Ezra Miller “Fantastic Beasts” Roundtable Interview – UK
Transcribed by Kathleen Hynes
Ezra: Hey, how’s it going, guys?
Moderator: All right, guys, we’ve got 15 minutes. I’ll let you know when we’ve got about two to go.
Claire Furner: Can we start with some trivia to break the ice? I hear you’re quite a Harry Potter fan.
Ezra: What have you got?
Claire: Do you know the name of Hepzibah Smith’s house-elf?
Ezra: Yeah, Hokey.
Claire: Yeah, good. That’s usually a tough one, nice one. And on [which] row in the Hall of Prophecy at the Department of Mysteries was Harry Potter’s prophecy?
Ezra: Noo! Dang you! Uhh, man. [sighs] Shit. I don’t know.
Claire: [Row] 97.
Ezra: [Row] 97. I should have ventured a guess. Okay, I got some for you.
Claire: Oh, God.
Ezra: How many Chocolate Frog [Card]s does Ron Weasley think he has by now? In the first book?
Claire: No idea. Somewhere like 40?
Ezra: This is a really good one: 18A Diagon Alley. What publishing house published Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? According to the mythos, not in real life.
Claire: No, I’m terrible at trivia.
Ezra: This one’s cool because it’s called Obscurus Books.
Female audience member 1: So you actually didn’t need to practice for this character you play because you are so familiar with the Harry Potter universe.
Ezra: Uhh, sure. I still did some preparation of the character. If I [were] playing Hermione, I could have jumped right in.
Ezra: But for Credence, I needed a little bit of preparation. Because he’s, like all of our characters, a new character to this universe.
Female audience member 1: What kind of preparation did you do? I heard you talk about when you were younger. I was wondering if you drew on that to prepare?
Ezra: Well, I think we’ve all experienced, even in microcosms or on a very, very small scale, the type of trauma that Credence endures in a much more macro way, on a much larger scale. For me, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge that I have had an extremely privileged existence, that my childhood was free of violence in a way that was really blessed. And I would not compare any moment in my life, even the worst of whatever middle school depression or being beat up at the hands of some 13-year-old kids… I wouldn’t compare my experience to that of Credence. So for me it was about talking to survivors of similar traumas and similar abuse and hearing parallel stories. Also talking to professionals who work with people who are survivors and drawing from those stories and those experiences, which are more like Credence’s than my own.
Female audience member 1: How was Obscurus to be animated? Because I think it translates really well how clearly you can see his inner turmoil. Did you have anything to say about that?
Ezra: Yeah, I was able to work really closely with the visual effects team. And there’s actually a bunch of stuff in that cloud that is some of my movement from motion capture, and I was dressed in gyroscopes and doing all sorts of choreography and a lot of this sort of stuff and “rah!” [I] did a lot of screaming for the visual effects unit. I worked with this choreographer named Wayne McGregor who choreographs the Royal Ballet and the opera out here and has made Radiohead videos and things like that.
Claire: Do you know if Jo’s work with the charity Lumos had any influence on the Second Salemer children and Credence in particular?
Ezra: Well, it’s sort of a chicken and the egg question. Because her work has dealt with themes of abuse and displacement and the institutionalization of children from the beginning. So the first Harry Potter begins as the story of this neglected, abused child in a family that doesn’t really accept him. So it’s hard to say what influenced what because I’m not J.K. Rowling, something I’ve had to come to terms with.
Ezra: And yeah, I don’t know, but I think that, clearly, this is a focal point of all of this work that she is doing. Whether it’s with Lumos or whether it’s just in the creation of these stories, it’s clearly something she’s thinking about and paying attention to, the idea of children who just aren’t getting the love they need on the most basic level. I think you could phrase it that way.
Male audience member 1: Beside[s] Fantastic Beasts, there’s another franchise you will be in. You’re playing Flash.
Ezra: Mm. I heard about that.
Male audience member 1: So what does that mean for you? For the next year, you’re full with work.
Ezra: It’s an amazing thing, honestly. I never thought as an artist, as a creative person, that I would have this much of a concept of my immediate future, especially a long-term plan. This is the first time I’ve ever had a long-term plan; it’s amazing. Slightly unsettling but ultimately really nice. I mean, what an amazing thing to have, even the illusion of job security for one moment as an actor. It’s sort of unheard of, and it’s not guaranteed, but it’s nice. It feels really nice to have a plan. I’ve never really been one for making plans, but I’m enjoying having one.
Female audience member 1: Did you ask Emma Watson for advice?
Ezra: I did. I didn’t ask her for advice, per se, but I asked her for warnings where I needed them and asked her just what her experience has been like, particularly working with David Yates, and heard only the most exciting and positive things.
Female audience member 1: What were her warnings, then?
Ezra: Fortunately there were no warnings.
Ezra: I called because I was interested if there would be any warnings and was pleasantly surprised that there were not. Really, she was just full of kind things to say about this team, about David Yates, his capacity as a director, so forth and so on. No, it was a very pleasant conversation. I was concerned; I was concerned that there were going to be warnings. But there were not. Actually, it was all extremely positive.
Male audience member 2: In terms of scope and of genre, the movies that you’re going to do now, Justice League and Beasts… they’re of course very different from what you’ve done before. Is that something that you wanted to consciously do, make a change from these independent movies and then smaller movies?
Ezra: Nope. It’s never been about scope for me; it’s about story. It’s about, I guess, trusting my instincts when I choose roles. And it’s that same criteria that drove me to pursue these roles that drove me to pursue any of the other roles I’ve played in. What’s really wonderful is when… as someone who’s worked largely in smaller-scale independent films, to go onto a set like this, with a lot of nervousness about how art can get lost in the machine and actually finding one of the most quiet, focused sets I’d ever been on. Where there was so much attention being paid to character, to emotional intention and attention, and to story. It was a set where there [were] a lot of considerations constantly being made for the actors, what we needed. There were moments where if you squinted so that you could not see the enormous set all around you, you could have been on a small budget film.
Male audience member 2: I can imagine that’s very different on the set of Justice League when you play the Flash.
Ezra: Justice League actually has a similar thing going in the sense that there’s also an incredible amount of attention paid to performance and detail. The major difference between those two sets is that David Yates runs probably the quietest set I’ve ever been on, including much, much, much, much smaller sets. And Zack Snyder runs probably the most loud, raucous, and fun set I’ve ever been on. Both are fantastic and helpful in different ways. And really for me it’s been perfect, essentially because my character in Fantastic Beasts is very quiet, and my character in Justice League is very loud. But they provide a nice stark relief to one another. It was a great year, and it was so nice to come to the Flash. He’s such a happier person than Credence.
Male audience member 3: Do you see any smaller scale drama films or indie films in your future now? Any[thing] specific?
Ezra: Nothing specific that I can speak to. But certainly there are things in the works. I mean, I’ve been working on a series of long-form music videos with this company called [unintelligible]. We’ve been working to produce these videos for this First Nations DJ crew called A Tribe Called Red. We made one with Yasiin Bey [Mos Def] in South Africa. Which has played really well on the Internet. So some stuff like that that I’m working on currently. And I’m working on music, both with my band and I’m working on a solo project that’ll come out next year, and yeah, potentially, if there’s time, I could get back into some of the nitty-gritty.
Male audience member 4: Have you also been in your childhood craving for fantasy movies?
Ezra: Yeah, oh yeah. Yeah, yeah. I mean, specifically Harry Potter. Really rather wrapped up in Harry Potter as a child. And all the way, honestly, through my adolescence. And let’s just be completely honest, even right now.
Ezra: Even if I [were]n’t in this film. I’m a big Harry Potter nerd. And also was a huge, specifically, Batman fan. But really into graphic novels from a young age and always loved fantasy. [I’m a] big Lord of the Rings fan as well. Pretty heavy Lord of the Rings nerd. When Donald Trump won the election, in addition to watching Harry Potter for comfort, my friends and I also recited Samwise Gamgee quotes, which, if anyone’s feeling really rough about Trump or Brexit, I highly recommend going back to that speech at the end of Two Towers that Samwise Gamgee gives. It’ll make you feel better.
Male audience member 5: Your movie also that that kind of theme going on: [unintelligible] fear of the other.
Ezra: Yes. Yes, extremely, and I think that it couldn’t be more timely. And I think there’s this wonderful, multilayered execution of that theme in this movie. Because we’re not just thinking about the false idea that we are separate from our fellow human. We’re also thinking about the false notion that we are separate from the earth. There are these themes of conservation in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I love Newt Scamander as a John Muir or Henry David Thoreau figure who is determined to remind people of our connection to the wonders of nature. And yeah, it’s the great peril we face, is this arrogant-ass idea that we can exist as independent entities. So dumb. I mean, honestly, about as stupid as we can get, the notion that we can live without each other or that we can live without the earth. Because it’s pretty easy to observe that is not true.
Male audience member 5: After a day of shooting in the world of wizards, how do you come back in the real world?
Ezra: I’m not sure I do.
Moderator: We’ve got time for one or two more questions.
Male audience member 4: Let’s go back to The Flash one more time. If we were to quiz you about The Flash the way she did about Harry Potter, would you be as accurate and as expert? I’m not going to because I’m not an expert. I’m just wondering if you were a really big fan.
Ezra: I think I’m getting there. When I was first cast? Heavens no.
Male audience member 4: You were familiar with it.
Ezra: I was familiar with it, but was not reading comics everyday like I am now. So yeah, I think I have expanding knowledge when it comes to the DC Universe and all of the characters who have been the Flash.
Male audience member 4: So you’re hooked now?
Ezra: Yeah, very much so. It’s a great excuse to be a dork.
Male audience member 4: Were you in any way intimidated about the fan reaction to being cast as [the] Flash?
Moderator: This will have to be the last question.
Ezra: Yeah, of course.
Male audience member 4: How did you cope?
Ezra: How did I cope? Meditation and mashed potatoes.
Male audience member 4: Did the reaction of the small part of the fan group have any real meaning to you, or did you just…?
Ezra: I take fan concerns extremely seriously. But ultimately, nah, it don’t faze me.
Male audience member 4: Thank you, great talking to you.
Ezra: Thank you, yes. A pleasure, a pleasure.