Mads Mikkelsen talks stepping in for Johnny Depp in ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ sharing 'Another Round' with DiCaprio

Mads Mikkelsen gave a master class in do-it-yourself bathroom destruction for his thriller, "Riders of Justice." 

The Danish actor, 55, smashed his own forehead into an actual bathroom mirror ("that was a little painful") before wrecking the joint for cameras, until he came to a seemingly paltry towel rack. 

"That towel thingy, it looked like I could rip it out, but I couldn't. I kicked it, pulled it. It didn't move," says Mikkelsen.

But it's going to take more than a stubborn towel rack to even temporarily derail the unstoppable Mikkelsen, who starred as NBC's titular "Hannibal" serial killer. The rack miscue made it into "Riders of Justice" – "We kept that because of the clumsiness, that was interesting," says Mikkelsen.

Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen is replacing Johnny Depp as dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the "Fantastic Beasts" movies.

"Riders of Justice" (the Danish hit which Lionsgate announced plans for an English version on Nov. 15) arrived as Mikkelsen's stature soared with the Oscar success of "Another Round" as well as roles in major franchises "Indiana Jones" and "Fantastic Beasts." 

He's a beast: Mads Mikkelsen replaces Johnny Depp as dark wizard Grindelwald in 'Fantastic Beasts'

Fifteen years after his worldwide breakout as eye-bleeding Bond villain Le Chiffre in 2006's "Casino Royale," Mikkelsen has stepped into the visage of dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald replacing the resigned Johnny Depp in "Fantastic Beasts 3" (due out July 15, 2022).

Mikkelsen had to awkwardly enter the third Harry Potter prequel while filming was underway during the COVID-19 pandemic. The cast, led by Eddie Redmayne, took pains to give welcome, even to the actor they'd be battling onscreen. (Redmayne, as Newt Scamander, went head-to-head with Mikkelsen's Grindelwald for three weeks straight for the epic ending.)

Mads Mikkelsen (L) tried to be serious with his motley crew of genius avengers in "Riders of Justice." (R) Lars Brygmann. Backseat : (R-L) Nicolas Bro and Nikolaj Lie Kaas. Sometimes, the actor admits he cracked up at their antics.

"I'm just this guy trying to fill out these shoes that somebody else has been wearing," says Mikkelsen. "It's difficult to come three months into shooting while taking over for someone like that. They did their best to make me feel at home, each knocking on my trailer door."

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3" is directed by David Yates and starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston and Mads Mikkelsen.  Mikkelsen replaces Johnny Depp as dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald in the latest film in J.K. Rowling's "Fantastic Beasts" series.

The franchise welcomes continued after Lucasfilm announced Mikkelsen would join director Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford in the untitled fifth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise. While thrilled, it's a part he can't reveal specifics about.

"Unless you want to find me at the bottom of a lake somewhere," he says, smiling darkly.

Days after his first Zoom conference call with "Indiana Jones" filmmakers, Mikkelsen watched the Oscars from afar, keeping his airport-bound car waiting so he could watch director Thomas Vinterberg emotionally accept the best international film Academy Award for "Another Round." The drama, now streaming on Hulu, showcases Mikkelsen's British Academy Film Awards-winning lead performance of a middle-aged teacher going through a crisis who tries out heavy-drinking to turn his sad life around.

Mads Mikkelsen plays a teacher going through a mid-life crisis who tries heavy drinking as a remedy in "Another Round."

"I was watching the awards with one foot out the door, and thankfully, Thomas won," he says, "I was able to carry that feeling all the way to the plane."

In the ultimate show of film respect, Leonardo DiCaprio's production company Appian Way acquired English-language movie rights to "Another Round" as a potential star vehicle for DiCaprio.

Mikkelsen believes the "Another Round" story and its ultimately life-affirming message are universal, and that the heavy Danish drinking habits depicted onscreen can be adapted for an American audience.

"It's always tricky to make a remake, especially something as recent as this," says Mikkelsen. "But Leo's a tremendous actor who can pull off anything, it would be an honor if he wanted to take it on. I would love to watch him doing that."

Remaking the film in English is not a project or role the versatile stage and screen actor wants to pursue himself.

"That wouldn't be interesting to me," says Mikkelsen. "There's something about making films that is so final. We've said goodbye. It would be tricky to come back and visit. I think it's much better in fresh hands."

He's already followed his "Another Round" teacher role — which showcased his classically trained dance skills in the grand finale — with the dramatically dark "Riders of Justice." Mikkelsen took enough time off to grow out his beard to play the Afghanistan war veteran who seeks revenge against a motorcycle gang he believes is behind an seemingly apparent train accident that killed his wife.

"Beards grow extremely fast on me, that took two months," he says. Packing impressive muscle onto his normally lean six-foot frame was tougher. "I had to lift and eat a lot of protein to add 14 pounds maximum. That's as much as I can put on."

"The rest," Mikkelsen adds, "is attitude."

Markus (Mads Mikkelsen) comforts his daughter Mathilde (Andrea Heick Gadeberg) following the tragic death of her mother. Markus becomes convinced his wife's death was not an accident and seeks out revenge in "Riders of Justice."

The actor brings this attitude playing the emotional time bomb Markus, who kills opposing gang members with far greater ease than connecting with his grieving daughter (Andrea Heick Gadeberg).

Director and frequent collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen was able to make the unsmiling Markus emotionally dark with the innately amiable Mikkelsen.

"I would not have dared going this far with any other actor," says Jensen. "But Mads is likable, even when he's entirely not likable, saying horrible things to his daughter."

The bathroom blow-up and following breakdown are a result of "old school" Markus refusing to deal with his own pain. Mikkelsen convinced his director, and the film's insurance company, to let him do the mirror head-butt. The film's stunt coordinator tested and placed a protective cover to keep the glass from splintering.

"There was no padding behind it, just a concrete wall. My plan was to do it like four times," says Mikkelsen. But the unstoppable actor found he could only handle a finite number of head-butts. "After two, I said, 'That's it.' I started pounding the mirror with my fist. And I only did two of those with my fist before I said, 'OK let's move onto something else.' "