Fantastic Beasts: Everything We Know About The New Harry Potter Spin-Off Trilogy

Tom Butler - do not use
Senior UK Writer

For those still devastated that the ‘Harry Potter’ films finally finished (we miss you Snape!) there was good news last week that Warner Bros. has committed to return to the Potter-verse with not one, but THREE spin-off films based on JK Rowling’s 2001 charity novella ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’.

The first film in the new franchise is set to hit cinemas in November 2016 in that magical pre-Christmas spot, with two more films coming in 2018 and 2020.

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But what can us muggles expect from these magical new films? Here’s everything we know so far.

Fantastic Beasts Release Date: 18 November, 2016

Fantastic Beasts 2 Release Date: 16 November, 2018

Fantastic Beasts 3 Release Date: 20 November, 2020

Fantastic Beasts: What’s the story?

The book ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ was a slim compendium written by JK Rowling and released in 2001 to help raise money for Comic Relief. It purports to be a textbook that helps young wizards to learn about magical creatures written by Hogwarts alumnus and magizoologist Newt Scamander.

It lists 75 different species that can be found around the world, including werewolves, centaurs, unicorns, and ten different types of dragons. But how do you turn a 42-page textbook into a trilogy of movies?

The films will tell the adventures of the book’s author Newt Scamander, but it won’t be a straight set-up for the stories that happen in the ‘Harry Potter’ films as JK Rowling explained in the official announcement for the films

She said, “’Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films.”

Fantastic Beasts: What’s the setting?

This is where things get really interesting. Rather than retreading the same locations we’ve already seen in the eight ‘Harry Potter’ films, the filmmakers will be showing us a whole new side to the magical world by switching not just the location but the period.

Newt’s story will begin in New York; seventy years before Harry’s story begin. So that’s 1920s New York which, if you ask us, is a fantastic setting (pun intended) ripe with art-deco imagery that we can’t wait to see the filmmakers tackle.

But, the “About This Book” section of the book says Newt’s travels took him “from darkest jungle to brightest desert, from mountain peak to marshy bog” visiting “lairs, burrows, and nests across five continents”, so we think the films won’t stay in New York for the entirety of the trilogy.

Scamander is a former Hogwarts student (Hufflepuff in case you were wondering), so there’s a chance he could also visit his alma mater at some point in the trilogy. In fact, we’d put money on seeing the turrets and towers of Hogwarts at least once in the new films. 

Rowling confirmed on Twitter that the first film would stay in New York for the duration, but we think the films will probably venture outside of its North American setting at some point. Surely Hippogriffs don’t all live in Brooklyn?

Who will play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts?

According to the “About The Author” section of ‘Fantastic Beasts’, Newt Scamander is British and was born in 1897. This mean he’s likely to be aged around 20-30 in the films, leaving the door wide open for some of the biggest names in Hollywood to play the part.

You can discount any actors who previously had big roles in Harry Potter as that would just be confusing, so that rules out Robert Pattinson and Domhnall Gleeson who played Cedric Diggory and Bill Weasley in the Potter films before hitting the big time.

Tom Hiddleston would be dream casting, as would Eddie Redmayne, as both actors are at the top of their game right now. That could also make them prohibitively expensive though, so Warner Bros. may opt to cast someone more up and coming.

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It could also be a great break out role for former ‘Doctor Who’ star Matt Smith, who’s no stranger to epic fantasy and could deftly handle the films’ inevitable lighter moments with ease.

Otherwise they could take their pick from Douglas Booth, Sam Claflin, or Nicholas Hoult, or Ben Whishaw, who we’re sure would all be eager to land a huge franchise like this.

Will any Harry Potter characters cameo in Fantastic Beasts?

Due to the period it’s set, it seems highly unlikely that we’ll see Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, or any of the regular cast returning for cameos.

However, the 1920s setting could allow for cameos or even larger roles for some of the older characters. That means we could see a young Dumbledore and his wider circle of friends and family, including his brother Aberforth and sister Ariana, whose backstory could make for a great sub-plot.

Other peripheral figures of the right vintage from Harry Potter lore  that could appear include Dumbledore’s friend-turned-enemy Gellert Grindelwald, wizarding historian Bathilda Bagshot, and famous wandmaker Mykew Gregorovitch.

Who’s making Fantastic Beasts?

For those of you thinking this just seems like a shameless cash grab, you’ll be heartened to hear that JK Rowling is fully involved with the production, and she’s currently polishing the screenplay for the first film.

Steve Kloves, the screenwriter for all but one of the Potter films is working on the films in an undisclosed capacity too.

David Heyman, who produced all the Potter films as well as Gravity and the forthcoming Paddington Bear film, is producing the trilogy and it’ll shoot here in the UK on the same soundstages the Potter films were made on in Leavesden.

David Yates is the man set to direct ‘Fantastic Beasts’ and we wouldn’t bet against him doing the sequels too. Yates is a safe pair of hands for WB having helmed every Potter film from ‘Order of the Phoenix’ onwards, so it should remain similar in tone to those later Potter films.

When will we hear more?

If the first film is coming out in November 2016, filming will probably begin late next year, but we wouldn’t be surprised if we hear some key casting announcements in the early part of 2015.

JK Rowling has revealed that she’s currently “tweaking” the screenplay, so they probably know the key roles that need to be cast.

As for trailers, we wouldn’t expect to see anything until at least early or mid-2016.

So long to wait! But don’t worry, we’ll keep you up to date with all the latest developments.

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Image credit: Warner Bros./Twitter/Bloomsbury