Creating fantastic beasts
> Director David Yates takes on another wizarding project with J.K. Rowling on a Harry Potter spin-off
AFTER helming the last four Harry Potter films, David Yates look a break from the franchise. But he has not left the world created by J.K. Rowling entirely, as he returns with Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, with the author making her screenplay debut.
Fantastic Beasts is set in 1926 New York. Something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets, threatening to expose the wizarding community to the Second Salemers, a fanatical faction of No-Majs (American English for Muggles) who are bent on eradicating them.
The powerful, dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, after wreaking havoc in Europe, has slipped away, and is now nowhere to be found.
Unaware of the rising tensions, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in the city to research and rescue magical creatures, some of which are hidden in his leather suitcase.
When unsuspecting No-Maj Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) inadvertently lets some of Newt’s beasts loose in a city, Newt must team up with former Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her sister Queenie (Alison Sudol) to find the missing beasts amidst the rising tension between the wizarding and No-Maj worlds.
In a question-and-answer transcript provided by Warner Bros, Yates talks about making this movie.
After four films, how did it feel to step back into Rowling’s world? “It was like coming home ... There was something wonderfully fresh, interesting and relevant about the characters and the storytelling, in J.K. Rowling’s script – and its time and place resonated with what we seem to be experiencing in our own world now.
“So, I came back, and brought back the best of the people I’d worked with in the past, like Stuart Craig, who designed all of the Harry Potter films, and now Fantastic Beasts; and Mark Day, who’s been my editor for 15 years.
“And then I introduced some new people into the group that I was excited to work with – Philippe Rousselot as director of photography, whose work is just magical; and Colleen Atwood, an extraordinary costume designer I’ve admired for many, many years.”
Which character resonated with you personally when you read it for the first time? “I loved Newt Scamander. I identified with his social awkwardness.
“As a kid growing up in the north of England, I was shy and had a really difficult time figuring out where I was in the world, and I turned to filmmaking, storytelling and music as a way to express myself.
“Those of us who feel a little bit awkward and are trying to figure out who we are and how we integrate, and trying to find our confidence, often invest in something creative.
“Newt Scamander is entirely focused on protecting and nurturing wild, magical animals, so Newt, to me, was a kindred spirit.
“And I loved Jacob Kowalski. He’s an everyman; he’s got a big heart; he’s open; he believes in the best of everybody.
“He’s a Muggle – or No-Maj in America – in the sense that he’s not a wizard, yet he drops into the wizarding world and accepts the joy of that world for all its differences and its idiosyncrasies.
“So, those are the two characters I related to most.” resource.
“But developing a screenplay for a movie based on a book means that, inevitably, you’re editing and shaping, refining and distilling, and, over the course of this process, you let lots of things go that you loved in the book but which wouldn’t fit in the timeframe of a movie.
“With Fantastic Beasts ... you’re right at the source, so everything that gets put into the movie you’re fashioning directly with its amazing creator.”
(from left) Yates directs Redmayne in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (top and below, right).