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We built the Fantastic Beasts cast around Eddie Redmayne, says director David Yates

The Pottermore Correspondent

David Yates edited Getty Images-134317510
'Fantastic Beasts' director, David Yates

It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s raining. David Yates is wearing a navy beanie and a smile.

At 10.47pm a loudspeaker yells ‘Cut!’. David Yates walks out of a truck, pulls his blue parka around him, and shifts on the balls of his feet to keep warm. We meet in the middle of a scene; Ezra Miller stands on a wooden box to our right, Colin Farrell is sitting in a buggy to the left.

‘Can you believe how quick this filming is going!’ he beams. ‘Most shoots feel like forever but this movie has just flown by. We’re all going to miss it so much when it’s over.’

It’s my first proper chat with the director of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. He’s blinking the rain out of his eyes now, but he’s happy. Visibly, beguilingly happy.

‘I’m so excited about this. J.K. Rowling was just inspired to set this movie in 1926 with a completely new set of characters’ he says. ‘I spent seven years doing four of her Harry Potter films so I was desperate to read this script, but also nervous, you know.

‘It’s a beautiful script; it’s really fun. It’s fresh. She’s got such a gift for creating adorable characters. These ones are special, they’re really moving and funny. You see bits of yourself in them, or you see people you know.’

There’s a small explosion on set behind David as I ask what he sees in the main four characters: magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), MACUSA worker Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), Legilimens Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) and No-Maj Jacob (Dan Fogler). He doesn’t flinch. He beams.

‘Newt is just fascinating. Probably anyone who’s ever done some sort of geeky thing will relate to him... And filmmaking is a geeky profession,’ he says. ‘Newt’s obsessed with beasts and cataloguing facts about beasts. When I was a teenager growing up in the north of England, I was obsessed with lenses and cameras, so I really get that aspect of someone who’s truly obsessed with something. I get it.

‘And Tina! Oh she’s so adorable because she’s sort of so career-obsessed. A lot of us who work really hard can sometimes relate to that. Jacob is everyman, or everywoman, he’s pure and I like that. Queenie’s glamourous and somehow worldly but innocent. They’re so great.’

David chose four actors to breathe life into these characters carefully, adoringly, and obsessively.

‘It was like putting a rock band together. We saw so many people. We got Eddie, he was our anchor and I knew once we’d got him, we had to build the world around him. The other characters in this world had to react to him, they had to have a chemical reaction with Eddie. So we went to New York and saw some really fine actors, a lot of them, over two or three days, one after the other in the same room, all of them with Eddie.

‘Eddie has done certain scenes from this movie so many times with so many different actors. When he was with Katherine, there was just something. It was amazing and I just thought, it’s got to be Katherine. It’s got to be. Then with Dan... Eddie and Dan are like Laurel and Hardy, so it had to be him. It’s funny, how they just clicked.’

And with that, David has to run off into the night to direct the next scene. I wipe my phone, spin on the heel of my boot and scurry off set, because if there’s one thing on this set more terrifying than a Lethifold, it’s accidentally being in shot.

Now available
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – The Original Screenplay