Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald: Exclusive interviews with Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, Jude Law and more!
As the story continues in the second adventure, Warner Bros Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, those threads become even more intertwined.
Two years ago, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them transported audiences back to the wizarding world that captured their hearts and ignited their imaginations. Set in America in the mid-1920s, the film enticed fans with just a few fleeting allusions to the Harry Potter stories: a brief mention that magi-zoologist Newt Scamander was kicked out of Hogwarts; that his only defender had been a certain Professor Albus Dumbledore; and the powerful dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, after wreaking havoc in Europe, had vanished. As the story continues in the second adventure, Warner Bros Pictures’ Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, those threads become even more intertwined. Directed by David Yates, the film has an ensemble cast of Johnny Depp, Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, and Claudia Kim.
Something old, something Newt
Reprising the role of Newt Scamander, Eddie Redmayne notes, “For the first movie, JK Rowling created four unique characters, all of whom were outsiders and struggling in their own way. It is only through the connections they develop with each other — through that symbiosis — that they thrive and find happiness and even love. But in the interim, through miscommunication and circumstance, things have shifted.” For all the actors, one of the most exciting aspects of coming back for the second film was that “the roots of this story are embedded in the Potterlore we all know and love,” says Redmayne. “The histories that were only touched on before are being torn open and explored. And the stakes are that much higher.”
Talking about why his character is so endearing, Redmayne says, “What I love about Newt is that he’s true to himself and not trying to please anyone else. His passion for creatures is uniquely his own, and he refuses to bow to other people’s notions of what normal should be. Newt has always taken his own route through life and though he can be empathetic, he doesn’t want to be pulled to anyone’s side. But because of what’s happening in the world and because the stakes are becoming so much higher, there may come a moment when he will have to choose a side. And, that’s a part of his journey.” This is, however, not Redmayne’s first swing at the Harry Potter franchise. He actually auditioned for the role of young Voldemort aka Tom Marvolo Riddle for the Harry Potter series. So, how hard was it to not get that role, but get the role of Newt? “Yeah, thanks for bringing up the painful elephant in the room (laughs). Honestly? I was at university at the time that they were starting to make those films. And they were doing a full-on search of the world for the role of young Voldemort. So, this was an audition that came to the university. I walked in to the room. I think I said three lines and then was asked to leave. So, it wasn’t like I had much of a chance.” Keeping up the friendly banter, Redmayne and Jude Law were later commiserating with each other about how basically every British actor in the world ever appears to have been in the Harry Potter movies at some point, but they never got the invite. “Now we feel like we lucked out, by playing the long game (laughs),” says Redmayne. And, of all of the fantastic beasts in the films, which beast does Redmayne think is most like him in real life? “That’s a much more interesting question than what we normally answer, which is our favourite... I think I’m probably most like Pickett (the Bowtruckle), a bit needy.”
The life & lies of Albus
The links to Potter are immediately evident as, near the start of the film, Newt is mysteriously summoned by his former professor, now mentor and friend, Albus Dumbledore. Taking on the role of the beloved character, Jude is quick to clarify, “This is the Dumbledore who is not yet the great Headmaster at Hogwarts. He is closer to the formative, and more traumatic experiences in his life that perhaps colour him. What was especially interesting for me — and for us, as a team — was to try and layer in foundation points, which keep him closely related to the Dumbledore we know, but with room to grow and learn, and to make mistakes. The stories we’re telling will show the evolution of the character.”
Jude acknowledges that there were specific challenges to playing the “much-loved character.” He explains, “We knew it was key that we separate this Dumbledore from the one we’ve all known. He’s decades younger and still has a lot to experience… and a lot to learn. It was important to remind ourselves that while he is a gifted wizard and a good man, he is also a troubled man. He has secrets and he has flaws, just as we all do. I also love his cheekiness — his brilliance allows him to be somewhat anarchic and rebellious — and being able to layer in those complexities and nuances freed me up hugely. But most of what I did came down to really listening to JK Rowling, who was exceedingly generous with her time and insights. Her passion and tremendous sense of responsibility for her creation is infectious.” As she has with other cast members, Rowling entrusted Law with closely guarded details about his character, noting, “I thought it was important that, from the moment we see him on screen, Jude knows the burden Dumbledore is carrying. Because without that knowledge, he would be portraying someone who appears to be playing games with people’s lives, and that’s not who Dumbledore is, he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Rather, there is humour in the way he has a little fun. However bleak things get, he always has that slightly mischievous side, and Jude did a wonderful job conveying that.”
Black magic woman
Perhaps one of the most terrifying characters from the Harry Potter series is Nagini. The character in question has also been one of the most talked-about aspects of the film.Played by South Korean actress Claudia Kim, she actually worked with a contortionist to bring the physicality that was essential to be a snake. Was there a particular Easter egg or touchstone to the Potter stories that you completely geeked out over, we ask Claudia. “Yeah, for me it was reading about Hogwarts. Of course, there were so many surprises in the script that just kept me thinking, ‘Oh my God!’ Another one, and then another one? But really, playing Nagini… I’m scared of snakes, first of all. And, she was so scary in all the films. It was amazing to see that she has so many different sides to her. And her story’s only beginning.” Ask the same question to Ezra Miller, who plays Credence Barebone, a character who is also an Obscurial, and he says that Kim as Nagini was the crowning jewel of the film. “It’s fascinating even that we think, ‘Oh, Nagini, a snake who ate people…’ But if that snake was someone’s pet, even when we thought it was an animal, why are we ever judging Nagini? Why are we ever judging anyone starts to become a question in the Rowling-verse in such a great way? I think that Claudia illuminated that by making Nagini as we know her in this film.”
There is one figure from Dumbledore’s past who is inexorably tied to his evolution: Gellert Grindelwald. Arrested at the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Grindelwald proves his powers are not to be underestimated—escaping in dramatic, and lethal fashion. Johnny Depp, who returns as Grindelwald, adds, “There is a rhythm to the way Grindelwald speaks, a cadence that draws you in. Ultimately, what I felt about the character in terms of his presence is that it would be an exercise in stillness. I mean, his words are important, but what’s even more important with Grindelwald is the subtext of those words. It is the dialogue that’s silent — the meaning between the lines. It’s almost hypnotic.”Depp says he relished the opportunity to immerse himself in the title role. “I could not be more honoured to have been invited into this world by David Yates, David Heyman and JK Rowling. I felt thoroughly humbled to be thought of for anything in one of Rowling’s stories, because I admire her so much.” Director David Yates says Grindelwald is a very different type of villain from the evil Lord Voldemort.
“If you disagreed with Voldemort, he’d kill you in an instant. But Grindelwald is incredibly beguiling. He’d rather win people over to his side than annihilate them, and he is smart enough to understand you have to win hearts and minds, not coerce people, to gain their allegiance. So, whereas Voldemort was something of a thug, Grindelwald is a much more sophisticated player… and all the more dangerous for it.” Depp concurs. “His whole pitch is about harmony, but within his parameters — meaning, the only way to achieve that harmony is through wizarding world domination, and by understanding that there are people who are expendable. If they are in the way, then they must be dispatched. And he’s pretty calm about it,” he says with a smile. The director concludes, “These films are a privilege to work on. They bring together so many gifted artists and technicians from so many creative disciplines, with everyone combining their talents to create something special towards the goal of entertaining and moving people around the world.”
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is slated for release today.