Friday 20th Nov 2015
Phwoar. Travelling to Liverpool with the cast and crew of Fantastic Beasts feels like running away with the circus, though happily there are fewer clowns.
It’s a huge operation, getting all the wigs, coats, stunt mattresses, posters, mannequins, sequined gowns, cameras, make-up tools, vintage cars, fake snow, tents and people to a new location. Huge.
It’s impossible to keep Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller, Jon Voight, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Samantha Morton and 535 other people a secret, so we don’t really try. Harry Potter fans and Liverpudlians know we’re in town to film – we can see you peeking through the black hoarding that fenced off the set. We can hear you, young gentleman who yelled ‘EXPECTO-O-O-O-O PATRONUM!’ from the top of a double decker bus from the street as you passed.
Obviously, I don’t want to spoil the magic for you. Telling you exactly what went down in these scenes would be like telling a kid that their mum is the Tooth Fairy or telling a Game of Thrones fan who dies next. You think you want to know everything, but you don’t. Not yet.
What I can do is paint you a word picture of what it’s like on the set. You in?
It’s night time on a Wednesday. I’m standing outside in the cold dark with my life (three snack-size Milky Ways, one crumbly biscuit, a cup of mint tea, two pens, a tiny notebook, a back-up scarf and a portable charger) in my pockets. We all rub our hands together and watch as Jon Voight gets out of a stately black car and walks up the stairs of St George’s Hall. He does it again and again, up snow-drizzled stairs, to get the shot perfect.
Inside, Ezra Miller prepares for his scene by beat-boxing in the green room. He walks by and introduces himself, tells me he’s a Harry Potter fan. He seems to be the kind of actor who can play around and make people laugh right until they hear the word ‘Action!’ and then deliver their dialogue seamlessly. It’s quite something to watch.
Alongside Jon and Ezra today there are 444 extras on set. There are 40 extra make-up artists, 37 fully-dressed dinner tables, two horses and one vintage Rolls-Royce. To feed everyone for a day, catering brought in 750 chicken breasts, 40 kilos of beef, vats of vegetables, litres of coffee, buckets of Dracula teeth sweets, an orchard of apples, a bakery’s worth of bread and 700 pre-cut slices of lime cheesecake.
This movie is its own functioning economy; a self-sufficient little world run on talent, caffeine, sugar, snacks, excitement and the dramatic plot J.K. Rowling has woven.
The next day, filming moves to the Cunard Building by the river.
Inside, Liverpool City Council staff try to get on with their day jobs knowing that Eddie Redmayne is filming downstairs. They tiptoe by, whispering, and I catch a few phrases: ‘The one who got the Oscar for that Stephen Hawking film... Yes, the young one with the freckles... Something about Harry Potter, I think... He’s just gorgeous... Oh, definitely wizards...’
Eddie, meanwhile, is quiet. He paces slightly between takes, smiles at everyone softly, sits in his black canvas chair and ducks upstairs to the green room for some solace now and then. He slips his jacket on moments before running in front of the camera, and slips it off again gently when he comes out. He and Katherine whisper to each other, maybe it’s their lines, maybe they’re telling secrets, who knows?
There’s something so right about Eddie and Katherine. They’re absolutely perfect for this movie, and I cannot wait for you to see the scene they filmed today. It’s a dramatic one. Involved a lot of running...