The Fantastic Beasts franchise, which initially seemed to be just a Wizarding World spinoff, has morphed into something of a Harry Potter prequel, trading Harry and Dumbledore’s battle against Lord Voldemort for Newt and Dumbledore’s battle against Gellert Grindelwald. Johnny Depp’s villain seems like he will be the antagonist throughout the five-film series, but if there is an opportunity for Voldemort to show up, actor Ralph Fiennes doesn’t want anyone else playing him, as he explained:
I feel a kind of affection for Voldemort. So if there was a world in which Voldemort came back, I would be very possessive about wanting to reprise that.
Ralph Fiennes understandably feels possessive of Lord Voldemort, having played him in four movies over the course of the series. He spent a lot of time inhabiting the Dark Lord and has some affection for his iconic villain. Therefore, as he told BBC Newsnight, Ralph Fiennes would hypothetically want to reprise the role of Voldemort if the character were to return in Fantastic Beasts or some other Wizarding World spinoff versus allowing someone else to take on the mantle.
It is cool to hear that Ralph Fiennes has such a sense of ownership over the Harry Potter villain, especially considering he almost turned down the role. For countless Potterheads that grew up with the films, Ralph Fiennes is Lord Voldemort, both the cinematic version and the face they see when reading J.K. Rowling’s novels. Not many people can say that they were a generation’s Darth Vader in a beloved property, so he understandably wouldn’t want to just hand that off.
Of course, despite Ralph Fiennes' possessive feelings about Voldemort, he isn’t the only or even the first actor to play He Who Must Not Be Named. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Richard Bremmer played You-Know-Who when he was living on the back of Professor Quirrell’s head and in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets actor Christian Coulson played the teenage Tom Riddle that came out of the diary that would prove to be a Horcrux.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the only film post-Goblet of Fire and Voldemort resurrection that Ralph Fiennes does not appear in, we see a young Tom Riddle in memories in the Pensieve, played by Frank Dillane and Ralph Fiennes’ own nephew, Hero Fiennes Tiffin. So, although Ralph Fiennes is certainly the most recognizable one, he hasn't been the only Voldemort.
In his discussion with BBC Newsnight, Ralph Fiennes mentioned the Fantastic Beasts films when asked if he could do any more Harry Potter movies because they have done all the books. Although this was just a hypothetical question, and there’s no reason to think that Voldemort would show up in Fantastic Beasts, it is an interesting possibility.
If Voldemort did show up he would definitely not be played by Ralph Fiennes, since You-Know-Who would still be a child during the Fantastic Beasts timeline, but he was alive so it is possible. The Fantastic Beasts films will take place over 19 years, from 1926-1945. Tom Riddle goes to Hogwarts in 1938 and he graduated in 1944. We’ve already seen something of this time period in Half-Blood Prince, though, so there will likely be no need to rehash those events.
What we haven’t seen is when Tom murdered his father and grandparents or when he worked at Borgin and Burkes post-graduation, or his time in Albania, but it’s hard to see how those events would factor into the Fantastic Beasts story beyond just being fan service. Besides, there are already plenty of things for this series to cover, especially after the doozy of a movie that was Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.