Un­der her SPELL

Kather­ine Water­ston is thrilled to in­habit the beastly world of JK Rowl­ing, no mat­ter which di­rec­tion it takes her, writes James Wigney

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KATHER­INE Water­ston is as much in the dark about the wiz­ard­ing world of JK Rowl­ing’s Fan­tas­tic Beasts

movies as the rest of us — and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Amer­i­can ac­tor shot to fame two years ago in the first Harry Pot­ter spin-off, Fan­tas­tic Beasts and Where To Find Them,

play­ing witch Por­pentina “Tina” Gold­stein, who teams up with Ed­die Red­mayne’s Newt Sca­man­der to in­ves­ti­gate strange and dark mag­i­cal do­ings in New York.

But when that film fin­ished, with the two char­ac­ters be­gin­ning what looked like a rather awk­ward ro­mance, Water­ston had no idea what was com­ing next. Un­like the ac­tors who were in eight films based on Rowl­ing’s best-sell­ing books, which made more than $10.5 bil­lion at the box of­fice, Water­ston had no road map of where her or any other of the char­ac­ters would end up af­ter Fan­tas­tic Beasts’ big re­veal of Johnny Depp as mega­lo­ma­niac wizard Gellert Grindel­wald.

“We only find out 10 months be­fore the rest of the world and it’s great to get the hot goss be­fore ev­ery­one else,” she says. “But it def­i­nitely shocked us all where the story is go­ing and it was re­ally thrilling to see how it con­nects to the Harry Pot­ter

series and it’s got all our imag­i­na­tions go­ing about where it will go from here.”

But the not know­ing, says Water­ston, was a help rather than a hin­drance for the se­quel (the sec­ond of a planned five movies) Fan­tas­tic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindel­wald, which opens this week and in­tro­duces a much broader and darker world than its pre­de­ces­sor.

“It’s like real life, right?,” she says. “I sup­pose you might be in­flu­enced to play things a cer­tain way and play out the fate or the fu­ture of your char­ac­ter — and we don’t have that temp­ta­tion be­cause we don’t have a damn clue.”

Thank­fully, Water­ston could go to the source her­self to flesh out any queries she might have had about Tina or the wider wiz­ard­ing world and the ac­tor re­mains in awe about the breadth, vi­sion and level of de­tail that’s swirling around the Bri­tish au­thor’s brain.

“There is just no end it,” Water­son mar­vels. “And talk­ing to her about it you can see right away that the en­tire uni­verse she has in­vented is vivid and ac­tive and com­plete in her head. It’s un­canny and a pretty cool party trick.

“You can ask her ‘what was third grade like for Tina Gold­stein?’ and she would say ‘oh that was a tough year, she fell back in her Dark Arts class’ or what­ever. She knows it all and it’s right at her fin­ger­tips. I do think that’s pal­pa­ble and that the au­di­ence can feel that this world is as in­tri­cate as the world we live in and as de­tailed, and each in­di­vid­ual is as spe­cific and com­plex as every­body we know in life.” The Crimes Of Grindel­wald fur­ther broad­ens Rowl­ing’s world from the largely UKbased Harry Pot­ter movies and the New York of Fan­tas­tic Beasts, tak­ing Tina and Newt and a host of new char­ac­ters to Paris and be­yond on the hunt for the es­caped Grindel­wald.

The new lo­ca­tions got Water­ston won­der­ing about the rest of the world and what that might look like. And hav­ing spent sev­eral months in Syd­ney film­ing Ri­d­ley Scott’s Alien:

Covenant, it also piqued her cu­rios­ity about the ter­mi­nol­ogy Aussie wizards might use.

“You guys have some crazy slang that is all your own so I would hope that some Aus­tralian slang would be in there,” she says with a laugh. “You do a lot of ab­bre­vi­at­ing, too, so maybe in­stead of Mug­gles it would just be Mugs?

“JK Rowl­ing sort of ob­serves the cul­ture and works in the cul­tural dif­fer­ences in the wiz­ard­ing worlds in these dif­fer­ent coun­tries, so hope­fully there would be some of that.” In the new film, Depp’s crazy­haired, truth-bend­ing, sil­ver­tongued Grindel­wald is on a mis­sion to el­e­vate the mag­i­cal world to what he sees as its right­ful place of dom­i­nance and fos­ters an “us and them” men­tal­ity to achieve his goal. While direc­tor David Yates has re­jected any spe­cific com­par­isons to any real world lead­ers, call­ing the film “po­lit­i­cal with a small p”, Water­son says there are mes­sages that res­onate strongly in our bit­terly di­vided mod­ern world.

“I think that call for tol­er­ance is the most im­por­tant mes­sage — or con­versely the risk of be­ing in­tol­er­ant and what that can do,” she says. “And of course our film is hurtling to­wards the ’30s and ’40s in Europe and we know what hap­pened there in our world. (Rowl­ing) re­minds us — what we al­ready know — of the dan­gers of turn­ing peo­ple against each other. And I think it cer­tainly bears re­peat­ing and re­mind­ing in the world we live in to­day. There are some re­ally good rea­sons to try to stop that. It’s id­i­otic and in­cred­i­bly de­struc­tive.”

In an­other show of the im­por­tance of in­clu­sive­ness and tol­er­ance, Rowl­ing has brought fur­ther to the fore the re­la­tion­ship of fu­ture Hog­warts head­mas­ter Al­bus Dum­ble­dore, now played as a mid­dle-aged man by a dap­per Jude Law, and Grindel­wald. The au­thor re­vealed more than a decade ago that Dum­ble­dore was gay and in love with Grindel­wald as a younger man, spark­ing out­rage in some cir­cles. But Water­ston be­lieves the fact that sto­ry­line can now be in­cluded in a main­stream Hol­ly­wood block­buster is a sign of at­ti­tudes chang­ing for the bet­ter, thanks in part to trail­blaz­ers in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try.

“Ellen com­ing out on na­tional TV — that wasn’t some­thing peo­ple did ev­ery day at that time,” she says. “Those peo­ple who took the ini­tial risks and say ‘there

might be back­lash but I am go­ing to do this any­way be­cause it’s right’ — I do think that’s what leads to change. “We are well be­yond that now. There was some con­cern I sup­pose when JK Rowl­ing an­nounced that, but I think for the most part no­body gives a s---. That’s the im­por­tant mes­sage, that it doesn’t mat­ter. All peo­ple are cre­ated equal and all love is equal. I cer­tainly want all the sto­ries to be told so I wel­come that sto­ry­line.”

SEE FAN­TAS­TIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDEL­WALD opens to­mor­row

“IT’S GOT ALL OUR IMAG­I­NA­TIONS GO­ING ABOUT WHERE IT WILL GO FROM HERE”

KATHER­INE WATER­STON AND CO-STAR ED­DIE RED­MAYNE IN FAN­TAS­TIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDEL­WALD

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