‘Wands are weird,’ declares head prop modeller Pierre Bohanna, ‘because they can be so simple, literally a stick. But there are so many opinions that have to be included in how they look, because they are absolutely bespoke to the characters.’
The process of designing each of the principal wands – those belonging to Newt, Tina, Queenie and Graves – began with junior concept artist Molly Sole, who worked in Stuart Craig’s art department. Beyond a general sense of the fashions of the era and the American setting (wands owned by New Yorkers are more Art Deco than Gothic), individual wand design boiled down to what best reflected the character in question. In Harry Potter lore, a quasi-sentient wand matches a wizard or witch’s character. How they look speaks volumes about who is casting the spell.
After the design is set, a prototype wand is first carved out of wood, and then, if possible, crafted with real materials. This is then used as a reference to create a mould, from which various replicas can be made. There were practice versions for the actors to take home and get the hang of casting spells round the house, as well as rubberised versions that were action safe. ‘A fourteen- to sixteen-inch long, half-inch-thick shaft made out of wood is actually quite dangerous,’ says Bohanna. ‘If it splits and cracks it’ll get quite spiky, so it’s only for very close-up work that you’ll use the original wand.’
When it came to Newt’s wand, says Bohanna, they wanted something that could be traced back to some ‘animal component’. However, Eddie Redmayne, who attended special ‘wand-work’ classes and, like all the wand-wielding actors, was thrilled to have input into the internal model, was insistent there could be no leather or horn involved. Newt wouldn’t stand for that. Which definitely ruled out anything macabre like bone.
More practical than eye-catching, the handle was conceived to be made out of a piece of shell, but tubular like a sandworm’s shell. In reality, the prop department made it from a piece of ash wood, which was then given a pearling effect for the desired texture, and finally weathered to look as if it had already seen years of service.
‘It had quite a lot of character,’ says a satisfied Bohanna: ‘chips, knocks and bangs to show a well-worked life.’
Read more behind-the-scenes facts in Inside the Magic: The Making of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, from HarperCollins.