Five years since Harry Potter last displayed his wizarding ways on the big screen his creator, J.K. Rowling, is back with another adventure. The new film is a Potter prequel following the adventures of Newt Scamander, author of the textbook Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (which also happens to be the name of this movie).
Starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, it takes place seventy years before Harry studied the text at Hogwarts, it focuses on Scamander’s adventures in 1920s New York City.
I spoke with the cast of Fantastic Beasts recently, asking them how Rowling and the Potter phenomenon touched them personally.
Alison Sudol plays free-spirited witch Queenie Goldstein: “I loved the wizarding world so much, from the get go, from the first page of the first book. I already loved The Chronicles of Narnia and Lewis Carroll and here was this world where there was an entirely parallel universe going on along side ours where all these insanely imaginative things were happening. It felt tangible and possible and real. It was such a beautiful place to inhabit in my imagination.”
Dan Fogler plays non-magical (or No-Maj) factory worker Jacob Kowalski: “I was a fan of Star Wars, the hero cycle, Joseph Campbell, fantasy, Dungeons and Dragons and all that. When I saw the [Potter] movies I thought, these really contain all of that and they also have that amazing coming of age feeling like you’re watching a John Hughes movie. All the incredibly personal stuff like when they did stuff like the Sorting Hats struck a chord for me. It reminded me of sleep-a-way camp when everyone found their own cliques.”
Ezra Miller is plays Credence Barebone, a mysterious member of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, a No-Maj anti-witchcraft group: “It’s hard for me to extricate JK Rowling and her work from any aspect of my life from the time I was seven. I think she gave to those of us who partook of her work as young people; those who have these natural gifts, a sense of justice and morality, of wonder and of imagination. A lot of us lose these gifts as we grow old and you look around and adults are boring, tired, jaded and disillusioned but I personally feel JK Rowling gave us a means by which to portage those inherent gifts of childhood over the wilderness and into our adult lives.”
Katherine Waterston plays Porpentina Goldstein, witch and former Auror for the Magical Congress of the United States of America: “I really identified with [Rowling’s] passion and commitment when I was in my twenties and was a struggling actor. You think of those people and have them in your mind as a mantra to keep you going. Not that one day you may have their success but that it is valid to pursue your creative impulses regardless of the outcome.”
Eddie Redmayne plays Newt” Scamander, Magizoologist and author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: “I started watching the films when they came out and for me it was this incredibly warm, wondrous place to go back to every year or two and it felt familiar and new and I got to see some of my favourite actors doing extraordinary work. It became a consistent comfort.”