Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston “Fantastic Beasts” Roundtable Interview – UK
Transcribed by Tisha Dunstan, Felicia Grady, and Eric Rakestraw
Male audience member 1: I guess this is a dream come true for you because you loved magic as a kid…
Eddie Redmayne: Yeah.
Male audience member 1: So you even auditioned for a role in Harry Potter.
Eddie: Absolutely. So as a kid, I was obsessed with magic, and I used to take it really seriously. [laughs] And there’s this amazing place in Charing Cross near here – a place called Davenport – underneath the subway at this sort of dead end. It was quite Harry Potter-y, and it [has] a bit of [a] Diagon Alley vibe to it, and I used to go there and buy tricks and things, and so anyway, I always used to go to Scotland to see my grandma, and I’d make her take me around to find magic shops. So when I got cast as Newt Scamander, my 95-year-old grandmother was really happy.
Eddie: She was like, “I always knew you’d be a wizard!” [laughs] So it was great. And yeah, when I was at university before I was acting properly, I auditioned for Tom Riddle – they were casting the net quite wide – and it was pretty catastrophic, the audition. It was with the seventh assistant casting director, and I didn’t get through a line and a half before being asked to leave.
Eddie: So I thought that was my Harry Potter/J.K. Rowling moment, but fortunately, I then went and learned how to act, and so I come back. [laughs]
Katherine Waterston: They interrupted the audition and sent you out of the room, but they went, “Someday…”
Male audience member 2: And the director, David Yates… he describes you as being slightly obsessed with detail?
Male audience member 2: And I remember filming The Theory of Everything, how you prepared that. How did you approach this part? Did you have the same amount of focus and preparation?
Eddie: Well, part of… I mean, for The Theory of Everything,
the preparation was a given. You had to if you’re depicting someone living with motor neuron disease. You can’t take that lightly. But I love preparation for a film because it’s one of the most enjoyable parts. And 99% of the preparation you do is useless, but it’s interesting as a human being; it’s kind of intriguing. And maybe 1% ends up in the film. But for playing this character, really, J.K. Rowling was the person who gave us the vast majority of the information we needed. But David wanted my relationship with the different creatures to feel real, so I went off to various nature parks and met people who handled animals and learned some really idiosyncratic things that were completely useless, and occasionally there were ones that were useful, so…
Male audience member 2: Like what?
Eddie: Well, the useless one was there was this woman who worked with rhino[s]. And she showed me that if you rub a rhino behind their back leg, just beneath their knee for about 15 minutes, then it’s a weird erogenous sign, and they just relax and lie down.
Eddie: And I was, like, “That’s really amazing, but I don’t how I could use that.
Eddie: That’d be like a film unto itself!
Katherine: Maybe for one of later films if you’re trying to seduce me…
Eddie: Why is it not working?! [laughs]
Male audience member 3: So how much are you prepared coming into the new Harry Potter and how to make it different?
Eddie: We didn’t think of it in terms of Harry Potter because it was a totally new script and the character is so different. He’s an outsider. Well, they all are. The quartet [is] outsiders in the same way that the trio in the Potter films [was]. But what I love about him is, he’s not trying to be a hero; he has not massively heroic qualities, but he’s a passionate guy. And when he meets this other trio, they bring out qualities in each other that perhaps betters themselves.
Male audience member 3: What I mean is, there are more movies coming out – four more movies about him – and that means that you always have to play [him] again and have no time maybe for many other roles?
Eddie: I mean, I don’t think of it like that. Firstly, people have to enjoy this film for it to become more films. They’ve talked about five films, but if no one enjoys this one, then it won’t happen.
Eddie: And what I loved about this script is, I feel like it stands alone for people [who] enjoyed the Potter films, but also for people who have never seen a Harry Potter film. And what I loved about it is it didn’t feel to me like a film that was setting up. It wasn’t a pilot for something else; it actually feels whole. But also, our dream as actors is to tell stories and to play interesting characters, and J.K. Rowling is one of the great storytellers of the 20th and 21st centuries. And what a privilege for us to be a part of that action.
Female audience member 1: So what [unintelligible] do you have in common with your character?
Eddie: Well, not a huge amount.
Katherine: You’re both tall.
Eddie: My freckles and slightly reddish hair… no, I actually loved that he was very different from me. I’m a great worrier and… actually something else that I’ve inherited from my 95-year-old grandmother. And one of my favorite lines in the film is when he turns to Jacob and goes, “Worrying means you suffer twice.” And so in some ways, Newt has become my therapist.
Eddie: But I suppose the outsider quality of all the characters, I feel like one of the reasons we all connect to J.K. Rowling’s protagonist is because we all feel like outsiders in some place, in some way. Even those people in life [who] are very arrogant and confident and appear to be insiders, I imagine if you peel back their layers, there’s something perhaps less comfortable in their skin.
Male audience member 4: What do you worry most about, then?
Katherine: How much time have you got?
Eddie: What do I worry most about? On a film set, I think it’s about the fact that we don’t… people always go, “Oh, we can do more takes.” But with theater, the reasons we do runs for six months is because you never get it right, but you can go back the next night and try. The thing about film is that you have that day and that scene, and if you don’t… you have to come up with all those ideas within that space because there’s nothing more frustrating than sitting in a car on the way home and going…
Katherine: “Oh, that’s what I should have done.”
Eddie: …”I should have done that.” And now I have to wait seven months to see me fail to do that.
Female audience member 1: Did the actors get a chance to add anything to this story?
Katherine: Oh, absolutely. I mean, when Eddie was talking about the research he did in the preparation, there’s that bit where we’re doing the antidote to the bite, and it was meant to be a pill that he gave Jacob because he learned something from working with… what was it?
Katherine: Trackers, yeah. You could tell. [laughs]
Eddie: Well, basically there was this guy I spent a day with who does tracking of creatures, but he was showing me all this nature stuff quite often. For example, if there are nettles around, next to it will be a dock leaf. And then if you spit on a dock leaf and rub it together, it relieves the nettle stings. So we quite liked the idea of bringing not just animals and creatures but [also] that natural world into his. And so we asked… in his hut, you have all those herbs and things that he uses as well.
Katherine: And it wasn’t freewheeling. David is a wonderful director, and he didn’t give us the leeway where we would go way off track or anything, but if you had a really good argument for something the best idea would win.
Eddie: Like the clothes.
Katherine: Yeah, another example. And this is where the effects department… their hair goes gray and starts falling out because we often suggested magical ideas that are then tricky for them to implement. So when I see that they’ve ditched us at the apartment and I go running out of the house after them, calling, I had this idea that she sort of half grabs her clothes and runs out the door, so she doesn’t have her coat on then; she’s got half her PJs on. Then a little later, they have to go into this wonderful speakeasy. So I asked Colleen, “Do you think it would be possible for me to change my outfit with my wand to look presentable in the club?” And so she said, “Yeah, of course,” and the effects department…>
Katherine: “How much time and money is that going to cost to take?” So yeah, that’s why Queenie and I… and then he did that, and I loved it. It’s kind of a slippery slope there. Because then you say, “Oh, then maybe I could fix my tie.”
Eddie: And David Yates is going, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” And then the guy behind from visual effects is going…
Katherine: But we did contribute in that way.
Female audience member 1: Can you imagine your interaction with a creature where both of you took one home and that would be your favorite? Which would it be?
Katherine: Well, because I’m falling for Newt in the film, I think I have a special affection for his favorite one.
Eddie and Katherine: Which is Pickett.
Eddie: The little Bowtruckle. The little stick insect guy. You just love that he’s got attachment issues, a bit clingy. I love the Niffler as well, but I wouldn’t want to take the Niffler home, though. [laughs]
Claire Furner: Does he have a name, the Niffler?
Eddie: [laughs] No, the Niffler is just called “the Niffler.” [laughs]
Claire: I thought it was called Dougal at first.
Eddie: No, Dougal is the Demiguise, yeah.
Katherine: That’s strange that there’s no name for the Niffler. We have to name the Niffler.
Eddie: I know, I know. I know
Female audience member 2: Why would you like him better? The sticky guy. Because he’s cute?
Eddie: Why would I like him better? Because he’s a hugger. He needs a bit of love. Whereas the Niffler is a bit like a cat. The Niffler doesn’t mind… you can give a cat as much attention as you’d want, and it would be like, “Ffpt.”
Eddie: I feel like the Niffler is the same.
Male audience member 4: But in real life are you both good with animals? Can you touch them? Or…
Katherine: I actually strangely am kind of an animal whisperer.
Katherine: I’ll go into a house with a mean cat, and it’ll come up to me, and they’ll say, “It hisses at everyone, and I don’t know why that is. And I had a parrot, a budgie, that I found walking up Avenue 8, in the East Village of New York, on my birthday, and I am staring at this bird, and I thought, “Somebody’s sprayed it with a spray can.” Tagged the bird. Because my brain couldn’t comprehend that I was seeing such a brightly colored thing, on a winter’s day, in the East Village, hopping down the street. But it had obviously gotten loose, and this is a very kind of New York story because within a few minutes on the street in New York, there’s a whole huddle of people around the problem, saying, [in a New York accent]: “No, no, what you got to do is you [have] to drop a hat on it and slide a newspaper underneath.”
Katherine: But anyway, we caught the bird and tried to return it to its home, but we couldn’t find its home, so I had a bird for years that way, my little budgie. And then it dropped dead on Thanksgiving.
Eddie: Poor bird. Like the Niffler!
Katherine: It felt the national abuse of birds or something, I suppose, in solidarity with all the turkeys that dropped dead.
Eddie: Oh my God.
Katherine: It was very upsetting for me.
Eddie: I had had a dog when I was a kid called Darby, and that was the only animal I’ve had. But I’m super allergic to cats, and I’m not great with horses either. I get…
Eddie and Katherine: … allergic.
Eddie: And I love horses, and I love riding, but yeah, so I just have to take antihistamine. [laughs]
Female audience member 3: Do you think the film has a contemporary meaning? Who are the fantastic beasts nowadays?
Eddie: Well, I feel like Fantastic Beasts… in some ways, it’s about animals, and it’s about our relationship with nature. But I hope that the film… J.K. Rowling is amazing because she has this capacity for… with a lightness of touch to also touch topical things. And this film, in some ways, is about repression and segregation, and I think that those are quite current.
Male audience member 3: Are you worried somewhat about politics? Because you said that you are a worrier. Are you worried about the Trump Era, for instance?
Waterston: [sarcastic] Why would he be worried about Trump? He seems fine to me.
Male audience member 3: Because I think… I mean, we can all see it’s about bigotry, it’s about segregation, I would say. It’s very, very…
Eddie and Katherine: Fear of the other.
Eddie: Exactly, and I think that was one of the things that was extraordinary about the film, is the notion of fear of what we don’t know and therefore, the choice to classify that and yeah.
Katherine: But she’s not just trying to hold a mirror up to this moment in history; she’s also – and I think she’s always done this in her work – showing us ways to solutions. Which I think is really great, too, because for example, my character in the beginning of the film, has been raised and taught to fear the other in the case of the fantastic beasts. And through education and through understanding and being exposed to it…
Eddie: And empathy.
Katherine: Yeah, and being presented with a different perspective on it, she comes to understand that there’s no reason for her to fear what she’s been taught to fear. So those messages have a solution in them, too, which I think is fucking useful.
Male audience member 3: How did you both react when you learned the results of the election?
Katherine: How did we react? I mean, how many stages of grief are there?
Eddie: It was pretty… yeah, it was shocking.
Female audience member 1: Eddie, being a fan of Harry Potter yourself or [unintelligible], can you talk a little bit about the feeling you had [when] you used for first time the wand?
Eddie: Yes, I can actually properly talk about it because it happened in the audition with Katherine. And you are presented these wands, and it was this moment that my inner eight-year-old magic-obsessed child had waited for all his life, and I picked it up, and I got complete stage fright, and I didn’t know what to do with it, and I was like, “Wait a second. But I did magic when I was a child! Why can’t I…?” But it’s weird because it doesn’t really do anything, [laughs], and you… so we went to wand school. There was someone called Alexandra Reynolds who would take us into a class and tell us to move objects, and we’d go, “That’s absurd. It doesn’t move,” but then we’d use our imaginations. But also, we went and stole some of the best bits from the Potter films. We would look at how Emma Watson would use it.
Katherine: This was big conversation in the hair and make-up trailers. “Did you see that one?”
Eddie: Did you see Ralph’s double-fisted over-the-head?
Male audience member 4: Eddie, since you’ve finished, you’ve been on an extended paternity leave. I was wondering if you’re a hands-on father – change [diapers] and that kind of thing – and if you are going to take more breaks in the future?
Eddie: Yeah, for the past few years I’ve been quite intense. Even while we were making this film, [on] weekends, I was promoting The Danish Girl, and so after we finished filming, we had a few months before Iris arrived, and we went traveling a bit, and yeah, it’s been amazing to be allowed that. Because it’s something that’s rare, to take maternity or paternity leave for an extended period. And I’m a pretty hands-on father, yeah. So yesterday, we flew back from New York, and Iris was on the plane, and there’s that fear when you’re on a plane that… and she doesn’t cry, but she shouts. She loves to shout. She goes, “Bahh! Bahh!”
Eddie: And I was so worried that everyone was going to be kept up, but most of the people in our cabin were the cast of the film, and they were so sweet. It became the Fantastic Beasts [daycare]. Katherine was looking after her for a while, and then she got passed around the Ezra, who was entertained. It was actually amazing. Hannah and I were just like, “Guys!”
Male audience member 3: How much of it was shot in New York?
Eddie: None. That was really sad. Both Hannah and I were so excited when we read this film. We’ve always wanted to travel with work, particularly New York, where both of us have lived for a little bit. We were super excited, and they were like, “We’re shooting it in Watford.”
Eddie: And also so surreal. Because they built these extraordinary sets, and they had all these… Katherine is from New York, Dan is from New York, Alison lives in New York… all these proper New York actors.
Katherine: It was really surreal getting in the car with an English driver going up a set [with an] all-English crew and then walking on to these beautiful built sets of New York, and suddenly, everybody’s saying, “[in a New York accent] You want some coffee?” and all the extras an everything. They actually found a lot of really wonderful expats to do some of those.
Male audience member 5: In your next movie, you also will be chased by a strange creature, so did this movie help to…?
Katherine: What was so great about both films was that there were a lot more practical elements than you would expect from these big productions involving things that don’t exist in real life. We expected in our film it would all be green screens, but we had wonderful puppets and puppeteers, and sometimes the puppeteers would play the Niffler. This 6’3″ guy named Pablo [would] come in and play the Niffler so Eddie had something really tangible to work with, and I think Ridley learned from just working with a lower budget on the first film the value of actually having somebody really chase you and stuff like that. So I had this one day on set that I still have PTSD from where I was in full, really-hard-to-move-in space suit and this massive man running very quickly behind me in a horrifying alien costume. I literally couldn’t get away from him.
Katherine: So it’s amazing. We don’t like to admit this, but it’s always easier when you don’t really have to act, when it just feels legit.
Claire: Do you think Newt would be a vegetarian?
Eddie: No, I don’t, actually. Because you see how he hacks that carcass to feed… he definitely believes in…