Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (moving forward referred to as Fantastic Beasts)… Who else is excited for this film’s release? So many great actors, another amazing world created by one of the most talented writers ever, and set in the 1920s? I. Am. There. It’s not just my affinity for anything from the flapper era, it’s also that this movie genuinely looks like it’s going to be absolutely magical. From the special effects to the actors to the story line, I am supremely confident J.K. Rowling will have on her hands yet another franchise for the world will fall in love with.
If you aren’t familiar with Fantastic Beasts (set for release on November 18th), here is the film synopsis per IMDb.com: The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.
New York in the prohibition era? Magic? Even more characters to obsess over? Less than two weeks, people, less than two weeks. In the meantime, you can channel your inner nerd excitement with a purchase of the Newt Scamander Funko Pop (or any other characters available from the movie).
16. Fantastic Beasts Is Neither A Prequel Nor Sequel To Harry Potter
The creator, J.K. Rowling, has stated that this film “is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world.”
In the universe of Harry Potter, Newt Scamander’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was first published in 1927 and not only became a huge bestseller, but also an approved textbook at Hogwarts. By the mid-1990s, when the Harry Potter series takes place, it was in its 52nd edition.
It is also the first film in the Harry Potter film franchise not based on any of the major novels.
15. Ezra Miller Was Inspired By Humphrey Bogart
If you don’t know who Ezra Miller is, you will soon enough. When I hear his name, I immediately think of the film The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). He will also be playing a major DC universe character coming next year (The Flash) in the new Justice League movie.
According to Miller, he had grown up with the Harry Potter series and was devastated when the series ended thinking that the wizarding world was closed forever. When Fantastic Beasts came about, he stated: “And then, to hear that J.K. Rowling had expanded that universe. That there was more and that there was this character… I almost couldn’t believe it.”
It goes without saying Miller jumped at the chance to play the character Credence in Fantastic Beasts, however, there were scheduling conflicts. He emailed Warner Bros. and told them, “Look at Humphrey Bogart!” Miller’s use of Bogie was for a valid reason. He stated: “Casablanca (1943) was his eleventh film with the studio that decade. We don’t do that anymore, we don’t develop relationships between actors and studios. There’s no loyalty like that anymore. I say in these emails that I want that with you. I want Credence and I want The Flash.”
14. The Cast Has Nothing But Good Things To Say About David Yates
David Yates (director) comes to Fantastic Beasts as a seasoned veteran. Having directed four of the eight Harry Potter films, he is well equipped for J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world of magical greatness. I’m sure it also comes as no surprise that Yates is universally loved on set. Why would he be asked to direct not just the first installment of the Fantastic Beasts series, but, as of now, also the second?
Asked by actors around set on what they thought about Yates, the responses were all glowing. Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander) said: “David has such a lovely manner. He has an incredible kindness and warmth. He brings out the best in people.”
Alison Sudol (Queenie Goldstein) said of Yates: “He’s very gentle with us. He allows us a lot of freedom and space… but you feel the responsibility because you’ve been given that freedom. He’s like, “I trust you.” He’s always wonderful, he never raises his voice… He knows what he wants and is very clear. He gets the performance he needs, but is never anything but lovely about it.”
Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski) praises: “You know, [David]’s got this energy. He’s got an amazing eye and I trust him – he’s always right! You think you may be feeling it and then you look at the camera and he’s telling you what’s best – and he’s always right! He’s an actor’s director. It’s the best creative experience I’ve ever had with a director.”
13. Dan Fogler Was Surprised To Learn He Scored A Role
“If the Harry Potter universe calls, you don’t hesitate.” – Dan Fogler
I will cosign that statement. Dan Fogler plays No-Maj Jacob Kowalski in the film. In case you aren’t aware of what “No-Maj” means, it is the American word for “Muggle” pronounced as “no madge” meaning “no magic.” Initially, having made his own costume consisting of “suspenders and cut-off hobo gloves and a patchy newsboy cap,” Fogler felt pretty confident about his audition in the UK; that is until his agent told him there were a number of people being looked at for the role.
Fast forward to July of 2015, Fogler was at the San Diego Comic-Con selling his own comics, not thinking about Fantastic Beasts and his audition, making his way through a large crowd when his phone rings to inform him he got the part. “Life changing,” Fogler said.
Life changing it was. At the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con Fogler got to sit on a panel discussion, attend an autograph signing, and do a live Facebook Q&A with the likes of Eddie Redmayne and Colin Farrell. Not too shabby, Dan, not too shabby at all.
12. The Blind Pig – A New York City Speakeasy
Since the film is set right in the middle of the prohibition era, we get to have a look into J.K. Rowling’s imagination for what a 1920s speakeasy that caters to magical beings is like. Production designer Stuart Craig says of its realistic design: “As with Harry Potter, even though we’re dealing with the magical world, we still look for something that’s totally believable and has a certain authenticity to it.”
The Blind Pig’s entryway is a painting on a brick wall that looks similar to an ad from the same time. Eduardo Lima (graphic designer) says of the idea behind the secret door: “We based it on make-up ads from that time. The colour palette, the font, the feel of it.”
11. Eddie Redmayne Chose His Wand
A simple wooden wand with a piece of melded shell at the end – that is the choice Redmayne decided on for his character, Newt Scamander. Why the simple choice? Redmayne reasons: “He’s quite a humble guy, I think, Newt, and he’s certainly not an elaborate guy. Emotionally he is perhaps but not in his aspirations. So that was the wand I liked. But it also looked like it had been whittled, it was the sort of thing you could imagine a craftsman working on.”
I would imagine getting to choose a wand has to be a magical experience in and of itself. I didn’t grow up reading the Harry Potter books, but I have been around long enough to know just how much Rowling’s books mean to people. She is an author who has actually changed lives; given people an entire world to escape to.
10. J.K. Rowling Will Be Writing The Screenplays For All Five Films
Rowling has announced that Fantastic Beasts is the first in a series of five, and she will be penning the screenplay to every single film. The next two films have already been announced with release dates in 2018 and 2020. However, the remaining sequels have no set date. What does that mean? Well, it means that there is no foreseeable end in sight! I take that as a win, I think a lot of people would agree with me, too.
9. Fantastic Beasts Was Not Shot In New York City
Surprisingly enough, this film was not shot on location (as in New York City). Most of the film was shot at Leavesden Studios, which is outside of London. For Fantastic Beasts there were only three on-location shoots, all taking place in Liverpool. Set designers built a massive New York City exterior set at Leavesden Studios which included real shop fronts, stores you could enter, streetcar rails, and manholes that produced steam. At their peak busyness, the production crew was up to around 350 construction workers and craftsmen to bring the sets to life.
As busy and as stressful as it may have been for the cast and crew of this production, the final product is something I’m sure they could be proud of. What we have learned so far from interviews alone speaks highly about the aura around the Fantastic Beasts set.
8. Different Techniques Were Used For Different Creatures
It was important for the various creatures opposite Redmayne to be treated like different characters. For example, Pickett, who is a little stick creature, was a little stick with a wire controlled by a puppeteer for rehearsals, then when actual shooting took place, there was nothing there but Redmayne who now knew what it felt like to have the character on his shoulder.
Redmayne confesses that against his better judgment, he does have a few favorite creatures. The top three are: Pickett, Niffler, and Demiguise. Of the tops, his ultimate favorite is Pickett. Redmayne said of this little creature, “Pickett is my favourite. Pickett I adore because he’s clingy and he’s got attachment issues but I also love that he’s so spindly and stick-insecty. You almost can’t see his face but he reacts through his movement.”
7. Graphic Designers From The Harry Potter Films Were Recruited For Fantastic Beasts
Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima are the graphic designers for this upcoming film. About working on this set, Mina said: “The 1920s! What an era, especially in New York. That period is just a blessing for graphic designers like us.”
Lima confirms Mina’s enthusiasm, “We always used to say the fifties or the sixties were our favourite era, but no – since working on this movie, the twenties are just everything.”
Recruited by David Yates (director) and Stuart Craig (production designer), both Mina and Lima set off to New York to begin researching after a Harry Potter celebration in Orlando. “We went to the State Archives in New York to sift through the kinds of things that are mostly useless to everyone else. Everything from business cards and tickets to receipts, stamps and posters.” Some months later, both designers went to a Harry Potter exhibition in Paris and spent hours looking through Parisian shops for more inspiration.
6. Eddie Redmayne Used The Harry Potter Films For Inspiration
In an interview with EW, Redmayne admitted he had a bit of anxiety when acting out a spell, although he reasoned it was difficult for him to draw from real-life experience for inspiration. “I had to do an obliviate spell, and I literally went and looked at all the moments in the [Harry Potter] films in which there was an obliviate spell, and there was an absolutely stunning moment in which Emma Watson did this gentle turn of her hand. So there were specific things that I went and looked at, and then thieved.”
Although Redmayne didn’t need to borrow all of his inspiration from other characters from the Harry Potter world, he did use a little that he pulled right from home. For his auditions he carries around a tan leather case (much like Newt has in the film). He explains why: “I’ve had it for about eight years. My dad works in the city and has always had a briefcase. I always did this acting thing for a living, which didn’t feel like a proper job and I wanted something that made me feel like I was doing a proper job and so I got this case. I use it whenever I go on set. I keep my script and whatever mementos I find useful in it.”
Since Newt Scamander does come with a case, the meeting between Redmayne and David Yates did come with a laugh. Redmayne said: “I promise I didn’t know about Newt’s case. I didn’t bring this as some sort of weird method audition – like, don’t worry David, I come with my own case!
5. Newt Scamander’s Costume Caused A Stir With A Harry Potter Cast Member
Daniel Radcliffe to be exact. He said of Redmayne’s character: “I got jeans and a zip top for 10 years and you’ve got a great coat already?” To be fair, Newt Scamander is a magizoologist in the 1920s which automatically makes one think along the lines of “debonair.”
Eddie has his own thoughts on Newt’s costume: “It’s interesting, my costume, because one of the main routes into this character is the way he moves. With the tightness at the top of that coat, Newt’s a compact kind of guy, especially when you think about all the vials and magic he can fit in that coat. The trousers are slightly too short for him too, which works for the way I move as him.”
The coat is a key piece to Newt Scamander’s transformation, as such, there are sure to be replicas of it. Maybe now that the film is over, Radcliffe could convince someone in the costumer department to try it on?
4. Alfonso Cuarón Expressed Interest In Directing Fantastic Beasts
Alfonso Cuarón, director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), stated in an interview with Vulture: “Azkaban was fun to make, and when I did it, I was invited to do the next one, but I didn’t want to overstay the welcome, because it was such an experience. But now? Why not? I do have stuff that I want to do [next], but a JK thing… They haven’t called me yet! They haven’t decided to invite me! Looking forward! At least to see it, because nobody’s invited me”.
Truthfully, I don’t know why he didn’t want to also do Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), despite believing he would have overstayed his welcome. If it were me, I would like to believe that I would overstay the hell out of my welcome if they would let me. Like Dan Fogler said: “If the Harry Potter universe calls, you don’t hesitate.”
3. David Yates Almost Didn’t Direct Fantastic Beasts
…And since we are talking directors, David Yates originally was unsure he wanted to come back to the magical wizarding world after having spent six years on the Harry Potter films. However, after reading Rowling’s script he fell in love with the material.
Most of the excitement for Yates came from the prospect of getting to build the Fantastic Beasts material from the ground up, rather than jumping on the already moving Potter train (he started directing on the fifth film). Yates’ approach to the film was simple, classical, and elegant whilst also embracing the 1920s perspective of the story. Yates also enjoyed keeping the camera rolling between takes so the actors could roll right into another take without breaking for a period of time to think about the scene or lose concentration.
2. J.K. Rowling Explains Why The Film Is Set In The 1920s
Rowling shared that the 1926 time frame felt appropriate because it best encapsulated our current postmillennial anxieties. Yates adds to Rowling’s reasoning: “It feels like the world is on a precipice. Everyone’s a bit nervous. There are things happening that make everyone uncomfortable, and people have a choice to make about which side they want to stand on.”
I’m interested to see the parallels between today’s struggles with society juxtaposed with society nearly a century ago worked into this storyline. Grabbing inspiration from real current events reminds me so much of how Charlie Chaplin went about his story telling. As a side note, if you have never seen a Charlie Chaplin film, I highly urge you to do so. The man was brilliant.
1. This Is J.K. Rowling’s Screenwriting Debut
Is there anything this woman cannot do? As I stated earlier, I did not grow up reading Rowling’s books, but, I have read them and although I am a late bloomer, I’m completely enamored with her writing, her imagination, her storyline weaving, how real her characters felt… well, pretty much everything. Rowling’s stories are so vivid; the images leap right off of the pages.
Eddie Redmayne mirrored my sentiment in a recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, stating: “When I read this script I had no idea what to expect, and it blew my mind…the amazing thing about J.K. Rowling is often when you read scripts it’s just the dialogue that you see, but when you read her script, it was like reading one of her books; the intricacy of the detail, and it was like you were taken back to all of those things that you kind of love in the Potter films, but now in this sort of world of New York, the jazz age, prohibition, it was…it was great.”
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be released on November 18, 2016.