Newt Scamander, the hero of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’, has a dark secret, “as some of JK Rowlings’ characters do” says director David Yates in a contender for ‘Understatement of the Year 2016’. But he won’t leave us hanging as he promises we’ll learn more about Newt’s past when the film hits cinemas in November.
It’s been a long, lonely, non-magical 5 years since we last visited JK Rowling’s Wizarding World in ‘Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows – Part II’. Next month fans will embark on another magical adventure, but with no Harry, Ron, Hermione, or even Neville Longbottom to keep us company for this new trilogy of movies, who exactly are we to root for this time around?
We visited the film’s set in Leavesden in December last year to get the low down on the Wizarding World’s new cast of heroes who include Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne as Newt “dark secret” Scamander, a travelling magizoologist carrying a briefcase full of magical creatures, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), a muggle baker returning from active duty in World War I, Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) a recently demoted witch, and her mind-reading sister Queenie (Alison Sudol).
These four make up the film’s fantastic foursome who must unite to save 1920s pre-Empire State Building New York when Newt’s beasts are accidentally let loose.
They have just a few days to sort out the mess, but with Colin Farrell’s mysterious Percival Graves amongst many other obstacles standing in their way, are they up to the task?
Eddie Redmayne is Newt Scamander: David Attenborough meets Buster Keaton
David Yates, director: Newt’s a real sweetheart. He’s obsessed with magical creatures so he’s quite geeky, very knowledgeable, but not very good with people, so he’s a little detached from society and the real world.
Eddie Redmayne: One of the things I love about Newt is that he’s like a good wizard, but he’s not like an extraordinary wizard.
Newt goes and finds fantastic beasts that are in danger, because they’re a threat to the statute of secrecy [in the Wizarding World] and he looks after them. He’s quite an idealist. He believes that – with the right education programs – fantastic beasts should be able to exist in magical society.
There’s something in the script that J.K. Rowling describes as Keaton-esque in the way that he walks. He’s not someone that’s used to big cities and that was where I sort of started with him.
Alison Sudol: It’s not just about Newt coming into contact with new people; it’s like an entirely different universe for him. He’s been out in the wild for a while so it’s really extra new for him.
David Yates, director: Newt’s absolutely charming and very knowledgeable – he’s like David Attenborough in the wild world, except he deals with these crazy animals that are off the scale of extraordinary.
He’s really absorbed with the beautiful things in nature, the most amazing things in the natural world and so in this movie his journey is really to sort of appreciate what it is to have intimacy with things other than amazing beasts.
Eddie Redmayne: He does have a vulnerability but it’s not like he’s striving for a connection with humans. At the beginning of the film, he’s very happy in himself. He’s seemingly completely content in his skin, but it’s only when he realises that he can have a connection, that he sort of begins to fall for Tina. He connects with Tina and it’s very slow burn but it’s been wonderful to play. They start as antagonists, finding each other deeply frustrating, but by the end there’s a kind of sense of something.
David Yates, director: What’s lovely about Newt is that he’s very funny but very lonely at the same time, so there’s something really compelling about him. I think the audience will feel for him but they’ll also find him very endearing and very funny.
And he has a dark secret – as some of Jo’s [JK Rowling] characters do – which we discover as the movie unfolds.
Eddie Redmayne: The film takes place over 2 days, so it’s a short period, and I love that. But these four people find themselves unexpectedly thrown together and they really are kind of very different people – two sisters and the muggle – which is Jacob – and then myself, and this is not a natural fit at all.
Katherine Waterston is Tina Goldstein: The unusual witch
Katherine Waterston: Tina’s a recently demoted witch. I don’t think I can tell you why she was demoted but obviously, as it would do to just about anyone, her confidence isn’t at an all-time high at the moment, at least not when we first meet her at the beginning of the film.
Colleen Atwood, costume designer: Tina is a very smart kind of person, very nerdy, not thinking about clothes. She’s also at the same time, very modern – she’s the only character other than Seraphina [Picquery, the President of the MACUSA, the American Ministry of Magic] who is ever in trousers as a woman.
She’s definitely not thoughtful about the process – she’s an eccentric person. Her clothes are a little bit messy always and a little bit off kilter, but they’re solid clothes and she pretty much wears the same thing the whole movie.
Katherine Waterston: Tina has a sister who she lives with, Queenie, who is a very different woman. And they’re very close. She’s sharp, she’s her own worst enemy at the beginning of the film when you meet her, because she’s got good instincts, she’s just not trusting them.
Her relationship with Newt? I think if you’re peculiar, it’s nice to meet other peculiar people. Whether it’s romantic or not, it’s lonely when you feel like you’re the only peculiar person out there. I think Newt and Tina are both kinda offbeat and have a lot of qualities that have often been attributed to geeks. I don’t really think of them as geeks, just a little bit unusual.
I’m a weakling so I feel like the role is really physically demanding, but I don’t know if a normal person who has muscles would feel the same way. But I had this wand duel last week and the next day I have what I can only describe as Wand Elbow – it’s like Tennis Elbow, you know? This aching, miserable feeling in my elbow. And I was just completely broken
Dan Fogler is Jacob Kowalski: The soldier-turned-baker muggle
David Yates, director: Newt gets a buddy in this film, played by Dan Fogler, so he has a mate, and there’s a sort of bromance that goes on.
Dan Fogler: My character is a baker. He very much wants to be a baker and have a bakery – it’s in his blood. He’s just fresh back from World War I – he’s like, the last guy back from World War I.
He’s extremely loyal, and he’s the kind of guy you give him an order, he gets it done no matter how ridiculous or crazy it sounds. He comes back home to New York to get a loan to open up a bakery.
He’s got this case full of all of these delicious pastries that he’s made and he bumps into Newt who has a very similar case filled with creatures… a giant zoo of magical creatures.
And they swap, and later on I’m down on my luck and I’m like ‘all I want is just one of my Danish’s’ and I open up the case and release all the creatures out into Manhattan and we spend the rest of the movie trying to track them down.
David Yates, director: Dan Fogler plays Jacob and he’s Newt’s buddy in this movie. He’s the only non-wizard in this story, and he’s a real presence. He’s very funny and he can be very moving at the same time. He’s a real comedian.
Dan Fogler: Jacob’s a very likeable guy and very sociable and he knows the New York streets and he’s definitely on the other side of the spectrum to Newt.
Newt is very cerebral, he’s like the Charles Darwin of magical creatures and I’m just this guy from New York that wants to open a bakery, you know? That’s it, he’s just a really loveable, likeable guy and the two of them kind of balance each other. It’s like a Sherlock and Watson situation.
I go on a full rollercoaster with these guys and yeah, it’s really cool to be led into that world. I equate it being very much like myself entering this insane juggernaut of a franchise.
I get to look behind the veil, you know? The part reminds me of Bottom from Midsummer Night’s Dream. You know he’s just a regular schmoe that gets to play around with all the fairies in the forest.
JK Rowling was like ‘When I saw your tape, I knew this is the guy. I’m really excited to write for you’ and she just seemed like a Weasley character at heart – you know, like the Weasley family.
Alison Sudol is Queenie Goldstein: The mind-reading dreamer
Alison Sudol: Queenie is just the most wonderful, playful, empathetic, kind, funny, fun human being ever.
She’s a delight to play, she is horribly bored in her dead-end office job and so when the possibility of an adventure comes up, basically it’s the best thing that’s ever happened. Even when things are scary or difficult or whatever, she is just thrilled by the fact that she’s not doing whatever it is that she does in the office
Queenie is able to read minds. Everybody else is just traditionally more about wand magic, but Queenie’s magic is just inside her. It’s much more about her understanding of human beings and her ability to tune in that she leans on more than traditional spells, which I think is quite different for this world.
There’s this wonderful simplicity to Queenie’s presence. Not simple in a bad way, more that she’s very pure and very present and very herself.
David Yates, director: The reason I went with Alison for Queenie is that she’s a really pure spirit – she’s very funny, she’s utterly charming.
I saw hundreds of auditions of really experienced actresses and not-so-experienced actresses being that character. It’s a really difficult character to pull off and she does it beautifully. There’s a real purity and innocence.
Alison Sudol: She doesn’t dress or look like anybody else in the film – she’s just her own thing. She just has a very particular way of putting herself together, and it’s not over the top – she’s not overboard, she’s not being showy.
Coleen Atwood, costume designer: Queenie is like, lighter than air so she’s sort of a kind of bubbly character so her costumes are light. They’re pale colours, they reflect that sort of energy that she has.
Alison Sudol: But she’s incredibly feminine and there’s a real delicacy to the way that she dresses. She just enjoys being a girl, which I find really wonderful because I grew up feeling like you had to choose between being nice and having friends or being smart or being pretty – there was no duality. She’s just like, ‘I’m a girl and I like to be a girl and I can be kind and I can be young and I can also be angry if I need to’. She’s just all of the things that women are and she dresses like that and it’s fabulous.
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ is coming to UK cinemas on 18 November. On 13 October, fans will be able to get a sneak preview of footage from the film at a global IMAX fan event. For ticket details click here.