Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler “Fantastic Beasts” Roundtable Interview – UK
Transcribed by Sacha Huynen
Claire Furner: Can you give us a couple of lines from the Ilvermorny school song that was cut – no singing required – if you remember any of the lines?
Alison Sudol: Oh.
Dan Fogler: Do it.
Alison: Well, I have to sing. [sings] “We stand as one united against the Puritan. We draw our inspiration from good witch Morrigan.” That’s all you get. [laughs] I can’t believe I just sang it, but I can’t actually remember the lines. It’s so embarrassing.
Female audience member 1: Did you work on the lines yourself, or did Jo help you to do it?
Alison: No, that’s Jo’s writing. I got to co-write a song with J.K. Rowling.
Female audience member 1: That’s pretty cool.
Alison: I was totally cool about that.
Claire: Do you know [which] House Queenie was Sorted into?
Queenie: I don’t know which House Queenie was Sorted into. I was actually terrified to find [which] House I was Sorted into, but I actually just did it the other day. I just bite the bullet, and I [got] in the Horned Serpent House, which I don’t know what that means. But I quite like it.
Male audience member: Could you talk about the casting process? How did you get involved in the film?
Dan: Well, first, I wished on a star. Not kidding. And I said, “Man, I want to be involved in [a] franchise that is beloved and get some stability and play a part where I get to play the full spectrum of my abilities.” And then this audition came up – an audition in New York – and it went really well. Then I didn’t hear anything. And then I auditioned again in LA, and it went really well, and then I did not hear anything. They basically auditioned everybody on the face of the earth, and then I got a screen test, and I met this beautiful lady and Eddie [Redmayne]. And then they said, “If we do call you back, it will be for another thousand screen tests.” So I was like, “Oh, great.” So that when I heard, it was just a huge surprise. It was like, “Oh my God, oh my God.” Seeing me dancing.
Male audience member: But on the other hand, isn’t it a little bit sad that you’re not doing any magic tricks here? That you are a Muggle?
Dan: Yeah. Well, I’m a magic in real life, so this is a real stretch for me. It’s actually really fun not to have to do magic.
Male audience member: What about you, Alison? How was the casting for you?
Alison: The casting was… I went in for a meeting, and it was just a general meeting, and I didn’t know anything about the movie or anything that was going on, and I started talking to the casting director, Fiona Weir, about empathy and kindness and things like that. I have no idea how that came up because it’s not really normal conversation for a meeting [laughs], but she’s a really phenomenal woman. Anyway, a few minutes into it she said, “I think I would like you to read something for me, but I’m going to need you to sign an NDA first.” And that’s never happened to me. I was just like, “Okay, what are we getting into?” And then she told me about Queenie, and I immediately fell in love with this character who’s so warm and accepting and leads with her heart and can read minds and how that would affect her, how that would have dictated so much about her life, this gift that’s also a huge responsibility. And then I got called a few weeks later. I cried, by the way, after my whole audition because I was like, “That was the worst audition I’ve ever done, and I will never get this, and yesterday, it wasn’t an option, so just don’t think about it. It’s fine. You’ll be fine.” But then I got called, and I had a screen test in New York and then had another full two weeks of screen tests in London. And they put every wig under the sun on my head to try [to] see [me] as Queenie, and then we found those curls, and somebody just decided to take a chance on me.
Male audience member: It’s a great character that you play. Where did you draw your inspiration to play her? She reminds me of some people.
Alison: Who did she remind you of? Just out of curiosity.
Male audience member: She has something about Mary maybe a little bit.
Alison: Absolutely. Yes, Clare Bowen as well was a really large inspiration for me and Judy Holliday as well. Mainly Clare Bowen, though, just because of Clare Bowen’s spirit. She was just amazing, and not a lot of people know her nowadays, but she was an enormous, enormous star and really beloved in her day. Because she was just so fluid. She could be so joyful and almost bubbling over with mirth and loveliness one minute, and then the next her heart would be up in her mouth. She would be brimming over with tears. And I just thought that that fragility and that vulnerability was really powerful. And then also, frankly, kids. Really young children are a big inspiration for me because they are so intuitive, and they haven’t had that stamped out of them. And so they just look at you, and they see you as you are. I find that a very small child can say something to you that goes straight in because they are not cultured to censor themselves. And she just sees what she sees, and she’s very open and very sweet.
Female audience member 2: Do you remember the first time you met Joanne K. Rowling, and how close was your work with her?
Dan: Yeah, the first time I met her was one of the first days of rehearsal, and I was jetlagged, and she was really tired because she was up writing and writing and writing. And I saw her, and she’s very stunning, and she’s got this real energy about her. And she was standing next to this manuscript, this pile of paper that was about as tall as she was. I’m not kidding. And I looked at that, and I was like, “Do I have to memorize all that?”
[Alison and Dan laugh]
Dan: And she was just like, “No, no. This isn’t just of Fantastic Beasts. This is everything.” So she has been thinking about these five movies for a long time, and so that was the first taste of genius that I had. I was like, “Oh my God, she’s the most prolific person. She wrote that overnight.”
[Alison and Dan laugh]
Dan: And then to hear them talk about David [Yates] and how he worked with her, how there was a first version that was just dark, and then they came out with another version overnight, one week into this. It would take the average person years to do that. Years. She’s just amazing. And then one of the things she said that was incredibly helpful was, “I love Jacob’s character, and I love what you’re doing. Just keep doing what you’re doing.” And she said that “he reminds me of Ron.” And I thought, “Yeah.” Because Ron gets to do everything. He gets to play the clown. He gets to play the hero. He gets the girl.” So that was very helpful.
Claire: You talked previously about a day on set where everyone else was shooting, and you got to have a proper chat with Jo about the secrets. Obviously, you can’t tell many of them, but how far forward did she go, or was it more about J.K. versus the character?
Dan: She told me my arch. Where I end up. And if I get to half of what she said, it’s going to be the greatest part I’ve ever played in my life. It already is.
Male audience member: Are you supposed to be in the five movies?
Dan: Yeah, the majority of them. I’ve signed on for them.
Male audience member: Alison?
Alison: I don’t know.
Alison: Fingers crossed.
Female audience member 1: And how was your first meeting, then?
Alison: Well, the first time that I met her, it was quite a big day. It was the day that we were doing the scene of saying goodbye, and it was my coverage, too, and I was already so nervous, and then she came to set.
Dan: That was the first time you met her?
Dan: Oh my God.
Alison: And to do that scene in front of her, I obviously wanted to do an okay job. But she came up to me, and she hugged me, and she said how happy she was with everything that she’d seen, which obviously was very meaningful to me. And then I don’t think I said anything. I kept smiling, and we all gathered in a semi-circle around her, and I remember Eddie was pacing in a small area, and I just was thinking, “Say something really intelligent. Say something brilliant right now. Say something amazing. Come on.” And then I was like, “Okay, well, that’s not going to work. Just listen. Just listen. That’s a good one. That’s a good one.” And I don’t actually think I said anything. I just kept smiling. And the second time I was a little bit less nervous, and then she told me quite a bit about Queenie and a bit about where she goes, and I found that fascinating and also really helpful. And also just such an honor to get to talk to her. She’s really generous with her time and her spirit and is really… once I stopped looking at her as Jo the Queen and started to just listen to her as a human being, I found that she’s just as extraordinary as you would hope her to be, but she’s also very real and very warm.
Male audience member: How hard is it to actually feel the magic on set when most of it is done in the post-production process?
Alison: It’s not hard to feel the magic because… obviously, it takes imagination, and you need to really tap into that, but it was a combination of things. First of all, the sets are very magical. There was green screen involved, but so much of it was there. The sisters’ apartment was so amazingly detailed. Everything that was around it felt magical, and then I was practicing the cooking because that is a ballet of all of the different things that needed to be sliced and diced and brought up, and I looked out of the corner of my eye and saw that there was a drying rack, and it was just moving.
Alison: There was a part of me that was like, “Am I doing that? No.” [laughs] And I looked up and saw that there were puppeteers up there who had also been observing everything that I had been doing, which was slightly horrifying. But you get into the spirit of this, and the puppeteers were doing that, obviously, and they had puppets for the creatures, and they were really… they were the folks [who] did War Horse, so they obviously knew what they were doing. And they made these creatures feel very realistic with just tiny brush strokes. Just the head and the noises and the movements were enough for you to feel like you were in the presence of an actual beast.
Male audience member: How comfortable did you both feel in going in the time of the ’20s and have the fashion and surroundings?
Dan: How did it look?
[Alison and Dan laugh]
Male audience member: Convincing. Pretty comfortable.
Dan: It felt great. I’ve always been fascinated with the ’20s, and I always felt like I was born in the wrong time or something. My great-grandfather was a baker. [He] probably had his shop on the same street that we shot on, so I felt like I was playing a reincarnated character or something.
Alison: Yes, it’s a wonderful time to be transported into because there was just this extraordinary energy about the ’20s, and there was also a real innocence still, and so you have this day of the jazz age, and there’s a sense of adventure and fun and musicality to everything. But then you also have this real sweetness, and I think, especially, Jacob and Queenie both have a purity to them. There’s no social media in the ’20s. [laughs] Thank goodness. It was a really fun period to immerse ourselves into and explore. And then you had, obviously, all the costumes and everything and seeing everybody around us impeccably dressed in this combination of the ’20s and the wizarding world that was really inspiring. It was a dance.
Male audience member: And how good are you in abilities, in your case, in cooking and baking?
Dan: Right. I can make a mean omelet. I can make some good chocolate brownies. You make a good banana bread.
Alison: Yeah, I make banana bread that’s pretty awesome. Somehow… I don’t know how it tastes so good. It doesn’t have any wheat in it, and it doesn’t have any refined sugar in it, and yet somehow it’s weirdly delicious. And I mostly like baking, but I like cooking with people. I enjoy cooking alongside somebody else because then it is a more shared experience. Or cooking for people I love. Cooking for myself is disgusting. I just make the most… there’s no effort. It’s bleh. I make eggs for dinner, and I’m just boring. But I do like cooking for people I care about.