Interview: Eddie Redmayne, Star of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

Posted on November 16, 2016 at 8:00 am

Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2016 Warner Brothers
Eddie Redmayne stars in the first film from the Harry Potter universe to be set the the past, the first to be set in the United States, and the first with a screenplay by author J.K. Rowling, who has promised that this film will be followed by four sequels. In an interview, Redmayne talked about creating his character, Newt Scamander, a Magizoologist. “One of the things I love is Newt, perhaps at the beginning of this film is certainly more capable of interacting with creatures than he is with human beings. A lot of that is about observing and listening and there is an empathy that comes in life through really listening rather than just sort of cosmetically listening that is super important. But sometimes life is so noisy and there is so much distress, everyone is shouting to be heard. Those people that truly listen, of which Newt is one, it’s an amazing quality.” His wife is an expert on antiques, so I asked which of the century items in the film she would like to bring home. “There was kind of a wizarding antique in there, in the Magical Congress of America, as Newt and Tina walked in there, there is a wand shiner which is a kind of feather-boa-ed antique machine that polishes wands and she had her eye on that.” As for him, he said he “thought long and hard” about which of the magical creatures he would like to bring home and “I couldn’t possibly say anyone other than Pickett who is the bowtruckle stick insect that has attachment issues and Newt knows he shouldn’t have favorites but he sort of can’t help it.”

While the first film in a series is often an introduction with a lot of exposition, “whetting one’s appetite, but what I loved about this script is it always stood alone for me. I found it very moving and cathartic and a whole piece. I love the character of Newt and I would love to get to re-visit him again but I suppose that will only happen if people enjoy this film so hopefully we’ll get to make more.”

He was especially grateful for a chance to work with costume design legend Colleen Atwood, and consulted with her “massively. I loved all of my wardrobe. Colleen Atwood is extraordinary. I think it was Newt’s coat that is my favorite. It was an amazing color and also I thought it was amazing how the coat could look very kind of sort of eccentric and English but then also when he whipped up the collar, he could turn into a bit of an action man. So I found that kind of cool. It’s always something that I use as part of the process of discovering who a character is. Often when you go and meet a costume designer they will have whole pages of inspiration, of photos from the period, of people’s different items of clothing. Sometimes it can be one little thing that makes a difference. In fact, in this film Newt has a little pocket watch that sits in his waistcoat that you never even see in this film but on the chain hangs a tiny little thing that Colleen found which has a little bird on it and somehow that clock, that little watch became a key into who he was, I don’t quite know how, but it was really wonderful. So I love that process and I find it a massively important part of discovering who a character is. We spoke quite a lot about the character, how the clothes would frame Newt. What I love is he hides quite a lot and it is almost as if everything is a size or two too small for him and that really affected his physicality. So when I first put the clothes on fully, I was sort of playing with his physicality and the two things merged in a good way, so that was quite reassuring.”

He had just made two period films, “The Theory of Everything” and “The Danish Girl,” and loved going back in time again. “Because of ‘The Danish Girl,’ which is also set in the 1920’s, I was kind of familiar with that period. I listened to some jazz and I got some amazing books. David Heymann, the producer of the film, give us a book of New York over the years from the 19th century into the early 20th century, sort of as photographs arrived, and so that was source material that was really useful.”

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