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The Stars of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Nov 16, 2016

By: Lynn Barker

In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, it’s 1926 and actors Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston play Newt Scamander and Porpentina Goldstein carrying on the wizarding world of Harry Potter in the U.S.A.  Wizardly zoologist Newt has been travelling the world gathering up magical animals and writing a book on them. Newt is shy and introspective with humans but besties with amazing, magical beasties. When Newt arrives in the U.S. with his suitcase full of crazy creatures, the case gets switched with one belonging to muggle (No-Maj in the U.S.) Jacob (Dan Fogler) who lets some of the creatures escape.

Trying not to attract too much attentionTrying not to attract too much attentionCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Rounding up his critters finds Newt shadowed and confronted by former U.S. Ministry of Magic investigator Porpentina “Tina” just as a hatred of all things magical and a war against wizards is brewing in the U.S. 

In this interview, Eddie and Katherine share opinions on their characters, her costumes and the fact that his Oscar (for The Danish Girl) wears underpants. Eddie reveals that Katherine can do the Charleston dance to get into character and she says that, with her short haircut, she was mistaken for a “dude” while in a shop. Check it out!

One of the beasts is sometimes invisibleOne of the beasts is sometimes invisibleCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Eddie, this is the first of these films that isn’t based on a book so you have nothing to look back on. How did you create your characters and how did you know they were right?

  • Eddie: There was a glossary (Rowling) had written, the book that he is researching in this film but it didn’t say much about who Newt was. The most amazing thing about this script was not only was the dialogue wonderful but when J.K. Rowling writes a script, the detail in between was so intricate and exotic and enticing that it was all there. It was fully formed. I had an absolute sense of who Newt was pretty much from the first time I read it then when I met with Jo, a week or so before filming, she talked about where Newt came from in her imagination and, as with everything she writes, it comes from her soul and that conversation was amazing and kick-started me in the right direction.
  • Katherine: It’s always hard to take credit for creating a character. It does actually start with the writer. They create the character and it’s a question of whether we’re able to pick up on what they’ve given us. And, with this, because each character is so multi-dimensional and well-drawn and vivid, it was sort of like starting on the Varsity team or something. It wasn’t like starting with Pee-Wee ball with someone chucking you an underhand softball. We already had the muscles we needed. She gave us so much already from the start.

Magical havoc breaks out in New York CityMagical havoc breaks out in New York CityCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Did the period clothes you got to wear help form your character?

  • Katherine: Yes. I find that costume design is really important to me. With the design for Porpentina’s wand, they sent me four options and three were so clearly not my wand and I can’t say why. I was just working out who she was but it was clear to me only one of those wands could be my wand because it was simple and practical and basic.

Porpentina is afraid Newt will cause more troublePorpentina is afraid Newt will cause more troubleCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Her clothes were kind of like that too.

  • Katherine: Yes. With the costume design I was thinking of ease of use by someone who doesn’t give a (darn) about the fashion of the times, doesn’t have the money to go buy fancy things and is wanting (her clothes) to all be utility so Colleen (Atwood, famous costume designer) and I together came up with this idea that I was shopping out of my parents’ closet so the trousers are my father’s but I had to take them in at the waist so now they are too short but who cares? I can’t be bothered (Eddie laughs).
  • The shirt isn’t ‘20’s, it’s old-fashioned, more Victorian, something of my mother’s that was still in the closet. The locket was something that is so dear to me and I loved so much and (my parents’) pictures are inside and now it’s on toy dolls and things. That’s my locket! All that stuff comes together and you start to feel you have permission and authorship to play the part. It happens slowly.

A glammed-up PorpentinaA glammed-up PorpentinaCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Eddie, you said yes to this after you won your Oscar so was it easy to go into a multi-movie franchise?

  • Eddie: The reality for us is that if you are lucky enough to be in a position to choose work, it’s all about who the character is and what the story is.

Newt listens to anti-witch/wizard propagandaNewt listens to anti-witch/wizard propagandaCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: How did they approach you to play Newt?

  • Eddie: I met with (director) David Yates, in a cryptic, top secret meeting in a club in London and it was winter and it was pouring with rain and he was sitting by a fire and I have this suitcase/briefcase I use in life and I’d come from the set of The Danish Girl and I had all my work in it and didn’t know what we’d be talking about but I sat down and he started telling me this story.
  • He said “J.K. Rowling is writing the script and this is where the story is going” and he started describing who Newt was and was talking about this case (that Newt keeps the beasts in) and I gently started nudging my own case backwards. I didn’t want him to think I was one of those actors who turns up dressed as the character! (laughter). I was literally being told the story slowly and I found it so intoxicating then when I read the script, genuinely my mind was blown. There was a thriller element, there was a darkness to it but there was great humor and, like all the Potter films, it has great heart at the center of it too but sequels will only happen if people enjoy this film.

Newt (Eddie) pets the glorious ThunderbirdNewt (Eddie) pets the glorious ThunderbirdCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Off the wall question. Where do you keep your Oscar?

  • Eddie: It sits on a table next to the sofa looking really, really shiny and almost unreal and it has underpants on it that Jimmy Kimmel sent to me.
  • Katherine: Keeping him decent.
  • Eddie: Jimmy Kimmel sent me white Velcro underpants for him.

Porpentina (Katherine) tries to help Newt find his creaturesPorpentina (Katherine) tries to help Newt find his creaturesCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Oooookay. A favorite scene is when you are with the Jacob character chasing one of the beasts through Central Park. Was a lot of that improv?

  • Eddie: In the script it says “you perform this mating dance”. I sort of read it “What the?” So I worked with this woman named Alexandra Reynolds who is a choreographer I’d worked with before and presented her with the words “mating dance” and said “what should we do?”. We basically went down a YouTube hole watching birds doing mating calls and other weird things trying to look for inspiration.
  • Then it came to this deeply humiliating day in which she took her phone and video’d me doing ten different mating dances. Then we had to send them to the set one by one to David Yates. Waiting for his notes to come back was the most excruciating four hours of my life. He’d say “No. I don’t think that would be seductive enough. I don’t think that she would respond to that” etc. So, if they were out there, they are the ten most humiliating videos that would end my career. The one we ended up with was the leas embarrassing.

Q: Will they end up on the movie DVD?

  • Eddie: Oh my God. You would have to pay me a lot of money (laughs).

The Niffler loves shiny jewelryThe Niffler loves shiny jewelryCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: If you could bring back any Harry Potter character that passed on, who would it be?

  • Eddie: I will agree with Katherine’s answer. I know it. Bring back Dobbie.
  • Katherine: I’m not recovered from his passing. His death scene was so devastating to me. It will pop into my mind when I’m having a nice day and I get very sad. Such a beautiful character.

Newt fights dark magic in the cityNewt fights dark magic in the cityCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Can you talk about the several scenes without dialogue and lots of effects?  You really make them work.

  • Katherine: You really realize what a crutch dialogue can be for an actor and without it you become hyperconscious of your stupid self. It can be awkward at first I know that I felt a responsibility to those scenes to make them feel really lived in. There were a lot of things that weren’t there on set but we had puppets and a lot of visuals but they couldn’t rig it all on set. We had to imagine plates moving across the room. We had to do it like a dance. It was fun to work out.
  • Eddie: For the creature side of it, it was a mixture of things and David Yates allowed me to rehearse a bit before filming then say what we needed. Some puppets were huge and needed three people operating them. We’d rehearse on camera with the puppet then it would go and I would remember where it was and interact on memory. For some I would sit on the tube in London imagining I was talking to an imaginary friend.

One of the beasts is sometimes invisibleOne of the beasts is sometimes invisibleCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: What are Newt and Porpentina all about?  

  • Katherine: One of my favorite messages of the film that there is so much more to people than initially meets the eye. At least for Tina as she gets to know Newt at the beginning, he’s not very engaged, he’s prickly, he really wishes she’d buzz off and it is through getting to know him better that she comes to understand what these creatures really mean and be and through seeing his relationship with the creatures, she comes to see there is so much more to him than the prickly outsider she meets.
  • Eddie: Tina is someone that presents as incredibly strong yet has deep fragility as well as Newt has a seeming awkwardness and shyness and a complete incapacity to relate to other people and one gets a sense that that stems from some sort of damage. His mom bred hippogriffs and he’s grown up with these creatures and he has great empathy for them but he’s his own person. He says to Jacob “Worrying means you suffer twice”. I love that. But there is a confidence to who he is. But, he’s an outsider. J.K. Rowling writes these characters who all seem to be misunderstood or outsiders but when they find each other, they bring qualities out in each other and I feel that both Newt and Tina have a certain pre-judgmental notion and yet when they really look and listen, they see each other which is great.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie PosterFantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Movie PosterCourtesy of Warner Bros.

See Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in theaters now!


Have Your Say

Are you glad to see the wizarding world of Harry Potter brought to the U.S. with new characters? Would you love to have a suitcase full of fantasy creatures? Talk magical things below.