‘Fantastic Beasts 2’: Eddie Redmayne on Leta, Baby Nifflers, and Newt’s Dark Side
Last year, Warner Brothers invited a group of journalists to the London set of Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Production was just getting off the ground, but we were able to see some truly spectacular sets (more on that here). We were also fortunate enough to speak with some of the mega-talent behind the franchise, including producer David Heyman, director David Yates, costume designer and living legend Colleen Atwood, supervising art director Martin Foley, as well as stars Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, and Callum Turner (a new face to the franchise who plays Newt’s older brother Theseus). They all gave us really interesting perspectives on the sequel, its connections to Harry Potter, and what they learned from the first movie. And whatever they couldn’t reveal specifically they made up for in charm.
Below, Redmayne talks about Newt’s evolution in the second film, what new creatures he will encounter this time, how he gets involved with the Dumbledore vs Grindelwald battle, and what his daughter had in common with baby Nifflers (plus, he joked with us that all he wanted to talk about were spoilers):
Question: So what are you allowed to talk about?
EDDIE REDMAYNE: What am I allowed to say? I am allowed to say that Jude Law is in this movie. It’s wonderful.
So yeah, in the first film, you sort of saw reference or references made to a couple of characters, one of which was Dumbledore, and Newt’s relationship with Dumbledore. And the other was Leta Lestrange. And one of the things that most excited me about this script is seeing how those two characters, along with my brother, Theseus, played by Callum Turner, how they come into the world. And really this new world of Fantastic Beasts is aligned and kind of joined into the Potter lore that we all know about. It’s an odd thing when you get involved in a film and you read an original script, but you don’t know where your character’s going or what’s coming with it. And it was properly exhilarating to get to see the new script and to … I suppose almost from a fan’s point of view, you’ll see where Jo has taken us.
Have you shared scenes with Jude Law already?
REDMAYNE: I have, yeah. We have. And it’s really wonderful. I’ve known Jude for many years socially and admired his work, and when we got to play, it was really playful. And he has that sort of twinkle in his eye that Dumbledore always [has], that was, I think, so important in the depictions of Dumbledore in the films, and certainly was really important to J.K. Rowling. And I also, I don’t know about you, but I find that thing with influential teachers at school, you know, when you then grow up and you sort of see them as human beings. Uhm.. it’s a bit like that parent thing, when they are fallible, but you always have that sort of odd dynamic. But I think they have quite a special relationship. So yeah. It’s been fun.
How’s the dynamic with your onscreen brother?
REDMAYNE: It’s wonderful. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most is working with Callum [Turner]. I was sort of watching War and Peace, I don’t know if you guys saw that, which he was in. My wife and I were watching and he turned up on screen and literally, both Hannah and I [said] that’s like a taller, darker, better-looking version of me. [Laughter] So when David was auditioning people for that part and then he’s, like, “I want you to test with this actor,” and Callum walked in, I was, like, holy shit.[Laughter]
But he’s been really fantastic. And you know, talking to Jo, how Jo had written Callum’s character in this film, versus how he’s mined that material, I think has changed her opinion of where she might take him. And that’s so exciting for us, when she has a plan of what the big major arc is, but she absolutely, when she comes to set, talks about responding to different actors’ takes on different characters and how that then shifts her opinion. So it’s lovely to feel like you’re an active part of something, you know.
Speaking of relationships, we heard from one of the art directors that you and Tina had a bit of falling out. Can you talk about what happened?
REDMAYNE: It’s not so much a falling out as a misunderstanding. [Laughs] You know, at the end of the last film, Newt was going home to write his book, but was desperate to come back. And when you meet him at the top of this film, he’s still desperate to come back. Through various miscommunications, there’s been a misunderstanding, and one of the lovely things is the way in which these guys come back together. It’s typical for Tina and Newt with a lot of inability to communicate what they really feel. But it’s been so wonderful playing with Katherine.
We also heard that Newt’s assistant has an unrequited love for him, and I feel like as a fan, you’re always rooting for the unrequited love to become requited. Will that be a challenge for fans?
REDMAYNE: It’s this absolutely — she’s this wonderful character called Bunty, and she only has a scene or two in the film and it’s really … she was a fan.
So in the last film, we– there was sort of a buddy comedy element to it.
How much of that are we going to see here?
REDMAYNE:The action ends up in Paris, it’s where the major part of the film takes place. And there is a point in the movie where Jacob and Newt meet up and it’s quite clear they have to go on an adventure to Paris. And so there’s that element, and Dan’s genius, which was one of the things I enjoyed most about the first film, how Jo had written Jacob, but then Dan taking it to another level through improvising and playing. There’s so much of that and I love it because, he always described it as sort of this Laurel and Hardy style kind of relationship. But it was unlike anything I’d ever had to play, and it’s been really wonderful.
It looks like there’s a lot of action in this new for sure. I mean, going into this one, compared to the last one, do you find it more of a challenge with that increasing amount of physicality, or the emotional beats you’ve had to play?
REDMAYNE:I think the interesting thing is that this film … you really get inside the psychology of the characters more, and it’s a darker place. You can sort of get a sense of what’s coming historically in the Muggle world at the time, and certainly the wizarding world. There are elements that are reflecting that and with the rise of Grindelwald and this sort of greater evil. The stakes are higher. And I would say it’s interesting when you’ve done a film and the world’s responded to it. The first time I’ve ever done that, and one of the questions I said to to David, the director, and Jo, is now we’re into the next film with Newt. Where should we take him? And they wanted to dig deeper into what David describes as naughtiness. Like his confidence in his own capabilities, his lack of confidence with other people, his kind hard and prickly nature. Like to stand up for what he believes in. And it doesn’t make him easy, and it’s a wonderful challenge for me, that. And it’s been lovely for them to go no, no, no. I want you to take it more into that place.
Can you talk a bit about your role and Newt’s role in the Dumbledore-Grindelwald face-off?
I think some people might have feared that he’d be a bit marginalized. You know, once you introduce these two big personalities, it becomes about them. I’m curious how Newt fits in.
REDMAYNE: I feel like Newt’s skillset is quite unique, and I don’t just mean with beasts, I mean with empathy. His capacity to see broken people and to reach out to broken people is a skillset which is pretty unique. And it’s one of the things that Dumbledore has always, since he was a kid, seen in Newt. And the complexity of … if it is building to a showdown between these two, [Jo has] created a scenario that’s not as simple as the two can just face off. And actually, Dumbledore needs to recruit the skillset of Newt to help.
We saw some of the concepts for the set of Newt’s basement that he’s created. We’re going to see some more beasts, I assume. Is he going to have some new sort of little beastly companions in this movie?
Maybe new creatures introduced?
REDMAYNE: There are new creatures. There are also old creatures. [Laughs] There are baby Nifflers! It’s probably been my favorite scene to shoot so far, the baby Nifflers. They’re just causing havoc and it coincided with the time that I have a — I now have a 15-month-old child — and the baby Nifflers retain many of the qualities [Laughs] of my 15-month-old. What’s lovely is Pickett and the Niffler and the babies have returned along with new creatures. And they’re as unique and useful and dangerous and exciting, if not more so than the first. So it’s been wonderful. That side of it for me … it’s so lovely because you have all this viz effects department who are sort of actors in themselves, coming up with ideas. You then have Jo’s book and how she imagined them. You then have Stuart [Craig] and, you know, designing … it’s such a collaboration of different spirits. So I’ve really enjoyed that side.
What was your first reaction when you read the script?
REDMAYNE: It has such an intricacy to it. It has so many layers to it. And it has so many … how do I describe sort of … like jaw-dropping moments. If you’re a Potter fan. Basically, at the end, my jaw is on the floor [Laughs] and I then have to start and read it all over again. There are many new characters. They all have extraordinarily delicate and complicated arcs and so, I went straight back and started all over again. I find it absolutely thrilling.
Has Newt reached Gilderoy Lockhart status with the release of his book?
REDMAYNE: The first thing I saw of this script were the audition scenes for various parts. And it’s so funny because you get sent these scenes and all the characters’ names are changed. I found this out yesterday. They’re so top secret on this set that the costume department, when they break down, like, the characters and what their clothes are the whole way through, they’re not allowed to write the names of the characters. So Newt is Good Guy. [Laughter] Tina is Turner, after Tina Turner. Dumbledore is Very Good Guy.
The first I see of anything to do with the next story, other than the little bits that occasionally Jo would talk about if she came to set, is reading the audition scenes all the characters have got different names and I’m sort of trying to piece it together. The reason I’m telling you this was– what was the question?
Has he reached Gilderoy Lockhart–
REDMAYNE: Oh, yeah. So– and there was a scene that was, because his book has come out at the beginning, it was him trying to deal with fame, basically. [Laughs] With all these sort of, like, screaming girls.
Which he was totally struggling with. That scene didn’t end up in the script, but you definitely get a sense that he has … he has a line that he’s not that thrilled with the fact that the response has been so huge, because it’s had ramifications on how wizards are treating creatures.
Is he still really fighting for animal advocacy?
REDMAYNE: Yeah. I mean, he certainly is in his mind. It’s always going to be his passion, but I would say in this film that he gets pulled … not sort of away from his creatures, there is still that element, but it’s less about the advocacy.
The did tell us that they cast a young Newt, for the Hogwarts flashbacks. Have you worked with that actor at all?
REDMAYNE: Yeah. We had a really wonderful day of just … it’s interesting, I haven’t worked with a younger actor in that way, and it was very interesting because David said he had found this guy and he was completely wonderful. And so he wanted me to spend some time with him, but also, David had found him in the audition tapes, it’s like instinct he had, which he didn’t want, rightly, touched. So it was sort of this weird thing where I just didn’t want to screw it up, basically.
But what was so interesting is he’d really watched the first movie and so we spent a day just talking about the character. And he had the gait and the sort of the aversion to eye contact, and understanding the elements to Newt … he was on it, I didn’t talk about it. And it was interesting hearing what his take on Newt was. So– yeah.
Are there any new charms, or spells from the previous film?
REDMAYNE: Are there any more charms and spells? There are a few. There are a few. Not ones that I can name, but quite often, charms and spells will come as a consequence within a sequence, something being needed. Do you see what I mean? Like, something physical needing … that will come from a spell, but we’re, like, oh, does a spell for that exist? And then, about 20 people run off into the Harry Potter encyclopedias, coming back with, “well, it could be …” and then, we sort of hear from Jo which one we’re allowed to use. So there are, yeah.
Is the wizarding book visible to the Muggle world or is it only seen by the wizarding world?
REDMAYNE: I think it’s only seen by … that’s a very good question. [Laughs] And I’m going to try and sound really confident. So it’s generally the wizarding world, but I think in his prologue, he writes a whole piece about how–
So you’re a rock star to only the wizarding world?
REDMAYNE: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. I love the idea of the rock star.
Which one of the magical creatures would you want to live at your house, to take home with you today? Which would you want?
REDMAYNE: Uhhh …
Baby nifflers. Come on.
REDMAYNE: I mean, we were asked this a lot in the press for the last one, and the reality is Pickett, just because he has this sort of …and the Niffler — I adore– God, he’s hard work. And the little ones aren’t much-easier. [Laughs] So I think … it’s definitely a love-hate relationship with the Nifflers.
Can I just ask about the relationship side of Newt’s life? Because obviously he and Tina are going to get married one day. And then there’s Leta Lestrange, and now there’s Bunty. It’s a love quadrangle. I don’t quite know what’s — what is it with Newt? What’s his secret with the ladies?
REDMAYNE: Firstly, I think it’s his unawareness. And secondly, I think it’s his passion. Like, I always find that when someone is passionate about anything, it’s always an attractive quality. And particularly when it’s not in need of approval. I think that he has a very large heart. I think he, as we were talking before, I think he has great empathy, yeah.
Speaking of the book that we were just discussing, in Dumbledore’s forward, it says that Newt wrote this book after graduating from Hogwarts. And so, I notice, obviously, that Newt has his wand. It wasn’t snapped in half like Hagrid’s was. So was that expulsion added in for the movie? Because this is from the original book from years and years ago.
REDMAYNE: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s a Jo question. [Laughter] You know, when I first read the script, I didn’t go and — because this book was written, and then Jo wrote the scripts after them — I didn’t go and try and tie every minutiae of one to the other. But what was really interesting, I did the audio book of that, of Fantastic Beasts, and Jo had rewritten the prologue after it and added some new creatures. And it was really interesting seeing whether my version of Newt’s voice fit with the language. And I enjoyed it, actually. It was quite– it was actually quite helpful for their second one.
How much input do you have on the story level with Jo? Are you able to sit down with her before she starts writing and be, like, these are the things that are coming the pike? Or–
REDMAYNE: No. In the sense that, I mean, I got the script. I got an early draft of the scrip and was then asked by David and, you know, for input in it. I think she is the most formidable mind and imagination, frankly, I wouldn’t want to interfere in that creativity. But what is extraordinary is that she allows you ownership of the characters once they’re there. And so, if you go within a scene that’s written, going, “oh, maybe he would do this here or can I add this?” Then, she’s incredibly free at allowing that and playing within that. And so it definitely feels like one of the most creative sets I’ve ever been on at allowing us freedom to investigate and–
How does that work? Since Jo’s not on set every day, is it a case of she just lets you get on with it and, obviously, you work with David Yates to create those fluctuations?
Or is it you kind of get it signed off?
REDMAYNE: So I read the script, like I did on the last film, and there are various set piece aspects and trying to … like, there’s a tracking scene in the film in which some of, you know, Newt’s — those qualities that he had out in the field are sort of put to the test, and it was written by Jo. But then, how you manifest that physically; I basically had a week or two working with the dancer who I’d worked with before. And we investigated all the different ways, and spoke to trackers and stuff … that’s one thing, doing it for real, but actually, you’re in the wizarding world. So do the tracks become airborne? And what can you do with the wand to release things? So that part, I go off and investigate things. I then show them to David. David will then discuss them with Jo. And then, if there are little plot things or ideas, yeah. It’s normally through David. But Jo has been to set a few times.
Obviously, we’re introduced to Johnny Depp as Grindelwald at the very end of the last movie. I imagine he plays a bigger part this time around. So what it was like having him integrate with the established class?
REDMAYNE: I don’t know because he hasn’t started yet. He’s arriving, I think today, tomorrow, the next few days. So it’s been wonderful for me as I’ve done all the work — not all the work, but quite a lot of work — with Jude. And each time, one of the wonderful things is we …. I always hear actors when, they’re working on films in which you do several, talking about, like, the family quality and, “oh, we all get on so well.” But, like, it really was a wonderful core group of people on the last film who’ve returned. And what’s been so fantastic is each new person that comes into the film comes with their own sense of excitement. You know, seeing Jude on Day One with his wand going, “It’s cool.”
It’s so much fun, but everyone brings in a new energy and a new way of looking at the thing. And so that is what keeps us tested and pushing and so, I’m so excited for Johnny to come and do that again. Yeah. I got to do one scene with him last time, and it was so momentary and so top secret that- [Laughs] that yeah. So it’s exciting.