Putting the fantastic in Fantastic Beasts, Eddie Redmayne spills the goss on the popular film saga
He may be an Oscar winner, but Eddie Redmayne still can’t believe his luck at starring in Fantastic Beasts
Being in the same class as Prince William at school could probably give some people a bit of an achievement complex. Luckily, with a list of successes as long as Eddie Redmayne’s, it’s not a problem.
Next month, the 36 year old returns to the Harry Potter universe in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald, as the awkward but adventurous wizard Newt Scamander. For those uninitiated in the wizarding world, these films are set in 1920s New York before Harry was even a twinkle in his father’s eye. This sequel to the hugely-successful Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find
Them sees Newt team up with a young Albus Dumbledore (played by Jude Law) to take down an evil dark wizard.
Old Etonian Eddie first came to our attention as the dewy-eyed Angel Clare in a BBC adaptation of Tess Of The
D’urbevilles. With his bee-stung lips and freckled face, he could have slotted happily into the role of “generic love interest”for the rest of his career. But nuh-uh: from creepy cowboys to world-renowned physicists, Ed nails every role. And, aside from all his accolades, he’s just a bloody nice guy. Eddie met his wife Hannah Bagshawe when they were at school (she was studying down the road). The pair had a sort of Wills and Kate romance in reverse. When Hannah organised a charity fashion show, plucky Eddie volunteered to walk the runway… topless. Over a decade later and they are married with two children: Iris, two, and seven-month-old Luke.
As a true Harry Potter fan, Eddie is more than thrilled to be a part of these beloved stories. He said of the franchise, “I used to hear stories about those movies, and how it felt like a family on set. I was always mildly jealous, to be honest.” Now leading a formidable cast, Eddie is well and truly one of the family…
It must feel pretty good to be Eddie Redmayne, right?
Sometimes it feels like an embarrassment of riches.
In what way? Married life? Work? Fatherhood?
All of the above are brilliant. Being married is a dream come true.
What – if anything – can you tell us about the new Fantastic
In the first film, you sort of saw reference or references made to a couple of characters, one of which was Dumbledore, and Newt’s relationship with him. And the other was Leta Lestrange [Zoë Kravitz]. And one of the things that most excited me about the script is seeing how those two characters, along with my brother, Theseus – played by Callum Turner –
how they come into the world. And, really, this new world of Fantastic Beasts is aligned and kind of joined into the Potter lore that we all know about.
What surprises do we have in store?
There are more charms and spells. Not ones that I can name, but quite often, the charms and spells will come as a consequence of something being needed within a set piece. Like, something physical that will come from a spell – and we’re like, “Oh, does a spell for that exist?” And then about 20 people run off to the Harry Potter encyclopedias [to check] – and then, we hear from Jo [JK Rowling, the author] about which one we’re allowed to use. There are new creatures as well – there are baby Nifflers!
Nifflers have to be the cutest magical creature going – they must steal the show…
Oh, yes. It was probably my favorite scene to shoot, the baby Nifflers. They caused havoc. It coincided perfectly with my family life – I had a 15-month-old at the time, and the baby Nifflers retain many of the qualities of her. What’s lovely is Pickett [a Bowtruckle – basically a stick insect with a personality], the Niffler and the babies have returned along with new creatures. And they’re as unique and useful and dangerous and exciting, if not more so than ones in the first film. So, it’s been wonderful, because you have all these people in the visual effects department who are sort of actors in themselves, coming up with ideas. You then have Jo’s book and how she imagined them. And then you have Stuart Craig [the film’s designer]. It’s such a collaboration of different spirits. So, I’ve really enjoyed that side. And it was properly exhilarating to get to see the new script, I suppose, almost from a fan’s point of view. You’ll see where Jo has taken us.
What was your initial reaction when you read the script?
It has such an intricacy to it. It has so many layers. And it has so many jaw-dropping moments. If you’re a Potter fan… basically, at the end, my jaw is on the floor, and I then have to start and read it all over again. There are lots of new characters. They all have extraordinarily delicate and complicated arcs, so I went straight back and started all over again. I find it absolutely thrilling.
How has your character developed?
They wanted to dig deeper into what David [Heyman, producer] describes as his “naughtiness”. His confidence in his own capabilities, his lack of confidence with other people, his kind heart and prickly nature – how he stands up for what he believes in. It’s a wonderful challenge for me.
How collaborative was it with JK Rowling?
I think she is the most formidable mind and imagination and, frankly, I wouldn’t want to interfere in that creativity. But what is extraordinary is that she allows you ownership of the characters once they’re there. She’s incredibly free at allowing you to make suggestions and playing within that. It definitely feels like one of the most creative sets I’ve ever been on at allowing us freedom to investigate.
A lot of our favourite characters have returned, but there are also some newbies…
It’s a really wonderful core group of people from the last film who’ve returned. And what’s been so fantastic, as well, is each new person that comes into the film, comes with their own sense of excitement. You know, seeing Jude on day one with his wand going, “It’s cool!” It’s so much fun. Everyone brings in a new energy and a new way of looking at the
‘The baby Nifflers were like my 15-month-old child’
thing. And so that is what keeps us tested and pushing.
This time around, we get to see Jude Law take on the mantle of Albus Dumbledore. What has it been like working with him?
It’s been really wonderful. I’ve known Jude for many years socially and admired his work, and when we got to act together, it was really playful. He has that sort of twinkle in his eye that Dumbledore always has, which I think is so important in the depictions of Dumbledore in the films, and certainly was really important to JK Rowling.
And what about Johnny Depp [Grindelwald]?
I’m so excited for Johnny to come and do that again. I got to do one scene with him last time, and it was so momentary and so top secret. Yeah, it’s exciting.
Everything seems to be super-top secret about these films…
The first thing I saw of this script were the bits used for audition scenes. And it’s so funny because you get sent these scenes and all the characters’ names are changed. I found this out yesterday. It was so top secret on the set that the wardrobe department weren’t allowed to write the characters’ names on their costumes. So, Newt is Good Guy and Dumbledore is Very Good Guy.
Does Newt go on more adventures with Jacob [Dan Fogler]?
The action ends up in Paris, it’s where the major part of the film takes place. And there is a point in the movie where Jacob and Newt meet up and it’s quite clear they have to go on an adventure in Paris. One of the things I enjoyed most about the first film was – not only how Jo had written Jacob – but Dan’s genius through improvising and playing. There’s so much of that and I love it because, he always described it as sort of this Laurel-andhardy kind of relationship. But it was unlike anything I’d ever had to play, and it’s been wonderful. I think the interesting thing is that this film you really get inside the psychology of the characters more, and it’s a darker place.
We got a hint of a love interest with Zoë Kravtiz’s character in the first film and Newt is pretty popular with the ladies – why do you think that is?
Firstly, I think it’s his unawareness. And secondly, I think it’s his passion. I always find that when someone is passionate about anything, it’s always an attractive quality. And particularly when it’s not in need of approval. I think that he has a very large heart. I think he has great empathy. There was originally this scene that was him trying to deal with fame, basically. With all these screaming girls, which he was totally struggling with. That scene didn’t make it into the film, though. ■
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald is in cinemas from 16 November
As Newt in Fantastic Beasts
With his wife Hannah Bagshawe
With Fantastic Beasts creator JK Rowling
Rooftop scenes with Jude Law in Paris
Showing off his red mane in The Danish Girl
We’re baby Nifflers