I was cast as a No-Maj extra in Fantastic Beasts

The Pottermore Correspondent

Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood
Colleen Atwood at the 83rd Academy Awards. Jason Merritt / Staff/ Getty Images.

Colleen Atwood has three Academy Awards and she’s just seen me in my underwear.

It’s not how I’d usually dress to meet a film industry legend but hey, that’s the life of a Pottermore Correspondent. Sometimes you’ve got to talk to important people in a dramatic whisper, standing mostly naked in the changing room of a movie set.

I’ve been cast as a No-Maj extra in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, so I’m being fitted for a costume, which means thighs, hips, waist, chest and height counted in inches and written down. Costume designer Colleen glances at the measurements, squints at me and comes back with three vintage 1920s dresses to try on. The first doesn’t sit right on my hips, the second doesn’t fit over my shoulders, the third is just right.

Colleen safety-pins my neckline in place, shimmies my hands into black leather gloves and drapes a fur-trimmed black coat over my shoulders. She looks me in the eye only once and winks so fast I nearly miss it. As an extra, you’re a living, breathing part of the scenery. You’re carefully arranged to evoke an era – in this case, the 1920s.

I stand mannequin-still and list some of the movies Colleen’s worked on in my head: Chicago. Little Women. Memoirs of a Geisha. Snow White and the Huntsman. Alice in Wonderland. Into The Woods. You’ll be pleased to know that I did not, at any time, ask Colleen what Johnny Depp smells like or whether Catherine Zeta-Jones sings while she’s being fitted.

Once I’ve slipped my stockinged feet into black vintage heels, I totter off to hair and make-up. The tent is several hundred metres long and filled with rows and rows of costumes. There’s clothing enough in there to dress every witch, wizard, Auror, flapper, No-Maj, villain and good guy J.K. Rowling has written into this film. I want to try all the hats on and stroke some of the robes, but I don’t. Promise.

Down at make-up HQ, a stylist graciously accepts her day’s greatest challenge: taming my comically voluminous hair into a 1920s ’do. She sits me down in front of a spot-lit mirror and gets to it, twirling strands into a bun at the nape of my neck and setting waves into the top of my hair. She glues three kiss-curls to my temple, forehead and beside my right ear. All in all it takes 30 minutes, 23 hairgrips and a thick sheen of hairspray to keep it in place.

A make-up artist paints my lips burgundy and my eyebrows into thin, black arches, then I’m ready to walk 89 years back in time to this movie’s version of New York. They snap my photo from every angle so they can recreate the look on the day before I’m shuffled into the changing room again and carefully undressed by a woman who’s seen at least 100 semi-naked extras in stockings today alone.

Back in my jeans and a jumper, I wipe the colour from my brows and let my hair fall down my shoulders in funny, fluffy, crispy waves. On the train back home, I find two stray hairgrips, tuck them into my pocket and save them for next time I visit 1926 New York, when I get to play my part in this story. Promise to tell you all about it.

Until then...

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – The Original Screenplay