Hold on to your Sort­ing Hat — we’re Head­ing back to Hog­warts. Fan­tas­tic Beasts: the crimes OF Grindel­wald is pil­ing on the nos­tal­gia, but it’s also push­ing the Se­ries for­ward in radical new di­rec­tions

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - Words olly richards

All your favourite magic an­i­mals are back in this ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated se­quel: the nif­fler, the thun­der­bird, the red­mayne. Ah, the ma­jes­tic red­mayne. A grace­ful crea­ture, in­ex­orably drawn to shiny gold stat­ues.

Work­ing at Hog­warts does not make you im­mune to get­ting a bit over­whelmed about be­ing in Hog­warts. the first time Zoë kravitz walked through the en­trance hall of the wiz­ard­ing school, with its enor­mous wooden doors and crack­ling torches, she had a mi­nor freak-out. the space was just as she re­mem­bered from watch­ing it on film as a teenager. she felt a strange flash of déjà vu. “there were all these kids in their uni­forms with their owls in their cages. it was… epic,” she says. “Harry Pot­ter was the first book i ever asked my mom to buy me.” she was step­ping into a world she’d held in her imag­i­na­tion for al­most two decades. “it was com­pletely sur­real.”

kravitz is one of the new ad­di­tions to the ex­pand­ing world of Fan­tas­tic Beasts (she was teased in the first film in photo form), play­ing the com­pli­cated witch Leta Les­trange. and she’ll be far from the only fan get­ting their robes in a bunch about the new film. af­ter one in­stal­ment bed­ding in new char­ac­ters, from hero ‘Ma­g­i­zo­ol­o­gist’ newt sca­man­der to main vil­lain gellert ‘He Who it’s Fine to

Name’ Grindel­wald, the sec­ond Fan­tas­tic Beasts movie is fully in­te­grat­ing with the

Harry Pot­ter se­ries. The two fran­chises are col­lid­ing. The great hall will once more echo with ex­citable chat­ter. School is back in ses­sion.

For di­rec­tor David Yates, the re­turn to Hog­warts has been emo­tional. As the man who di­rected the fi­nal four Pot­ter movies, plus the first Fan­tas­tic Beasts, and, all be­ing well, will di­rect the three

Fan­tas­tic Beasts movies still to come, this world is his home. When he fin­ished his fi­nal Pot­ter movie, the fol­low­ing weeks were, he says, like a be­reave­ment. He’d known dur­ing pro­duc­tion of the first movie that The Crimes Of Grindel­wald would bring the story back to fa­mil­iar places from the

Pot­ter world, thanks to some teases from J.K. Rowl­ing, and he was itch­ing to re­turn, but the true im­pact of coming back only re­ally hit him dur­ing test screen­ings. “It was see­ing [this film] with an au­di­ence,” he says, “when that cam­era flies over the moun­tain range and you see the school in the dis­tance across the lake, you feel the rip­ple in the room. It’s amaz­ing the power it has over peo­ple.”

Be­fore we head back to Hog­warts, though, we need a rea­son to go there.

AT THE START of The Crimes Of Grindel­wald, ev­ery­thing is bug­gered. All that lark­ing about with moon­cows and erumpents in the first film? That’s over. There is no more time for play.

“In the first film… [the char­ac­ters] were all like chil­dren in grown-up bod­ies,” says Yates. “Jo [Rowl­ing] said she felt that this film would be quite a ma­jor de­par­ture from the first one.” Rowl­ing turned in a script that scat­ters the cast across the world, di­vid­ing re­la­tion­ships and pre­par­ing the Wiz­ard­ing World for an on­com­ing war. “It felt like quite a com­plex emo­tional thriller.”

Com­plex is cer­tainly the word. There are a lot of plots hap­pen­ing here. Af­ter the events of the last film, Newt Sca­man­der (ed­die Red­mayne), has re­turned to London. He’s re­leased his book, to huge suc­cess, mak­ing him ex­tremely fa­mous in cer­tain cir­cles (“He’s not world fa­mous. He’s ba­si­cally fa­mous like when a singer is huge in Ger­many. He’s the David Has­sel­hoff of wiz­ards,” says Kather­ine Water­ston, who plays Tina). But he’s not happy.

“He just wants to get back to New York, to Tina,” says Red­mayne. “But his travel doc­u­ments have been de­nied. The Min­istry keeps in­ter­ro­gat­ing him about New York and why he was re­ally there and what his true agenda was… He’s not in a very happy place. He’s kind of fucked off.”

Tina, mean­while, is not in New York but Paris, where Newt will even­tu­ally fol­low. “She’s been re­in­stated as an Auror, which is ev­ery­thing to her,” says Water­ston. “She’s trust­ing her­self more af­ter her in­stincts were proved right last time,” hence the jour­ney to Paris, where she be­lieves some­one very im­por­tant is hid­ing. Most of the film will take place in Paris, in 1927. The city is en­joy­ing its an­nées folles — its ‘crazy years’. Josephine Baker is ca­vort­ing about the mu­sic halls. Dalí, Pi­casso and Matisse are swan­ning around paint­ing mad stuff. Hem­ing­way is drink­ing the place dry. He­donism, cre­ativ­ity and artis­tic free­dom are rife. But not for ev­ery­one. Not for many of those in the mag­i­cal world. The rea­son the ac­tion has moved here is be­cause of one char­ac­ter, the one Tina is try­ing to find: Cre­dence Bare­bone, played by Ezra Miller.

At the end of the last film, Cre­dence was blown to bits. Re­vealed to be an ob­scu­rial — a wiz­ard who has sup­pressed their abil­i­ties through shame, caus­ing them to de­velop a par­a­sitic, de­struc­tive mag­i­cal force that even­tu­ally bursts out, usu­ally killing them — he was con­sid­ered too dan­ger­ous to live (he’d just ripped through half of Man­hat­tan) and de­stroyed by rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Amer­i­can mag­i­cal gov­ern­ment. But they missed a bit. The last rem­nant of Cre­dence fled to Paris in search of his real mother and some an­swers. And hav­ing re­gen­er­ated, he is now part of a cir­cus.

“He’s landed him­self in a fa­mil­iar sit­u­a­tion but this time he’s gone all Twisted Sis­ter on it: WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT,” Miller says. He talks like this a lot, in sud­den caps. “The cir­cus! He’s back in an abu­sive, re­pres­sive en­vi­ron­ment, but this time he has a com­pan­ion.” That com­pan­ion is the Male­dic­tus (Clau­dia Kim), the cir­cus’ cen­tral act and a woman who is cursed to even­tu­ally turn into a beast. “They’re both be­ing abused and ex­ploited and there’s only so much he’s go­ing to tol­er­ate.”

The man ty­ing this all to­gether, who

will ne­ces­si­tate the trip to Hog­warts and who is af­ter Cre­dence for still se­cret rea­sons, is the tit­u­lar Grindel­wald. Played by Johnny Depp, he starts the film in jail, hav­ing been cap­tured for crimes against the wiz­ard­ing com­mu­nity at the end of the last movie. He swiftly breaks out and be­gins a cam­paign to unite the wiz­ard world against the non-mag­i­cal, who he con­sid­ers in­fe­rior, be­liev­ing he can gather enough sup­port to make wiz­ards and witches the dom­i­nant form of hu­man­ity. And he might be right.

“Grindel­wald as a vil­lain is quite un­like Volde­mort,” says Yates, com­par­ing the two big bads of Rowl­ing’s se­ries. “Volde­mort was ba­si­cally a thug. If you dis­agreed with him, he’d just kill you on the spot. The scary thing about Grindel­wald is that if you dis­agree with him, within five min­utes he’ll have you agree­ing with him… He’s in­cred­i­bly charm­ing and con­vinc­ing.” He’s not a war­rior but a se­ducer. He’ll bend the truth un­til it fits what you want to hear and he can get you on side. He is an en­thu­si­as­tic sub­scriber to fake news.

Yates de­nies that the ridicu­loushaired dem­a­gogue with skin of an in­hu­man tone and a zeal for his own ver­sion of facts has any ba­sis in any real-world leader, call­ing the film “po­lit­i­cal with a small p”. He says, “The Wiz­ard­ing World gives us this won­der­ful al­le­gor­i­cal op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore those ideas — of valu­ing and cel­e­brat­ing tol­er­ance and cu­rios­ity about oth­ers — in a way we hope would ap­pear time­less, rather than a pro­saic part of the present.”

Red­mayne sees it a lit­tle dif­fer­ently, say­ing that com­par­isons to var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal move­ments, in both the US and UK, be­came ap­par­ent dur­ing film­ing. “Ob­vi­ously Jo wrote it a cou­ple of years ago, but she does have this fa­cil­ity… of catch­ing a zeit­geist be­fore we all catch up to it. The film re­ally does seem to par­al­lel what is go­ing on… She’s us­ing a mo­ment in [fic­tional] his­tory to re­mind us of the par­al­lels with our mo­ment in his­tory”

One thing that makes the

Fan­tas­tic Beasts mo­ment in his­tory quite un­like our own is that we know who is go­ing to be able to put things right for them. In or­der to bring down Grindel­wald, the world’s var­i­ous mag­i­cal au­thor­i­ties are go­ing to need the help of the one man who knows him bet­ter than any­one else, a man we haven’t seen in the Rowl­ing­verse for quite a few years.

JUDE LAW IS ab­so­lutely thrilled to be de­scribed as ‘the young Dum­ble­dore’. “I love it!” he barks, the sen­tence coming out with about 17 im­plied ex­cla­ma­tion marks. “I’m 45. I’m mid­dle-aged. I’m one of the old­est in the cast!” Com­pared to the Dum­ble­dore of the Pot­ter se­ries, Law’s ver­sion is a baby, about 70 years younger than the white-bearded, kaf­tan-sport­ing old hip­pie played by Richard Har­ris and Michael Gam­bon.

Here he is still a De­fence Against

The Dark Arts teacher at Hog­warts, in neatly tai­lored tweeds and with a beard that barely grazes his shirt col­lar. He is not the man fans, or the film’s di­rec­tor, al­ready knows.

“When Jo said Beasts 2 was go­ing to have this younger ver­sion of Dum­ble­dore, my first in­stinct was still to find an older ac­tor,” says Yates. “Jo said, ‘David, no, you haven’t got it. This isn’t Dum­ble­dore as ev­ery­one knows him. This is Dum­ble­dore as a re­bel­lious, mis­chievous younger teacher.’” The Dum­ble­dore we’ll find here is liv­ing the ex­pe­ri­ences that forge the man we see in the Pot­ter movies. He has the fa­mil­iar in­sur­gent streak, but hasn’t yet ac­quired the wis­dom to de­tach him­self from events and be steered by his head rather than his heart. “It was sud­denly thrilling,” says Yates. “I felt I knew this hu­man be­ing and sud­denly Jo said, ‘No, you don’t.’”

Dum­ble­dore is cho­sen, by the Bri­tish Min­istry Of Magic, as the man to bring Grindel­wald to jus­tice, but he re­fuses to do it di­rectly, for rea­sons we’ll get to shortly. In­stead he per­suades an old pupil, Newt, to do it for him. Law sees a di­rect com­par­i­son with Dum­ble­dore’s re­la­tion­ship with Harry Pot­ter. “Dum­ble­dore has an over­view of events that most don’t and there­fore can’t tell ev­ery­one ev­ery­thing at one par­tic­u­lar time,” he says. “He did the same with Harry, re­ally. He steered Harry un­til he re­alised he was be­ing used, but in a way that he knew there were things he couldn’t find out un­til it was right to find them out. It’s the same here with Newt.” Law says the key to his un­der­stand­ing of their friend­ship came from a note by the author. “Jo told me that in some ways Dum­ble­dore thinks of him­self as a beast be­cause of things he’s done in the past,” he says, “and he knows there­fore that Newt [as a beast-lover] will for­give him.”

Red­mayne is very care­ful in dis­cussing why Dum­ble­dore sends Newt af­ter Grindel­wald, be­yond him be­ing his favourite ex-pupil. “I don’t want to give away what Dum­ble­dore’s re­la­tion­ship is with the first film,” he says, “But at the start we see that he maybe had some in­flu­ence on what went on in the last film.”

The rea­son Dum­ble­dore is asked to help stop Grindel­wald and the rea­son he can’t do it him­self is some­thing that

has caused the film some neg­a­tive press, not for the plot­ting but for the way it was pub­licly dis­cussed. It was estab­lished in 2007 that Dum­ble­dore is gay and was in love with Grindel­wald as a young man. Given the story’s fo­cus on the two men, Yates was asked how Dum­ble­dore’s sex­u­al­ity and re­la­tion­ship with Grindel­wald would be ad­dressed. His an­swer was that it would not be dealt with ex­plic­itly. It caused un­der­stand­able up­set and ac­cu­sa­tions of cow­ardice, sug­ges­tions this was an­other stu­dio pro­duc­tion fudg­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tion by stat­ing a char­ac­ter’s sex­u­al­ity off-screen but not on, like the bi­sex­ual Valkyrie in Thor: Rag­narok or pan­sex­ual Lando Cal­ris­sian in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Asked about it now, it’s clear Yates is still bruised by the re­ac­tion and un­der­stand­ably peeved that the think-pieces and Twit­ter storms hap­pened with­out any­one see­ing the film.

“In that ear­lier in­ter­view, I didn’t say Dum­ble­dore’s not gay. He is,” says Yates. But he says this in­stal­ment in the se­ries only gives the first hints of what hap­pened be­tween Dum­ble­dore and Grindel­wald. “This part of this huge nar­ra­tive that Jo is cre­at­ing doesn’t fo­cus on his sex­u­al­ity, but we’re not air­brush­ing or hid­ing it… The story [of the romantic re­la­tion­ship] isn’t there in this par­tic­u­lar movie but it’s clear in what you see… that he is gay. A cou­ple of scenes we shot are very sen­sual mo­ments of him and the young Grindel­wald.”

He asks view­ers to re­mem­ber that this is a five-part story and that, in grand Rowl­ing tra­di­tion, there is a lot still to be re­vealed. “[Dum­ble­dore’s love life] is not re­ally where Jo’s in­ter­est was in this story, be­cause the story is about other things, fun­da­men­tally, but the story of Grindel­wald and Dum­ble­dore, go­ing for­ward, that is the story. I think peo­ple just have to wait and see and ap­pre­ci­ate that in movies to come that re­la­tion­ship will be ex­plored much more fully.”

Given the pe­riod in which the film’s set, the 1920s, and the less than pro­gres­sive at­ti­tudes we saw from the mag­i­cal com­mu­nity in the first film (re­la­tion­ships be­tween the magic and non-magic are il­le­gal, at least in Amer­ica), we won­der if Dum­ble­dore is even openly a gay man at this point. “Dum­ble­dore is not out as a gay man in this film,” says Yates. He says he’s not sure on the Wiz­ard­ing World’s gen­eral ac­cep­tance of LGTBQ+ peo­ple, as it’s yet to come up, but prom­ises to ask Rowl­ing.

The re­ac­tion to Yates’ quote didn’t sur­prise Law. “Peo­ple are very pas­sion­ate about these sto­ries and that par­tic­u­lar topic doesn’t just deal with the char­ac­ters in the book but peo­ple in real life deal­ing with their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion… so I can un­der­stand why it was emo­tion­ally charged,” he says. “I know the full story. This is part two. There’s more to come.”

THE Re­turn To Hog­warts is a re­union for fans, but so far it only in­cludes some of the cast. Kravitz got to film there be­cause Leta Les­trange is a rem­nant from newt’s Hog­warts past. The pair forged a romantic, though pos­si­bly not re­cip­ro­cal, re­la­tion­ship at school, where they were both out­casts. He, be­cause he was an odd­ball who only wanted to be friends with an­i­mals. She, be­cause she was part of a fam­ily with a pretty dark his­tory. As a boy who al­ways had an eye for any­thing mis­un­der­stood, newt was drawn to a char­ac­ter who is nei­ther hero nor vil­lain. As Kravitz puts it, “Leta is con­stantly drawn be­tween the good and the bad, the light and the dark, try­ing to work out where she fits.”

Leta was the first per­son newt had feel­ings for and comes back into his life in a rather painful way: she’s now en­gaged to his brother, Th­e­seus (Cal­lum Turner). “I don’t know if any­one in this tri­an­gle re­ally knows what’s go­ing on,” says Kravitz. “newt is not al­ways good at mak­ing his feel­ings clear.” ex­actly why Leta goes back to the school we don’t yet know, other than she has a meet­ing with Dum­ble­dore (both Leta and newt are played by younger ac­tors in flash­backs), but film­ing in­side the school was a lux­ury af­forded to her, and not to her lead­ing man.

“no, I did not get to go to Hog­warts,” says Red­mayne, all but stomp­ing off and slam­ming the door to his room. “Tech­ni­cally I filmed at Hog­warts. There’s a shot where we come to the aquaduct [out­side the school], but that was re­ally stand­ing in front of a mas­sive green cur­tain.” When asked if she made it into school grounds, Kather­ine Water­ston sim­ply makes a ‘har­rumph’ face. She did not make it into school grounds.

There is still plenty of time for such things. The rein­tro­duc­tion of Hog­warts and Dum­ble­dore in this film are just the begin­ning of a larger story that will fuse to­gether the worlds of Beasts and Pot­ter, as we find out just what se­crets lie in the fu­ture head­mas­ter’s past. “Fans are in for a lot of sur­prises,” says Law. “This film is full of se­crets and rev­e­la­tions… but there is so much more to be re­vealed.”

Af­ter all, you don’t learn ev­ery­thing on your first day at school.

Fan­tas­tic Beasts: the crimes OF Grindel­wald IS In cinemas from 16 novem­ber

Di­rec­tor David Yates on-set with Ed­die Red­mayne as Newt Sca­man­der and Jude Law as a young Al­bus Dum­ble­dore.

Clock­wise fromabove: Al­lies Male­dic­tus (Clau­dia Kim), and Cre­dence Bare­bone (Ezra Miller); Dum­ble­dore chats to pupil Les­trange; Gellert Grindel­wald (Johnny Depp) reaches out to Les­trange; Yates gives di­rec­tion to Ali­son Su­dol, aka Quee­nie Gold­stein, be­tween takes.

From top to bot­tom: Yates with Red­mayne on set; Kowal­ski and Sca­man­der em­bark on a mag­i­cal mis­sion; Dum­ble­dore looks into the Mir­ror Of Erised.

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