Friday 14th Oct 2016
Fans around the world gathered for a live Q & A with the cast of Fantastic Beasts, director David Yates, producer David Heyman and one last-minute VIP guest.
The queue outside the IMAX in Leicester Square, London, is enormous. It’s heaving with excitable fans, many of whom are dressed up – some in Hogwarts scarves, others in full wizarding costume, and one wrapped in an intricately painted and stitched Marauders’ Map.
They’re waiting to go inside to see exclusive new footage from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and a live Q&A with the cast. I can see 11 Newt Scamanders, four Tina Goldsteins, two Queenies, several Bellatrix Lestranges and a proud spattering of Hufflepuff scarves.
Meanwhile, in L.A., New York, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Paris, Rome and beyond, more fans are gathering outside their local cinema to watch the very same thing, simulcast across the world and on Facebook. This is the official global fan event for the movie before its release next month and excitement levels are beautifully high.
The foyer is lined with 23 leather suitcases just like Newt’s. There are Fantastic Beasts posters on every wall and just before you walk into the cinema, the main four characters’ costumes are clinging to mannequins.
As fans file in, they pass Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler, each nattering away to journalists with cameras. David Yates is meandering through a throng of people quietly and with his wife, as is his way. Somewhere in the building, the person responsible for this entire magical experience bides her time.
Once everyone settles, the lovely Edith Bowman takes to the stage. 'Are you ready to return to J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World?' she bellows into her mic. The screaming in response is deafening. It’s safe to say everyone in the room is ready.
And with that, we bring on the cast: Eddie, Katherine, Alison, Dan. They’re joined by the Davids – director David Yates and producer David Heyman. The Davids are there to answer questions from fans, but they’re also there as enforcers of secrecy: they wink and grin and hush the actors when it seems like they might be about to reveal too much of the movie’s plot. We say a quick hello via video link to Colin Farrell and Jon Voight in L.A.
'This is overwhelming,' Eddie says into his microphone, blinking into the spotlight in his almost-timid way. He is of course being sincere; you get the impression it’s physically impossible for Eddie Redmayne not to be. Even he is overwhelmed by the excitement in the room.
'I can see a lot of Newts in the audience, which I find wildly exciting,' he says.
'This is overwhelming,' says Katherine Waterston from the seat next to him. And that’s what is so lovely about these actors at this stage – they’re still coming to terms with the enormity and ferocity of the fandom’s love for the wizarding world. This is every bit as exciting for them as it is for the female, French Newt Scamander cosplayer sitting in the front row in a wig and peacock coat.
The cast take questions from all over the world and speak beautifully about their characters, their magical motives and their experiences filming this beast of a film. You can watch the whole thing on Facebook. The final question is a cheeky one: 'What can we expect next for Newt Scamander?' The Davids whisper to one another about how much they can reveal. 'Next we will see Newt in another capital city,' David Yates says, 'Not New York. There’s someone here who might be able to tell you more…'
And then something extraordinary happens.
J.K. Rowling herself walks into the auditorium.
She walks straight on stage and takes a seat next to the Davids. Everyone in the cinema is moved into an immediate, joyous standing ovation. People can barely believe what they’re seeing. They squeal and holler and jump around. We can’t see the footage, but presumably the same thing is happening in L.A., New York, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Paris and Rome. And so the same question is posed to J.K. Rowling: What can we expect next for Newt?
'I can say one thing. I can tell you that we always knew it was going to be more than one movie. We had a trilogy as a placeholder. We’ve done all the plotting properly and it’s going to be five movies,' she says. 'And they didn’t even know that,' she adds, gesturing to the cast across from her. Again, the crowd goes wild.
And then we watch the first 7 minutes of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The first few scenes of hundreds to come in this enigmatic, magical series. One month and five days till we can see the rest.