Step inside Newt’s case, once the lock is properly open, and you’ll find a very long, very steep, very creaky ladder leading down into the heart of this magical piece of luggage where his beasts are housed.
‘It is quite a journey,’ says Stuart Craig. ‘Right at the top you pass through the paraphernalia of a gamekeeper, really, then down through this huge pharmacy, past all sorts of units, filing cabinets, little drawers, little shelves, like an old apothecary’s shop, lining the walls. Hundreds and hundreds of these shelves that contain herbs and medicines and things Newt uses to maintain his world of exotic creatures.’
Eventually you arrive inside Newt’s shed, albeit a vertically elongated one, stepping down through an access point in the roof into the shed itself. This is Newt’s home away from home. More than just a place from which he tends his animals, it’s a refuge, a retreat, says Craig. ‘And Newt is a very independent character; being solitary seems to be a necessary part of his life at times and so we gave him a shed. He has a workbench. He has a bed under the bench. He has a stove, an armchair. It is a great place for a man like Newt to be alone.’
As such, it contained clues to his passions and his persona. Like Newt, it’s a little messy, a tad askew and chock-full of stuff. ‘The interior was one of the few opportunities for the props to convey the world of Newt and his personality,’ explains set decorator Anna Pinnock. ‘The idea was developed from a standard garden shed which was adapted and distorted in dimension to create an unusually tall, narrow and extremely confined space, dressed to suit Newt’s other-worldly and eccentric personality. The space comprised an old heating stove, well-worn armchair, cabinets, wall shelves, hanging hooks and what a conventional chemist, zoologist or zookeeper might be equipped with in our period.
‘With that knowledge, we began sourcing, designing and fabricating unusual items that were exaggerated and different, but still had some resemblance to familiar instruments and tools.
‘We wanted to suggest Newt had travelled extensively in both the real and fantasy worlds,’ Pinnock continues, ‘so we introduced ethnic pieces, agricultural and zookeeper’s tools with a great variety of unusual containers and receptacles. Every item had to have a function or purpose. We found many oriental medicinal cabinets and chests that we fixed to the wall facing the door in a patchwork design from top to bottom. Our prop-making team were able to enhance the items we bought as well as creating new ones from scratch. The graphics team helped create another layer of detail with Newt’s research notes, books, hand-written eccentric labels and wall charts.’
Among the items were a photograph of Leta Lestrange and an Administration Chart to Assist Magical Creature Welfare and Development.
Read more behind-the-scenes facts in Inside the Magic: The Making of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, from HarperCollins.