David Heyman and David Yates “Fantastic Beasts” Interviews

Transcribed by Lisa Cohan and Sacha Huynen

Female interviewer 1: There are going to be multiple films, right? So without giving too much away, this film gave a lot of answers, but it also gave a lot of questions, so in the future, do you know what answers we have coming already?

David Yates: Jo has got a good sense of where it’s all going. She started writing the first screenplay, and at that point, it was just going to be a trilogy, and then about halfway through writing the second film, she suddenly got really excited and decided it was going to be five.

[Everybody laughs]

David Yates: And she did picture a very rough shape of where it was all going, but she’s still formulating it. But it’s all bubbling away inside her head, so she has a good idea. The specifics she’s fine-tuning, I guess. But questions are good. In a long-form narrative, I think questions are important. Question marks are important, I think, because they’re what makes you want to see what happens next. So there are question marks along the way. But in the second movie, Dumbledore comes back. He’s got a couple of good scenes with Newt in the second movie.

Kat Miller: Fantastic.

[Everybody laughs]

Kat: So you’re casting him now, right?

David Yates: Well, we were discussing who would play Dumbledore.

Male interviewer 1: Any thoughts?

David Yates: Yeah, any suggestions would be good. Jared Harris?

Female interviewer 1: Jared Harris.

David Yates: We will talk about Jared.

David Heyman: Have you seen him in…? He’s really good in The Crown.

Female interviewer 2: One question, though. It will not be Michael Gambon? We’ve had so many people go “Is it Michael Gambon?”

David Yates: No, it’s not Michael Gambon. No, we need a younger Dumbledore.

Female interviewer 1: Could be, in terms of persona, more of a Richard Harris type.

David Yates: Yeah, Jared Harris is a fine actor. So anyway, we’re bashing around ideas, so any recommendations?

Female interviewer 2: Somebody tall and thin.

Female interviewer 1: Yeah, tall and thin.

Female interviewer 2: Domnhall Gleeson would have been great, but he’s already Bill. I have to ask: Johnny Depp, how did that go about? Just casting him, bringing him into the series? And when did he come?

David Yates: Gosh, when did we shoot Johnny?

David Heyman: I said January, but I don’t think that’s right. I think…

David Yates: It was early. It was early, wasn’t it? I think it was January.

David Heyman: It was completely bonkers. We were convinced… you can keep very few secrets nowadays, and especially something like that, when he came to Leavesden, and we filmed in Leavesden for… he was there for two days, prepping and all that. And it didn’t come out, and it was mad.

David Yates: Everyone was sworn to secrecy.

David Heyman: But people tend to break their promises.

David Yates: The whole principle of casting the movie was to go for the best actor, go for the most inspired, interesting, right fit for that character, and as we started to approach Grindelwald we thought, “Who is going to take this in an interesting direction?” Wherever the star is… in this business, it’s a weird old business. You are brilliant one week, people are saying other things the next, but no one takes away your pure talent. And Johnny Depp is a real artist, and he has created several characters who have really resonated in our popular culture. He’s a really brilliant, brilliant actor. And we were excited about seeing what he would do with this character. He’s fearless, he’s imaginative, he’s ambitious, and we thought he would do something fun and special. So we went for him purely on that basis, that selfish basis. We don’t care if he’s famous or not famous. We just know he’s interesting.

David Heyman: And Grindelwald is an iconic character, so I think it was important to have someone who…

David Yates: … got that weight.

David Heyman: … got that weight. And that’s the reason why he has that weight, is because he is a fine actor who does, I think, make unexpected choices.

Female interviewer 2: How did you approach him? Did you call him up, or how did that go about? Actually getting him.

David Yates: Well, the usual thing is, our casting director, Fiona, will phone up his agent and say, “Look, would Johnny be interested in talking about this character?” And he was. Actually, the great thing about making these movies, honestly, is ultimately, generally, most people we approach, actors-wise… when you’re setting up a movie, any movie, it’s always a struggle. You have to get through the door, and you have to get the script in there, and you have to do a bit of a wooing game to get who you want. With both Potter and Fantastic Beasts, it was amazing. You say, “Well, we’re making this movie with J.K. Rowling. She’s writing it. And would you…?” “Yeah!”

[Everyone laughs]

David Yates: “Do you want to see a script?” “Oh, yeah, okay.”

[Everyone laughs]

David Yates: So generally, it doesn’t work that way with everybody. There are some people who are a bit more elusive, but generally, people are very intrigued about this world and about where it can go, and it makes the whole casting process easy.

David Heyman: We had one choice for Newt that was Eddie, and he said yes.

David Yates: He said yes.

Kat: Good choice. We like Eddie.

David Yates: Excellent. Good.

David Heyman: We do, too.

Female interviewer 1: The films are Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them. So are the beasts themselves going to take a step back in the coming four films and Grindelwald is going to take center stage? Or how are they going to…? Are they just going to be the transitional pieces?

David Yates: Currently, the beasts [are] feature[d] slightly less in the second movie, and Grindelwald takes more of a foreground, currently. But we love the beasts so much. There is an amazing beast in the second movie. A Chinese beast, actually, which [is] feature[d]. And we’re just exploring how we can get a couple [of] more beasts into the second film because we enjoy them.

David Heyman: But I think beasts, in a way, is a… there are the creatures that are in the case, but there’s also the beast within each of us. Isn’t that what happens with Credence? When his essence is repressed, a form of beast is unleashed, and it’s… I think the beasts will continue to play a part in subsequent films. Also, it’s so much a part of what Jo writes about, which is that consequences of repression.

Female interviewer 1: Are you going to be directing all five?

David Yates: We make them one at a time, so…

[Everyone laughs]

David Yates: I love working with Jo and David and Steve.

David Heyman: [whispers] He had to say that.

[Everyone laughs]

David Yates: It’s a pleasure, so I’m certainly making the next one. We’ll just take it one movie at a time.

Female interviewer 2: The world is an imaginary world. Was there any particular point that directing or producing it stood out or it was more of an adventure for you because you did not have everything in front of you while you were having to create these scenes?

David Yates: I mean, obviously, we had the screenplay, which is so significant. What was lovely about making Beasts compared to making Potter is that we weren’t adapting a previous work. We weren’t abridging and changing. It was all purely from Jo’s head straight onto the page, of the script straight into the cinema. And there’s something really exciting about that, that you’re not having… Everybody takes ownership of those books. We all do. When you read that book, you have your favorite chapters and your favorite characters, and it’s heartbreaking when you lose something. And so when you adapt something, it’s always the echo of something in a strange way. It can never be as kinetic or as immersive as what you first experienced when you opened that page. But with a movie, it’s different. It’s a different form. And Jo gave us a terrific script, which we developed over a period of a year or so. And there’s something really fresher about going straight into the cinema with it.

David Heyman: In terms of inventing a world, I mean, in terms of the design and things like that, I think we have approached everything with Stuart Craig and our production designer and Colleen Atwood, our costume designer on this, or Jany, the costume designer on six of the Potters as though it’s real. And it’s not about… we are creating a fantasy world. We’re taking a world that’s like the real world and then doing this. So it is just tweaks. So there’s this whole architectural veracity about it. It’s not just wild imagination without grounding. And that was David’s approach with the beasts themselves. He wanted those beasts to be rooted in the real world because the real world is as extraordinary as anything you could invent. And using that as the foundation, we brought our animation supervisor into the design process because we wanted the language of the design to lead to movement that was organic and possible as opposed to being purely fantastical. And so we try [to] root everything. Everything is grounded.

Male interviewer 2: Every script has to be chopped down at some point, so with this movie, there’s so much in there. Was there anything that was less expanded or deleted that we’ll see down the road once the DVD comes out?

David Heyman: Yes, yeah.

[Everyone laughs]

Female interviewer 3: We were talking last night about how much of the TV clips’ scenes didn’t actually get into the film.

David Yates: Yeah. Because we finished the movie three weeks ago, so…

[Everyone laughs]

Female interviewer 3: Wow.

David Yates: Literally, some things came out at the last minute. There’s a lovely scene where Jacob is dropped by his girlfriend; his girlfriend leaves him. That’s a really beautiful scene, and that will be on the DVD extras.

David Heyman: There’s quite a lot. There’s quite a lot, isn’t there?

David Yates: It’s amazing. And individually, all the scenes work really well on their own. When you watch them… I was watching them with Mark, my editor, the other week, and I thought, “Why did we take that out? It’s great!”

[Everyone laughs]

David Yates: And then, of course, in context, it doesn’t quite hold its own. It doesn’t have this bite or the momentum that you need. But yeah, we lost that lovely scene.

David Heyman: In some ways I think we’ve got more deleted scenes on this than we had on any of the Potters.

Female interviewer 3: I was going to say, “Because you’re selling T-shirts with ‘I want to be a wizard’ on them, and then that wasn’t in there.”

[Everyone laughs]

David Yates: There’s a great scene. Alison and Katherine… they do a little song about their old school…

Heyman and Yates: They do the Ilvermorny song.

David Yates: … and I got Alison to write it. Because Alison is a really gifted songwriter. So she wrote this absolutely beautiful song, and they stand up there, and they sing it together. And the boys watch. And as the boys are watching, then they slowly fall in love.

[Everyone laughs]

David Yates: And it’s really beautiful, and frankly, it’s my favorite scene in the entire movie. But the momentum of the storytelling at that point was starting to drag a little bit, and you just thought, “Aww, as delightful as it was, it just stopped the movie.” But it will be on the DVD extras. And it is so charming.

David Heyman: Yeah, it’s a really nice.

David Yates: It’s a really beautiful little scene.

Female interviewer 4: What do you love about being storytellers?

David Yates: For the cinema, what I love is, you sit in a room with 500 strangers, and you watch something, and if it’s compelling and interesting enough, what you do is, you end up sharing what it is to be alive. You share emotion, you share scary stuff, you share… and you share it with strangers; that’s the really intriguing thing. And when you laugh together with 500 people or when you’re moved in a moment with 500 people, whom you may never see again other than in that theater, you’re sharing what it is to be a human being. And it crosses languages, cultural barriers… it crosses all of that, and it tells us what it is to be alive together. And for me, it’s a wonderful reminder that we’re all the same underneath. We might be different, we might come from different backgrounds, we might have different political agendas, but ultimately, people are people together, [who] share a common experience of living and life. And that’s what I love about the cinema. It’s a communal experience.

Female interviewer 5: With film, or a production – even theater in general – it’s said that no matter what the story is about or what you’re watching, you want something that’s to be pertinent to what’s going on right now; it has to be important to what’s going on right now. So I noticed with this film, obviously, endangered species, there’s corruption in the police department, there’s corruption in the government… were all of those layers to this film that speak to a more adult generation intentional?

David Yates: Yes, because you never make anything in a vacuum. When Jo is writing the screenplay, she’s tuned into the world, she’s curious, she has… we all are. Every day you get up, you go to work. We’re building sets, we’re creating, designing creatures, we’re doing script revisions. But every day, we read the newspapers, we talk to our friends, we see the shifts and eddies in the world around us, and they inevitably distill themselves into the material you write. You can’t help but reflect this time that you’re living in and creating your work in. And inevitably, when someone like Jo is writing a screenplay, she’s concerned and engaged in what’s happening in the world. We all are. And so it filters its way in. And it finds its expression somewhere. The movie’s not political with a capital P. It’s designed to entertain. It’s designed to take us back to that… it’s designed to move us and amuse us and engage us. But it’s inevitable that it’s going to reflect what’s happening to a certain degree.

David Heyman: These themes… it’s not that they can’t… alas, they’re timeless.

David Yates: Yeah, they are.

David Heyman: Themes of intolerance, the way that people are stigmatized. It’s a story of outsiders. We all feel like outsiders, no matter how in, no matter how much we’re loved, how much we have friends and partners and husbands and wives, we feel alone, and we sometimes feel the social awkwardness of Newt. It’s something I think we all feel some way at some point. And so there’s a lot of connected tissue, the world divided. Yes, it’s very resonant today, but it was resonant in 1920s in politics, too. It was resonant in the stigmatization in the same witch trials. We tend to be as scared or vulnerable to stigmatize others, and that is a subject of this film, and it’s a subject of all of Jo’s work. “Subject” may be too strong; it’s themes that exist within those worlds. When she’s writing what she’s made I believe is a real big entertainment, which is fun and adventurous and makes you laugh and moves you. That’s… hopefully, you’re moved by it. And so it’s a pleasure. Beneath it, bubbling beneath the surface, are these ideas.

Female interviewer 6: Jo is really focused on children, and in her philanthropy work as well, so like the treatment of children and how important they are and their role in making adult decisions. And we see that a lot with Credence and Modesty. Will that be a theme that still continues through the rest of the four films?

David Heyman: I think, ultimately, there’s a… I think what’s really powerful about her work is, she isn’t afraid to take children to dark places, she’s not afraid to tell stories that explore how scary the world can be. Interestingly enough, we were concerned a little bit early on in the process. Will children enjoy this movie? Because it’s got some dark ideas in it. But Jo in her work has always gone there. She’s always been keen to sort of deal with death and bereavement and characters that are corrosive and dangerous, and I think that will continue. I think the sense that hopefully a younger audience will still be able to engage in this story and deal with those grown-up themes and be introduced to those grown-up themes, essentially. I think going forward in the next story… in the next script, Modesty isn’t in the next story. Credence… we follow Credence for the… and he becomes quite pivotal, actually. Creedence is quite crucial. But in a way, I think these four characters have certain childlike qualities. They’re innocent grown-up kids, really. And also, just going back to the children, what we talked about before, which is the thing about the darkness. One, it’s not really that dark, but also, the darkness is something that is a constant in classical children’s literature. You know, you look at Grimm’s fairytales, you look at Roald Dahl, they were almost preparatory stories, preparing young children for the challenges of life ahead. So it’s not unusual. In fact, generally, we found with the Potters and actually with anything I’ve made, children are much more comfortable with going to that dark place. They like it because one, they’re made to feel a little older. They don’t feel patronized…

[Everyone laughs]

David Heyman: … and I think it’s a positive thing.

Moderator One last question.

Kat: Sure. We mentioned the other four movies, and there have been a lot of rumors that the second one is going to take place in Paris. Can you confirm or deny that?

David Heyman: We confirm it.

[Everyone laughs]

Kat: Great. I just want to be sure because there’[re] been a lot of rumors. Also, do you think the trend will continue that the other movies will be in different cities, countries, whatever, and will we go back to the UK?

David Heyman: We do go back to the UK in the second film as well, so that’s UK and Paris. I’m not quite sure where Jo is setting the rest of the movies. I think they’ll be European-centric, but I’m not sure yet because it’s still bubbling away in her head.

Kat: So are we pretty done with America?

David Yates: We’re trying to figure out where we want to go on holiday.

[Everyone laughs]

David Heyman: Exactly. The Caribbean would be good.

David Yates: I think it will be difficult to ignore America in this sort of… but the next one’s predominantly Europe.

Kat: Thank you.