Associate Professor of American Politics, De Montfort University
Clodagh Harrington does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
De Montfort University provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
Time magazine described it as a tour “fit for a rock star”. This is not how book promotional outings are usually billed – but then this is no ordinary tome. The memoirs of Michelle Obama comprise one half of a US$65m joint publishing deal for the former first couple’s autobiographies.
One measure of predicted global interest is that Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, will be translated into 28 languages. The month-long tour plan is bold, taking in ten major arenas, with an all-star line-up of moderators including Oprah Winfrey, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, businesswoman Valerie Jarrett, actress Sarah Jessica Parker and more. One is left in absolutely no doubt that the legacy of this First Lady stands robustly alongside that of her husband. Very few of her predecessors can make this claim.
Before Barack Obama entered public life, Michelle was his mentor. When he was elected to the Senate, she earned more than him. Many said that she was smarter than him, and he was very smart indeed.
The American Dream
Michelle Obama is a potent symbol of what is good about America. She reminds us that an African American girl from the poorer end of town has the potential to do and be anything. And not to simply become First Lady, which was a role forced upon her. By determination and hard work, she got to Harvard and Princeton and carved out a highly successful career in her own right.
When obliged to embrace the role of presidential wife, her reluctance was palpable in those early days. Such caution was well founded. Her dynamism and ability were on display throughout the 2008 election, and she campaigned energetically for her husband. But even prior to his victory, she got a taste of the vitriol that would come later. In one unguarded moment, for example, she said during the presidential primaries in 2008:
For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.
Her comments were made in relation to high voter turnout in the primaries but her opponents were not concerned with the context. Immediately, she was chastised and the criticism from some quarters continued unabated.
The ‘Angry Black Woman’
Traditionally, the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) has been presented as an appendage of the president, whose priority was spousal loyalty, whatever the challenges involved. She spent her time entertaining, engaging in charitable endeavours, and attempting to provide some sort of normality to children being raised in a profoundly abnormal environment.
Adichie talked of Michelle Obama having to “flatten herself” to better fit the mould of First Lady. She reminds us that because Michelle Obama did not smile constantly and vacuously, but only when she felt like it, she was given that cheapest of derogatory labels – the Angry Black Woman. Adichie added:
Women, in general, are not permitted anger – but from black American women, there is an added expectation of interminable gratitude, the closer to groveling the better, as though their citizenship is a phenomenon that they cannot take for granted.
In Michelle Obama, the nation suddenly was faced with this stunning, independent entity – and not everyone was pleased. Others, however, were thrilled as they watched her blow the doors off what was previously the suffocating confines of the First Lady’s office.
FLOTUS and Feminism
Prior to Michelle Obama, the First Lady story was too often one of wonderful, capable, intelligent women being shoe-horned into a claustrophobic position with no formal office, portfolio, title or, of course, salary. They simply had to button their lips and smile. But Michelle Obama revolutionised the role of the First Lady and, as a result, it’s as though feminism has finally been recognised as a part of what the FLOTUS could be.
We must also now recognise the meaningful impact that a First Lady can have in getting legislation passed, and implementing significant policy change. However humble Michelle Obama’s family origins on the South Side of Chicago were, she has a platform like few others, and she uses her voice to promote a positive message on a range of key issues, including her FLOTUS project on child health and nutrition. Indeed, she reveals in the book how she offered her successor, Melania Trump, help or advice – a gesture so far ignored by Mrs Trump.
In her final year as First Lady, one Gallup poll reported a 64% approval rating for her (noticeably higher than that of her husband). In her post-White House role, Michelle Obama’s approval ratings have remained strong and even increased since she left the White House. When compared to her deeply uncontroversial predecessors, such as Laura or Barbara Bush, however, her poll numbers were relatively low. It’s clear that anyone who pushes boundaries and breaks down barriers isn’t not going to please everyone. Hillary Clinton learned this lesson the hardest of ways, when she lost the presidency to Donald Trump.
But Michelle Obama is extraordinarily relatable, down to earth, too. It’s refreshing to see in her memoir, for example, an acknowledgement that when their marriage needed it, the Obamas sought professional help.
Michelle has continuously demonstrated the capacity to lead by example, to balance conflicting roles, to raise two strong and capable daughters, and to clearly still be in a loving marriage, despite the strain that comes with eight years of scrutiny and criticism. In the words of her husband:
The way in which she blended purpose and policy with fun so that she was able to reach beyond Washington on her health care initiatives, on her military family work was masterful.
She remains an inspiration for future First Ladies, and women and girls everywhere.