Tuesday 29th Sept 2015
There’s nothing glamorous about being on a movie set.
It’s muddy, it’s squelchy and it’s so big it deserves its own postcode. You have to wear enclosed shoes, a hard hat and one of those hi-vis vests in neon orange. And wherever you go, you’re so painfully in awe you almost forget to breathe.
The set of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them smells like mahogany and popcorn. Not sure why or how, it just does. There are hundreds of people, thousands of costumes, hundreds of thousands of props. There are rows and rows of hats on racks, half-built cobbled streets and a cafeteria trailer with red vinyl seats like a 1950s diner.
To me, there’s beauty in every little detail.
For a start, there’s a dog on set and his name is Teddy Redmayne. Not Eddie Redmayne. Teddy Redmayne.
He’s a scruffy thing (miscellaneous cute breed, possibly with terrier genes) who comes to work two days a week with his human, who is currently restoring 49 vintage cars for the film. His entire life, this little dog has been known to his family and friends as ‘Ted’. But since his special human friend landed a job on this movie, he’s been renamed ‘Teddy Redmayne’ after its star.
Teddy Redmayne’s human, Alex, takes me to see his cars. ‘These are my babies,’ he says with a sweeping gesture of his petrol-stained hands. He strokes the bonnet of one car tenderly, opens the bonnet and explains the workings of a 1920s engine so thoroughly, I leave wondering if I’m qualified as a mechanic now. He opens the door and I climb up into the driver’s seat – transported, as one day viewers will be, to another era. It’s magical.
But Alex isn’t just endearingly passionate about what he does. He’s the best in the world at what he does. That occurs to me again and again as I meet people on set; that everyone here is extraordinary.
Every single person here has a story, and I wish I could tell them all: the man polishing a tan leather suitcase straight from a bygone era, the woman sliding hair gel onto an extra’s head until it makes the perfect flapper quiff, the young man pacing outside a closed set whispering logistics into an earpiece.
The driver who picks me up, the sound technician, the security guard, the photographer, the boom operator, the make-up artist, assistant directors one, two and three. The burly guy who serves mashed potato at lunch, the construction workers listening to Destiny’s Child as they take apart a building.
Forget, for a moment, that this is a movie about wizards and witches. There’s such magic in its making. I want to bring you those stories before we even talk about wands or spells or Oscar-winning actors with glorious freckles. Stay with me...