Tuesday 1st Nov 2016
Step inside The Blind Pig, a 1920s New York speakeasy visited by Newt, Jacob, Tina and Queenie in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
If you’re a witch or wizard looking for a drink in 1926 New York City, you can’t exactly conjure one up. For a start, protecting the anonymity of the magical community is too important to risk that kind of party trick. But also, the film is set during the Prohibition era – a time when alcohol was illegal in the United States.
Speakeasies became very popular in the 1920s for exactly that reason. These clandestine, underground drinking holes were where people went for a cheeky cocktail. Alcoholic beverages were outlawed from 1920 until 1933, so Fantastic Beasts is right smack-bang in the middle of this era of top secret hedonism.
This particular establishment is called The Blind Pig and here we see Tina and Queenie Goldstein standing right outside, magically changing their clothes.
The painting on the wall behind them works as a disguise for the entrance to The Blind Pig. Fantastic Beasts graphic designers Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima designed it to look like an ad for lipstick, which comes to life if you’re recognised as being magical.
‘We based it on make-up ads from that time,' says Eduardo. 'The colour palette, the font, the feel of it.’
Once you step inside the speakeasy, you’re standing inside the combined imagination of J.K. Rowling and production designer Stuart Craig. Stuart used some familiar architecture to create this dank, peculiar space where misfits and criminals gather.
‘There’s an architectural and structural logic to this kind of subterranean space. The London Underground and New York Subway both have glazed tiles. Glazed bricks are a very suitable material with which to build this sort of vaulted underground space, because they’re impervious to water,’ Stuart tells me.
‘As with Harry Potter, even though we’re dealing with the magical world, we still look for something that’s totally believable and has a certain authenticity to it. This space is an example of that really. It’s architecturally and structurally possible – perfectly buildable – even familiar in a way.’
So how do you make a space appear as though it could have been plucked from a world where magic co-exists with reality?
‘You look for a way to exaggerate it, to really tell the story,’ Stuart says. ‘The exaggeration in this case was the filth, mainly! Water through the mortar joins; stains, mould and lichen growing everywhere – that was the fun of it. The feature film is a theatrical medium, not a documentary. It requires this sort of exaggeration, and the look of The Blind Pig is very typical of that process.’
Well, it wouldn't be the Roaring Twenties without a visit to a delightfully dank gin joint.