This past week the new addition to the many magical pieces of J.K. Rowling’s legacy, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” held their NYC junket.
If you’re not familiar with the genius work of J.K. Rowling here is a bit of info to catch you up. She is the amazing author behind the entire Harry Potter series and that should be enough to have your jaw drop.
This movie is one of five additions that she plans to add to her wizarding world. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, directed by David Yates, is a drama fantasy meant to take place years before we are introduced to Harry Potter. It takes place in 1926 New York City when something mysterious is leaving a path of destruction in the streets and is near exposing the wizarding community. In the mist of the chaos young Newt Scamander, a Magizoologist, comes to NYC to capture any loose creatures. Disaster strikes when No-Maj (non magical human being) Jacob Kowalski accidentally releases some of Newt’s creatures. Newt and Jacob then band together with former Auror, Tina and her sister Queenie. The unlikely group face the odds as the search for the creatures end up being harder than they imagine while also being branded as fugitives.
We got the chance to sit down with the stars of the movie, Eddie Redmayne who plays Newt Scamander and Katherine Waterston who plays Porpentina Goldstein a.k.a Tina, as they talk about working with David Yates, their reaction to getting their part and more!
Don’t forget Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them comes out November 18!
I had no idea you were such a good dancer, could you explain that mating dance? What were you thinking?
Eddie Redmayne: J.K. Rowling, one of the amazing things about this film, is she wrote wonderful dialogue, but there’s also the detail in the description between the dialogue in the script was just kind of so electric and detailed. It was wonderful. There are some moments when she just …
Leaves you hanging.
Eddie Redmayne: It’s just two words. That particular thing was like, “And then Newt performs mating dance.” I was reading the script, and I was like, “What?” I worked with Alexandra Reynolds, who is a choreographer, who worked on The Theory of Everything and The Danish Girl. She and I went into a YouTube hole of watching birds doing mating dances and humans doing mating dances.
Eddie Redmayne: Yeah. She videoed me, doing about ten different deeply humiliating mating dancing. The longest hours of my life were between each time I sent one of those videos to David Yates and waited for feedback. What you saw in the film was pretty humiliating, but out there there are several videos that would end my career.
How much feedback did he have?
Eddie Redmayne: He’d take it so seriously. He’d be like, “I don’t know if that’s quite sensual enough. Whether really, realistically the Erumpent would feel that roll.” The other thing that was hilarious about this film is we did, we were shown a lot of the previs. If there was a big sequence, David, in order to make us as informed as possible, would show what the guys had done in previs. They kind of look like 1980s video games. There would be a Tina and a Newt. When he showed me the Erumpent dance, I’d done this sort of intricate Erumpent dance and then the previs version, he just shook his bum. Alex and I were like, “That’s quite good.” Let’s steal what the 80s computer version does.
Katherine Waterston: We actually stole lots of acting tips from those little cartoon versions because you see what the camera is going to see. It’s a very bizarre perspective to have before shooting a scene. It’s little things. Like, “Oh, I could look back over my shoulder before I ran away, not while I was running.” That actually read well. I know, I shouldn’t admit. We stole all sort of things and we’ve been admitting way too much.
Could you both talk about your own personal excitement levels when you found out you got these parts? How’d the film come to you?
Katherine Waterston: For me, it was like a peak dive, because I think because they keep everything so under lock and key with the script and everything. They just leaked it to the press at the moment that they decided they wanted it out in public. Normally, they call the agents. The agents call you. Generally, you know you’ve got the job then because all the agents get on the phone. Typically, it’s one person to tell you bad news, but all of them.
Eddie Redmayne: If you hear, “I’ve got so-and-so, so-and-so, and so-and-so,” …
Katherine Waterston: Yes! Yes! Anyway, they leaked it to Deadline or something. Then my agents called to tell me, “Well, we just stumbled upon this on Deadline. It must be true.” There was a tweet from J.K. Rowling to really confirm it for sure. Because you never know at what point in any given day you might hear the good news that you’d gotten a job, I had booked an exercise class. A really punishing spin class. Because I’m a frugal Yank, I didn’t want to blow it off, because I’d already paid for it. I was like, “Yeah, I got the job,” then I was like, “Oh, God, this pain is unbearable.” I was just suffering it out. It was kind of actually, in a weird way, nice, to go into this dark room and just do this punishing class and have just kind of a moment with myself with it, before everybody else.
Eddie, same with you?
Eddie Redmayne: No, I had a really weird and quite wonderful introduction to this project, which was that I got a call saying that David Yates wanted to meet. I wasn’t allowed to know what it was about. It was super cryptic. It was in London. In SoHo, there’s a club called Black’s, which he’s a member of. It was winter, so it was pouring with rain. Down in the bottom, in the basement of Black’s was a little fire. There was David Yates. I have this case, which I’ve had for a long time, it’s a globe trotter case. I keep my work stuff in it, and I think I was doing The Danish Girl. I came with my case and I sat down next to David at the fire, and I don’t know if you guys have met him, but he’s the kindest, most gentle man. He just started telling me this story. He said that J.K. Rowling was writing this script, and he started telling me about Newt and what Newt’s characteristics were, and that he has this case. I saw my case here, and I gently started pushing it back under a table, so I didn’t look like one of those actors who kind of turned up dressed as Superman. It was deeply intoxicating, the story he told. It was literally next to a fire. It was like something out of, I don’t know, Dickens.
Katherine Waterston: Masterpiece Theatre.
Eddie Redmayne: Exactly. Then he stopped, after about the first couple of chapters. Every month or two, I would come back, and he would tell me the next few chapters. Eventually …
Just luring you in.
Eddie Redmayne: Exactly. Totally. I was so seduced. Then I got to read the script. I was already so primed, and it superseded all of my expectations. What I loved about this script is there was a thriller element, there was a sort of darkness to it, but there was a comedic element, a buddy story in there and romances, and heart. Which the Potter films always had. Weirdly, I got to the end of it, and at the moment when Jacob …
Katherine Waterston: Spoiler.
Eddie Redmayne: Spoiler moment. I really instinctively reacted to it. I felt kind of teary. I still haven’t been offered the part, by the way. It was then only after that that I came back for another meeting with David, and I think there were a few more people that he speaking to. I was like, “Oh, God, now I’ve got to go in and somehow … Now I should bring my case.” Anyway, he offered me the part in the meeting and he made me promise I wouldn’t tell anyone. I got a call from all of agents, going, “How did it go?” I was like, “Hmm.” I was very excited, yeah. Sorry, it’s a really long-winded story.
What scenes do you guys find most overwhelming to play the role in?
Eddie Redmayne: For me, actually, it was the case scene. The first time he goes down with the case. I really cared that, firstly, I thought that for all of the magic of the film, if you didn’t believe in Newt’s relationship with the creatures down in the case, then it would kind of fall in on itself somehow. It was one of the last things we shot. Conceptualizing the case was a complicated thing. Also, I really wanted it to, because it is a scene in which the audience and Jacob get introduced to all these different creatures … I wanted you to believe that he had different relationships with these different creatures. Yet, some of them were played by puppeteers. Some of them weren’t there. You’d be having sort of pick out who wasn’t there, on your arm, when you were talking about something else that was a puppet. Technically, it was very technical scene, and yet, all you cared about was that the audience feel an emotional relationship, that the emotional relationship. I think that was probably the most. How about you?
Katherine Waterston: I can’t tell if this is like a chicken or an egg thing because this is a scene where Tina really had to be overwhelmed. I don’t know if I felt overwhelmed because she is supposed to feel overwhelmed or she felt overwhelmed because I was overwhelmed or how it worked. It’s always lucky when you feel nervous on the days you’re supposed to be nervous or feel a little overwhelmed on the days you’re supposed to. When I first walked into the hall that was filled with — it was basically like parliament.
Eddie Redmayne: All the wizards from around the world.
Katherine Waterston: Wizards from around the world. The costumes are so amazing and all the faces representing different parts of the world and everything, and they’re all just staring at me, who wasn’t supposed to be there. It wasn’t a very difficult scene to act. The word overwhelming fits, because it was wonderful. It was a feast for my eyes, that room.
Eddie Redmayne: That’s one of my sadnesses in the film. In that scene, you can’t track across every single …
Katherine Waterston: Each face.
Eddie Redmayne: Because, I cannot tell you, the work that Colleen Atwood did on that scene is breathtaking. The makeup department. It was really extraordinary.
Katherine Waterston: Also, those people were hearty. That took a couple days to shoot because there was a CGI element there, too. They didn’t have any lines or any chance to move, so I think they had very sore bums and were really troopers. They really fed the scene a lot, those extras. I have a lot of love for the extras in this film because they’re certainly the unsung heroes and they gave us so much. There were scenes where there’d be a Model-T Ford crashed into a fire hydrant and there’s a mechanic guy, he’s changing the wheel. The guy whose car, and he’s freaking out. Somebody on a bike who swerved in the way, and that’s why he rode into the fire hydrant. These little mini plots all around us that we could look to or use if we needed to, or just feel around us. It fed us a lot. Most of that the audience won’t ever, ever see.
Eddie, I know we have all probably heard the story of you auditioning for young Voldemort, which is great, but just curious, for both of you, whether it was in this movie in particular or in the eight Potter movies is there one character that you kind of always wish you could have played? Would it be that one?
Katherine Waterston: I don’t know which I could have played, exactly. I think my favorite, it’s hard to pick favorites when you’re a big nerd, but it’s a character I find myself thinking of. He just comes to mind, and I always kind of sigh and it’s kind of dark thing. It comes to mind a lot, is Dobby’s death scene. I think about it and it just breaks my heart over and over. He was so beautiful and his devotion …
Eddie Redmayne: Toby Jones, great actor.
Katherine Waterston: Dobby is free.
Eddie Redmayne: For me, I would never ever want to see myself play him, because he was so extraordinary in it, but when we were watching … We basically watched lots of the Potter wand moments to kind of see, and we became real nerds. We were like “It’s amazing how Rupert did that? And did you see how Ems was like?” Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, I think was pretty extraordinary. The double fisted wand was kind of overwhelming.
Could you each speak about collaborating with David and what you admire about him as a filmmaker?
Katherine Waterston: There are so many things.
Eddie Redmayne: He’s so nice. He is the nicest human being in the world.
Katherine Waterston: The most important thing in the beginning, I think, is that we felt really welcomed in. It was sort of like the Davids, David Heyman and David Yates, and J.K. Rowling are sort of these fabulous in-laws that we married into this family. Their bond was pre-existing and their relationship was pre-existing. I wonder what it would have been like for us, it might have been truly intimidating entering into it, if they hadn’t been so welcoming.
Eddie Redmayne: And comfortable.
Katherine Waterston: Yeah, easy there.
Eddie Redmayne: They succeeded, as absurd as it sounds, in giving us the impression that this was a little indie film that we were making. There no were expectations. Even when you were walking on sets that were bigger than anything you’d ever seen, with gazillions of extras, they really allowed, because they’re so comfortable in themselves and they have a symbiosis in the way that they work, they allowed us the freedom to invent, to play, to screw up and try again. David has a kindness and a warmth to him, but also for steering that huge juggernaut, which is a film of this scale, in which you’re having to deal with the vis effects department whilst being questioned about the intricacies of the costumes, whilst … He has an eye for actors. If you go back to his TV works, State of Play, and all of the Potter films, frankly, he can …
Katherine Waterston: He sees everything.
Eddie Redmayne: He sees everything.
One of the things that I really love about the Potter films is that we know each character, we love each character. For Fantastic Beasts, we are seeing a lot of these characters for the first time. What did you bring specifically to your character? Were you able to put a lot of your ideas and head canons and kind of work with J.K. Rowling and David Yates, and bring a lot to your characters?
Katherine Waterston: Yeah. It’s sort of an extension of what Eddie just was saying, that all the departments were so collaborative and worked with us so much more than, I think, we ever would have expected from a film of this size. One of the first things we did was pick the wands. I think we were still sort of working out our costumes at that point. You get these top secret emails with passwords. Pictures of wands. I remember that, and my first thought was, “We get to.” As it continued on, it continued to impress me how genuinely interested they were in our opinions. Sometimes, they are good at faking it, but on this film they were genuinely interested. I wanted my wand to be heavier. It didn’t feel powerful enough to me. The next day it was like magic. In every way.
Eddie Redmayne: Firstly, the characters were so well drawn in the script. You really got a sense of who they were. I have a really bad imagination, and I knew that were doing a lot of CGI work, so I said to David … I firstly started working a few months beforehand and said, “Can you involve us in all of the process?” Whether it’s like I got to go and look at the locations and to see the previs and to watch, talk to the guys who were animating the creatures. Normally, everyone is kept at arms length, but actually, the animator, who is not only an artist, but also an actor basically, who was literally animating the Niffler. I have an entire kind of relationship with the Niffler and can we discuss what that relationship is?” David was so welcoming with that. In the same way that Jo was. There was one moment in this film, when, down in the case, the first time Jacob and I go down in and the first thing you see is the Thunderbird, and Frank is making it pour with rain. It said in the script, “Newt gets drenched.” I said, “David, the only problem with that, because it happens over two days, I’ll be drenched for the rest of the film.” He’s like, “Yeah …” We just put our heads together and came up with this idea of a wand as an umbrella. We spoke to Jo about it. Jo was like, “Great.” All of that. There were so many moments like that.
Katherine Waterston: God, yeah, when I changed for the club, I remember that. I was like, “She’s been in this club before she knows how it works in there.”
Eddie Redmayne: She can’t dress like that.
Katherine Waterston: “I’m kind of half in my pajamas because I just ran out the door.” I remember saying, I was talking with Colleen Atwood about it, I was like, “I wonder if I could just …”
Eddie Redmayne: It’s such a cool moment.
Katherine Waterston: Then, of course, effects department just, “Yeah, you could do that it would take us a month!”
Eddie Redmayne: You literally see David go, “That can’t happen.” You see behind him, Tim go “Mayday! Mayday!”
Katherine Waterston: They let us do and add in things.