Ever met a Niffler?
Eddie Redmayne has, and he learned one of the magical animal’s secrets from an earthly anteater.
The Oscar winner grabs a wand in J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (in theaters nationwide Friday, with preview screenings Thursday night) and took his Muggle self to a wildlife park in England to prepare to play a magizoologist.
“There was this anteater that had just been born, and people were trying to feed her and she kept scrunching herself into a ball. The way they would make her uncurl was to tickle her belly,” says Redmayne, 34, whose floppy-haired wizard surreptitiously transports magical animals to the USA inside a bottomless travel case.
On screen, the actor copies that trick to relieve an adorable, kleptomaniac creature called the Niffler of its horde of pocketed gems in Fantastic Beasts, a Harry Potter spinoff that meets Newt Scamander as he disembarks from a ship in New York City, 70 years before Potter’s story starts.
Let’s start with the basics: In Fantastic Beasts, set in America circa 1926, the non-magical sort are called No-Majs instead of Muggles, and this era is plagued not by Voldemort but by the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, who has vanished after terrorizing half of Europe.
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It sure has taken a long time for Eddie Redmayne to get the filmmakers behind the “Harry Potter” movies under his spell.
More than a decade before he was cast as the lead in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a Potter prequel opening Friday, the actor had desperately tried to apparate into the franchise as a college student. But that role disappeared in a puff of disappointment.
“Years and years ago when I was at university, before I started acting seriously, I had gotten an audition for Tom Riddle (in 2002’s ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’),” the Oscar winner recalled to the Daily News.
“I met like the eighth assistant’s assistant’s casting director and I think I got through three lines before being asked to leave.”
But the saga remained in Redmayne’s blood — literally. He had discovered J.K. Rowling’s novels from his younger brother Thomas and his older brother Charles ran the fan website Potterverse.
But it wasn’t his brothers who flipped out the most when he finally landed a role.
“The most excited person in my family was my grandmother,” said Redmayne, who used to visit her in Edinburgh, Scotland. “When I was cast as Newt, she screamed, ‘I always knew you’d play a wizard! ‘ ”
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When he was nine years old, maybe 10, a small, freckly, flame-haired Eddie Redmayne auditioned to be in the West End production of the Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun. Acting was a new thing for him and before the casting call he found himself dreaming – both figuratively and literally – about winning a part. He’d be in the West End! He’d get to wag school! But then, on the day, a reality dawned somewhat murkier. Around 700 children turned up. Many wore Sylvia Young Theatre School T-shirts, and danced and sang precociously behind the scenes. Each child was given a tag, walked on stage and either sang or spoke a single line. When everyone was done, a list of names was called.
“It was a meat market for children,” Redmayne recalls, wide-eyed. “It almost felt like a forerunner for The X Factor or something. So I sang my one line and was promptly sent home.” He giggles, fidgets: “I remember it being properly scarring!”
The story is 25 years old, but the memory is vivid. Redmayne, now 34, brings it up when I ask him if he expected, on the night itself, to win the 2015 Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. “I had let my mind fantasise before and it was cut so bluntly short,” he explains. “I’ve never actually spoken about it, but I wonder if, over years of doing auditions, I’ve stopped myself allowing to believe the dream.
“Even in the run-up to the Oscars” – he whispers those last two words like he’s faintly embarrassed to be overheard – “it’s a horse race, and I knew I was in the running, but I’d not allowed myself to believe that it could happen. And also I thought Michael Keaton was formidable and I loved that film [Birdman].”
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Who said spinoffs have to look and feel like the properties that inspired them? Although Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them will soon take us back into the wizard world created in by J.K. Rowling, the film already looks noticeably different than anything seen in the Harry Potter franchise. According to Eddie Redmayne, there’s a reason for that aesthetic difference, and it’s firmly rooted in the films 1920s setting. He explained:
The first thing that’s different is it’s set in the 1920s, and it’s set in New York. And it’s this amazing age of the Jazz Age and Prohibition, and there’s a kind of vibrancy to that place at that time. But also there are rumblings of this huge war of good versus evil going on. And this Englishman, this English wizard, arrives in New York, and the beasts getting out sort of sets into motion a whole load of things. There’s that kind of epic J.K. Rowling start of a massive battle thing going on.
Eddie Redmayne opened up regarding the upcoming release of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them to EW at PopFest in Los Angeles, and addressed how the film sets itself apart from the Harry Potter franchise. In his own opinion, Fantastic Beasts really stands on its own merit because the setting and aesthetic of this new corner of the wizard world is so fundamentally different from what we’ve seen before. The film leans heavily into the trappings of the Jazz Age, and really embraces the classic visual elements of the era. In simple terms: it’s a stylish setting that harbors a classic battle between good and evil.
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J.K. Rowling shared the news in front of a worldwide audience of fans.
There’s a lot more Fantastic Beasts coming.
Harry Potter creator and Fantastic Beasts screenwriter J.K. Rowling made a surprise announcement Thursday that she has finished the plot for five films in the Fantastic Beast franchise, expanding it from the trilogy it was originally announced as. She later said that she will be the screenwriter for all five installments.
The announcement came as Harry Potter fans got a sneak peek of footage from the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them during a global event. The event, hosted by several theaters around the U.S. and London, featured new footage from the film, and a live Q&A with stars Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Colin Farrell and Jon Voight as well as director David Yates.
The film, set to hit theaters via Warner Bros. on Nov. 18, stars Redmayne as Newt Scamander, who finds and documents an extraordinary array of magical creatures. He arrives in New York, where he misplaces the magical case housing his creatures. The escape of some of Newt’s fantastic beasts could spell trouble for both the wizarding and muggle worlds. In Potter lore, Scamander’s book is eventually used in Harry Potter’s studies at Hogwarts.
In addition to Rowling’s big announcement, audiences at the event also got to see the first 10 minutes of the film and heard some tidbits about the sequel.
One burning question saw Yates asked about the reference to Dumbledore in the movie, as the fan-favorite character would have been alive during this time period.
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He plays Magizoologist Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but what is actor Eddie Redmayne’s favourite magical creature?
Newt Scamanader tracks, studies, protects and writes about the magical creatures of the wizarding world.
He travels alone, and when we meet him at the beginning of Fantastic Beasts he’s been out in the field for about a year. Newt’s whole life has become about his affinity with these creatures.
Actor Eddie Redmayne worked particularly hard on making his interactions with all the beasts in this film believable, moving and real. Like Newt, he knows he shouldn’t have favourites but he does.
At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, Eddie confessed that his personal favourite is Pickett the Bowtruckle.
During the filming of Fantastic Beasts, Eddie told me a little more about his top three beasts and he seemed genuinely attached to them.
‘It’s really difficult because I fall in love with different ones every day,’ he said. ‘Pickett is my favourite. Pickett I adore because he’s clingy and he’s got attachment issues but I also love that he’s so spindly and stick-insecty. You almost can’t see his face but he reacts through his movement.’
Eddie told me that his relationship with the Niffler was a little more complex. ‘I have a wondrous love-hate relationship with the Niffler. I think that Newt really actually adores his ballsiness.
‘The other one I love is the Demiguise.’ In fact, Eddie told me that the Demiguise appears in one of his favourite moments from the film, but we don’t want to reveal that just yet.
We can’t wait for you to get to know these creatures like Eddie has. [Source]
Eddie Redmayne has some big shoes to fill as the face of the next installment in the Harry Potter franchise. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, if it does well, could launch another series of movies (and let’s be real, with fans as ravenous as Potterheads, there’s no way this movie is going to flop).
Today Collider published an in-depth interview with the star himself in which he opened up about what it was like to be part of such a huge story, his character Newt Scamander, how Fantastic Beasts differs from the rest of the Potter universe, and what it was like to work alongside completely computer-generated characters. The whole interview is worth a read, but here are some highlights:
On being a Brit on American soil:
here are Americanisms and Newt is an Englishman in New York in the 1920s. He’s been in the field for a year. And so suddenly, he arrives in New York and everything is so huge. I remember the first time I went to New York when I was about eight or nine and staying at this hotel and just opening the window and just seeing Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in front of you and then just these buildings flying up and being kind of totally overwhelmed by it. There were things I related to, certainly, in this sort of American-British thing.
On working opposite computer-generated co-stars:
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Anticipation continues to mount for the November premiere of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne’s turn as the legendary magizoologist Newt Scamander. It’s a lot of pressure on one actor, with a rabid global fandom chomping at the bit — and, perfectionist that he is, Redmayne revealed he did have a main concern going into filming.
“My fear was doing a lot of green screen, because I have quite a dodgy imagination,” Redmayne told the New York Times. (For non-Anglophiles: “dodgy” translates as “unreliable.”)
To get around this small personal flaw, Redmayne even asked an animator to get into character as one of the creatures and act out the beast’s mannerisms on set, all so that Redmayne could really get a feel for the CGI character and perform at his best in the face of a blank green screen.
Redmayne also shared some inside information on a few of the creatures we’ll find in the movie, including what they look like (bowtruckles appear as a kind of cousin to the classic stick insect) and have distinctive mannerisms. (Hint: for Harry Potter know-it-alls: nifflers can be subdued with some tummy tickling.)
Clearly, the Beasts team knows its audience won’t stand for anything other than absolute attention to detail. [Source]
Eddie Redmayne knows how to please a crowd.
Thousands of “Harry Potter” fans gathered in Hall H during San Diego Comic-Con to catch a glimpse of the actor, who plays Newt Scamander in the upcoming “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” and boy, did he deliver the goods.
After he was introduced by Conan O’Brien, the Oscar winner ran into the crowd and handed out wands to everyone there. According to BuzzFeed, Hall H holds about 6,500 people. That’s a lot of wands. The actor did have a little help, though.
Naturally, the crowd was loving it. I mean, who wouldn’t love getting a free wand from the one and only Newt Scamander? We bet they were really magic, too.
As if that weren’t enough, Redmayne led the crowd in casting a “Lumos Maxima!” spell to turn all the lights on, and premiered a new trailer for the “Harry Potter” spinoff movie. The one thing he didn’t do was provide any info about potential Easter eggs in the film. We can’t have everything. [Source]
Eddie Redmayne is Prada’s latest campaign face. The Italian brand rolled out its ad campaign for the fall men’s wear collection, shot by Craig McDean and featuring the Oscar-winning actor, via Instagram on Monday morning.
Redmayne won the Academy Award in 2015 for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” He was nominated this year for his leading role in “The Danish Girl.”
Prada has a preference for featuring a mix of both up-and-coming talent and established, of-the-moment actors. Last summer the company’s men’s wear ads included Tye Sheridan and Michael Shannon; this spring saw Matthew Beard, Billy Howle and Logan Lerman in its campaigns. Prada has previously cast Ethan Hawke, Ansel Elgort, Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe, Jack O’Connell and Miles Teller. [Source]