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The Fantastic Beasts interviews: the cast talk about director David Yates

The Pottermore Correspondent

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The cast of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them reveal to the Pottermore Correspondent what they think about director David Yates.

David Yates wears a lot of navy blue. If it’s warm, he’s got a navy blue cap on and if it’s cold, a navy blue beanie. That’s how you can track him weaving through a crowd of Twenties-styled extras or ducking between stunt cars; the little patch of navy blue. You can spot him by his gait as well. David doesn’t wander around set: he is purposeful, excited. He is, in everything he does, meticulous yet subtle.

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Eddie Redmayne on the set of 'Fantastic Beasts', photo by Jaap Buitendijk

‘David has such a lovely manner,’ Eddie Redmayne tells me. ‘He has an incredible kindness and warmth. He brings out the best in people. When you’re the director on a film like this, you are juggling so many departments. It’s like you are having to man this huge liner of a ship.

'From an actor’s point of view, you can get a little worried that with so much else going on... will the director be focused on making sure the performances are right? What’s wonderful about David is that, for all that chaos, he is the strongest of acting directors. I’ve just enjoyed his company so much.’

That much is obvious when you see David on set, with Eddie or any of his actors. There’s genuine joy in his direction that's infectious, particularly when he describes what he’s envisaging.

Alison Sudol and David Yates on set of Fantastic Beasts
(L-R) Alison Sudol and David Yates on set of 'Fantastic Beasts', photo by Jaap Buitendijk

‘He is a storyteller and very visually descriptive,’ beams Alison Sudol. ‘He can see everything and he makes you feel like a little kid listening to a bedtime story when he’s telling you about a scene.

‘He’s very gentle with us. He allows us a lot of freedom and space... but you feel the responsibility because you’ve been given that freedom. He’s like, “I trust you.” He’s always wonderful, he never raises his voice... He knows what he wants and is very clear. He gets the performance he needs, but is never anything but lovely about it.’

Tina Goldstein standing in a doorway
Tina Goldstein, played by Katherine Waterston.

Part of his ease working on this particular film may come from the fact that David has worked within J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world before. As Katherine Waterston tells me, he knows the territory.

‘The real thing that trickles down from the top is his faith in the process because he’s been here before,’ she says. ‘Usually you’re all going into new territory, you’re like, “Is there going to be quicksand round the corner? Are there wolves waiting to attack?” Whereas he’s like, “We’re going to take a left here, avoid the quicksand.” You know, he’s really got this kind of shorthand and a comfort with the world, he’s not precious with it. There’s something really comforting in that.’

David Yates manages, by the sound of it, to be both comforting and inspiring.

Jacob Kowalski
No-Maj Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler.

‘He creates this playground where – yes, we’re working on one of the largest franchises in the world – he makes it feel like it’s this little intimate movie,’ Dan Fogler tells me.

‘You know, [David]’s got this energy. He’s got an amazing eye and I trust him – he’s always right! You think you may be feeling it and then you look at the camera and he’s telling you what’s best – and he’s always right! He’s an actor’s director. It's the best creative experience I’ve ever had with a director. That man is an angel in my life; he changed my life.’

Credence Barebone
Ezra Miller as Credence Barebone.

According to Ezra Miller, David’s talents are almost supernatural.

‘You should know that David Yates is a psychic,’ he says, with conviction. ‘I’m telling you that man is telepathic. David’s directing has been flawless. That’s the word. He is connected to the creativity of the universe. He is inside your mind when he is directing. He bounds up to you with these bright, shining eyes, happy like a child, and tells you exactly what to do. He’s a joy. He’s feeling exactly what needs to happen but is as cool as a cucumber, because he knows you can do it and he shows you how.

‘This actually happened,’ Ezra continues. ‘So, there's a part we’re shooting where it’s dark and I really need to draw on my own life experiences, so I’m holding these memories in my mind during a take to get me to the right place for Credence. When we cut, David comes up to me and his one note is, “I think we’re getting too personal here. That was too Ezra and we’ve just got to get back to Credence.” I promise you, the man is a psychic.’

Newt Scamander in New York City
Newt Scamander, on the streets of New York City.

Psychic, angel, storyteller: whoever you speak to about David, they are insistent about how kind he is. When we meet on set, I ask if he knows this about his reputation.

‘I think I get it from my mum,' he smiles, broadly. 'You know, it’s such a fun thing to be doing, making these films. It’s never stressful. And kind? How could you not be? Why wouldn’t you enjoy this process and the game we get to play together? It’s so much fun. It’s like being nine years old and someone gives you a big train set and they say, “Go on, have fun.” And so you do. “And remember to bring your favourite friends to play!” The studio’s supportive, my producer is lovely, J.K. Rowling is lovely, my cast is lovely... Everyone is very kind, too, so it just kind of works. It’s easy.’

He tips his navy blue hat modestly, as though making a gargantuan movie like Fantastic Beasts is the easiest thing in the world. Maybe it is easy, if you run your set with kindness and a little bit of mind-reading. Maybe it’s just a joy.

Now available
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – The Original Screenplay