Wednesday 27th July 2016
Where Eddie, Katherine, Alison, Dan, Colin and Ezra go, we go.
It’s a hot Saturday in San Diego, California. The cast of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are making their first appearances today at San Diego Comic-Con, and they’ve invited us along for the ride – quite literally, we all get on an enormous bus.
We start in a swish hotel foyer. Colin Farrell emerges holding a breakfast bowl. Katherine Waterston walks by in an elegant black dress. Dan Fogler sits on an armchair, while Alison Sudol floats in with the blonde bob she hides in the film under Queenie Goldstein’s wig. Eddie Redmayne arrives looking quintessentially British, wearing a navy jumper in California sunshine.
We all pile onto the bus to go to Hall H (to the uninitiated, that’s the great big hall where celebrities do their panel interviews at Comic-Con). Alison natters on to Colin, Eddie whispers to Katherine, and Dan makes faces at everyone.
When we arrive, the cast and I part ways for a bit. They’re hustled backstage as I take my seat in the dark among over 6,000 other fans.
Conan O’Brien asks, ‘Do we have any real true Harry Potter fans in here?’ The crowd roars. He introduces David Yates over the screams and David introduces Eddie Redmayne, who is about to surprise the crowd with some magic.
‘If it’s alright with you–’ he slips a wand out from inside his sleeve and bellows ‘LUMOS!’ The house lights come on, the crowd roars even wilder.
Then Eddie leaves the stage and disappears into the pit of fans. He starts producing more wands from his sleeve, giving them to anyone in his path. ‘This is unprecedented,’ says Conan.
Organised chaos ensues as performers dressed in 1920s clothes hand out replicas of Newt Scamander’s wand to every single person present. Eddie asks everyone to raise their wands to the sky and help him cast another spell.
Katherine, Colin, Alison, Dan and Ezra Miller join Eddie at the long table on stage. They talk about the wonder of working on a J.K. Rowling film. ‘It’s like getting your Hogwarts letter real late in the game,’ says Ezra, who nominates himself as ‘the biggest Potterhead on set.’
Dan Fogler calls costume designer Colleen Atwood ‘the ultimate gangster.’ Colin Farrell claims to be ‘rocking’ a pair of underwear from the 1920s.
We’re back on the bus. We hurtle towards another venue for a live Q&A on Facebook. Ezra sits at the lobby piano and casually belts out a Rihanna song. Moments later I hear him tell David Yates, ‘I’m so happy, I’m so happy’. And you can tell everyone here truly is.
As the cameras roll, the cast inexplicably make bird noises at one another. It’s a weird, beautiful thing; the kind of thing that only makes sense to a group of actors who’ve spent six months filming a movie together.
Here we learn that Colin Farrell’s character, Percival Graves, is ‘a bit like a federal agent;’ that Katherine got ‘wand elbow’ when she first started casting spells; that Alison carried a wand around her own home to practise and that Ezra would desperately like a pet Niffler.
And then we’re on the bus again. It’s autograph time for the cast, who sign hundreds of new Fantastic Beasts posters for fans (many cry, some want to hold hands with the actors, several yell ‘Eddie! Eddie!’ and one shouts ‘Hey, The Lobster!’ at Colin).
The crowd is heaving, which is no wonder given that Comic-Con organisers squeeze 130,000 people into roughly a square mile of space.
Eddie, Katherine, Alison and Dan head to the back with me for an interview. We huddle into four seats and talk about art, fame, keeping secrets and what their first ever Comic-Con was really like. You can read that chat in full here.
Next, we’re at an international press conference. The cast, director David Yates and producer David Heyman talk about why we need magic, J.K. Rowling’s ‘quintessential charm and integrity’ and why they came onto the film in the first place.
‘J.K.’s imagination is prolific and powerful,’ says Colin. ‘By the time I’d read page six or seven of this script in my back garden, I was completely transported. The first eight films were in such a beautiful, safe world. Not a world devoid of threat, but a world in which you believe that real good can happen. There’s never been a time when those movies have been on [television] that I’ve switched away from them.’
‘I had a similar experience,’ says Katherine. ‘I understood Tina [Goldstein, her character] and who she was within the first few pages. J.K. Rowling’s characters are always so vivid, so human and so soulful.’
‘We’re all outsiders in this film,’ says Eddie. ‘Newt is an outsider with a massive heart. It’s really about connecting and finding the passion in each other.’
Journalists fire a few more questions at the gang. Moments later – because this movie is about beasts – we finish the day with Ezra mentioning a bearded lizard he met in Costa Rica and Colin talking about a suicidal camel he rode along the beach. And with that, it’s hugs and farewells as the crew head off for final interviews and flights back home. But not before one last trip on the bus, of course!