Beasts are let loose
JK Rowling casts her spell again in spin-off movie
Author JK Rowling’s wonderful, wizarding world returns to the big screen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This spin-off story goes back a few decades to follow Newt Scamander’s adventures in New York. The magizoologist, played by Eddie Redmayne, is an expert in magical creatures and the future author of one of Harry Potter’s schoolbooks.
In 1926 New York, something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets that is threatening to expose the wizarding community. After being in the field around the world, the introverted Newt keeps some fantastical creatures in his deceptively normal suitcase, but non-magical Jacob Kowalski (Dan Folger) accidentally lets them out, which is a breach of magical law.
Newt, Jacob and former witch police Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) band together to find the beasts, but their mission puts them on a collision course with dark forces that could push the two worlds to the brink of war.
At the helm of the movie is David Yates (inset), who directed four Harry Potter films. The movie also marks Rowling’s screenwriting debut.
Yates says it feels like a homecoming. “There was something wonderfully fresh, interesting and relevant about the characters and the storytelling in JK’s script – and its time and place resonated with what we seem to be experiencing in our own world now,” he says. “What was very exciting was being able to develop the screenplay directly with Jo. With the Potter movies, we always had the book as the source material – and it was an amazing resource. “With Fantastic Beasts, you go through the process of developing the material, but Jo is writing the movie. You’re right at the source, so everything that gets put into the movie you’re fashioning directly with its amazing creator, and the material just flows out of her.” Yates says he identified with Newt’s social awkwardness, and his top choice for the part was Oscar-winner Redmayne, whom he describes as a soulful actor.
Redmayne talks about how he prepared to play his character: “Newt was wonderfully well defined on the page and then it was about hearing where Newt came from in JK’s imagination. She wrote that Newt walks his own walk and that he has a Buster Keaton-eseque quality.
“So I met a man who tracks animals for a living, and he said that if you are trying to be absolutely silent, you turn your feet out. So I brought in that open-toed stance, which was great until I had to do stunts running like that and I kept pulling muscles.”
The cast loved it whenever Rowling popped by the production set to talk about the characters’ back stories and where she sees them in the future. It was reported there will be sequels to the Fantastic Beasts franchise. But a real defining moment for Redmayne was being involved in designing Newt’s wand.
“The first moment I got to pick up a wand was that moment of wish fulfilment you never thought you’d have. And then I got complete stage fright because I realised I had no idea what to do with it,” he laughs.
In UAE cinemas tomorrow
MAGIC: Eddie Redmayne (main image, centre) is wizard Newt Scamander. The cast also includes Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell (right)