“Crimes of Grindelwald” Set Visit Interview: Eddie Redmayne
On the set of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Eddie Redmayne had a lot to tell us about his experience putting the movie together with the cast, crew, and J.K. Rowling herself. Eddie goes into detail about Newt’s powerful abilities and the living, breathing evolution of the film’s characters as Jo witnessed the actors’ performances. We learn what it was like for Eddie to work with talented new cast members and which magical creature he’d like to take home today.
Press: 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 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, [who’s] played by Callum Turner, come into the world and really, [how] this new world of Fantastic Beasts is aligned [with] and joined into the Potter lore that we all know about. And 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, I suppose, almost from a fan’s point of view. You’ll see where Jo has taken us.
Press: Have you shared scenes with Jude already?
Eddie: 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 was, I think, so important in the depictions of Dumbledore in the films and certainly was really important to J.K. Rowling. And I don’t know about you, but I find that thing with influential teachers at school when you then grow up and you sort of see them as human beings, 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.
Press: How’s the dynamic with your brother, Callum?
Eddie: It’s wonderful. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most is working with Callum. 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… That’s like a taller, darker, better-looking version of me.
Eddie: And 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.”
Eddie: And he’s been really fantastic. And 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.
Press: 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?
Eddie: It’s not so much a falling out [laughs] as a misunderstanding. [laughs] 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 [start] 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 is typical for Tina and Newt through a lot of inability to communicate what they really feel. But it’s been so wonderful playing with Katherine.
Press: 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?
Eddie: She’s this wonderful character called Bunty, and she only has a scene or two in the film, and she was a fan.
Press: So in the last film, there was sort of a buddy comedy element to it. How much of that are we going to see here?
Eddie: [sighs] So the action ends up in Paris, is 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 [Fogler]’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. And there’s so much of that, and I love it because he always described it as sort of this Laurel and Hardy-style relationship. But it was unlike anything I’d ever had to play, and it’s been really wonderful.
Press: It looks like there’s a lot of action in this new [film] for sure. I mean, going into this one, compared to the last one, do you find it more of a challenge in that increasing amount of physicality or more of this sort of emotional beats you’ve had to play?
Eddie: The interesting thing is that 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 [in] 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 so I would say it’s interesting when you’ve done a film and the world’s responded to it. And the first time I’ve ever done that and one of the questions I said to David [Yates], the director, and Jo is, 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, his confidence in his own capabilities, his lack of confidence with other people, his kind, hard, and yet prickly nature 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.”
Press: Can you talk a bit about Newt’s role in the Dumbledore-Grindelwald face-off? I think some people might have feared that he’d be a bit marginalized. Once you introduce these two big personalities, it becomes about them. And I’m curious how [Newt] fits in.
Eddie: I feel like Newt’s skill set 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 skill set [that] is pretty unique. And it’s one of the things that Dumbledore has always, since he was a kid, seen in Newt. And if it is building to a showdown between these two, she’s 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.
Press: I saw some of the conception 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?
Eddie: There are new creatures. There are also old creatures. [laughs] There are baby Nifflers.
Eddie: It’s probably been my favorite scene to shoot so far, [the one that] involves the baby Nifflers, and they’re just causing havoc. And I now have a 15-month-old child, and the baby Nifflers retain many of the qualities [laughs] of my 15-month-old. So 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, as the first. So it’s been wonderful. That side of it for me is so lovely because you have all [these visual] effects department [people] 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, the production designer], and it’s such a collaboration of different spirits. So I’ve really enjoyed that side.
Press: What was your first reaction when you read the script?
Eddie: It has such an intricacy to it. It has so many layers to it. And it has so many jaw-dropping moments. If you’re a Potter fan.
Eddie: Basically, at the end, my jaw is on the floor, [laughs] and I then have to start and read it all over again. [laughs] It works in that way. 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.
Press: Has Newt reached Gilderoy Lockhart status with the release of his book?
Eddie: The first thing I saw of this script was 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 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.
Eddie: Tina is Turner, after Tina Turner. Dumbledore is Very Good Guy.
Eddie: 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, and 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 because his book has come out at the beginning, and it was him trying to deal with fame, basically. [laughs] With all these sort of screaming girls.
Eddie: Which he was sort of totally struggling with. That scene didn’t end up in the script, but you definitely get a sense that, in fact, 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.
Press: Is he still really fighting for animal advocacy?
Eddie: Yeah. I mean, certainly, in his mind, it’s always going to be his passion, but I would say in this film that he gets pulled sort of away from his creatures, and there is still that element, but it’s less about the advocacy.
Press: They did tell us that they cast a young Newt for the Hogwarts flashbacks. Have you worked with that actor at all?
Eddie: Yeah. We had a really, really wonderful day of just… It’s interesting, though. Obviously, 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 he wanted me to spend some time with him, but also, David had found [him] in the audition tapes. It’s 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.
Eddie: But what was so interesting is, he’d really watched the first movie, so we spent a day just talking about the character. And he had the gait and sort of the aversion to eye contact and understanding the elements to Newt and he was on it before I’d even… I didn’t talk about it. And it was interesting hearing what his take on Newt was.
Press: Any new charms or spells from the previous film?
Eddie: There are a few. Not ones that I can name, but quite often, charms and spells will come as a consequence of 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 a…”
Eddie: And then we sort of hear from Jo which one we’re allowed to use.
Press: Is the wizarding book visible to the Muggle world or is it only seen by the wizarding world?
Eddie: 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 it’s…
Press: So you’re a rock star to only the wizarding world?
Eddie: Yeah. Exactly. I love the idea of the rock star.
Press: Which one of the magical creatures would you want to live at your house, to take home with you today? Which would you want? Maybe Nifflers. Come on.
Eddie: Well, no. 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…
Eddie: And the Niffler is that… I adore… God, he’s hard work.
Eddie: And the little ones aren’t much easier. [laughs] But no, it’s definitely a love-hate relationship with the Nifflers.
Press: 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 is it with Newt? What’s his secret with the ladies?
Eddie: Firstly, I think it’s his unawareness. And secondly, I think it’s his passion. 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. And I think that he has a very large heart. As we were talking before, I think he has great empathy.
Press: Speaking of the book that we were just discussing, in Dumbledore’s foreword, 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] the original book from years and years ago.
Eddie: That’s a Jo question.
Eddie: Because this book was written and then Jo wrote the scripts after them. I didn’t go and try and tie every minutia of one to the other. But what was really interesting, I did the audiobook 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 actually quite helpful for the second one.
Press: 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 [to] the pile?”
Eddie: No. I mean, I got the script. I got an early draft of the script and was then asked by David for input in it. I think she is the most formidable mind and imagination, frankly. [laughs] 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, what’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…
Press: How does that work? Jo isn’t 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 [that] you get it signed off?
Eddie: So I read the script. Then there are various set piece aspects, and there’s a tracking scene in the film in which 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[m] I’d worked with before. And we investigated all the different ways and having spoken to trackers and stuff. But 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? And so I go off and investigate things. I then show them to David. David’ll 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 [the] set a few times.
Press: Do you know the title of this movie?
Eddie: No. [laughs]
Press: Does anyone?
Eddie: No. I don’t think they’ve decided yet.
Press: Oh, okay. 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 I just wondered what it was like having him integrating with the established class?
Eddie: I don’t know because he hasn’t started yet.
Eddie: He’s arriving, I think, [in] the next few days. So it’s been wonderful for me, as I’ve done quite a lot of work with Jude. And one of the wonderful things is, I always hear actors, when they’re working on films in which you do several, talking about the family quality and “Oh, we all get on so well.”
Eddie: But 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 [who] comes into the film comes with their own sense of excitement. Seeing Jude on Day 1 with his wand, going, “It’s cool”…
Eddie: And exactly that same way. You’re in a nine-year-old[‘s state of mind]. 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. [laughs] So it’s exciting.
Press: Thank you.
Eddie: Great to see. Enjoy the tour and everything of what you get to see. I do think you went to see the sets drawn up. Right?
Eddie: Actually, after I’d read the script, that was [the] first place I went to. Because it means that whatever’s in your imagination, you can then place in that world and it feels quite invigorating.
Read the rest of our set visit coverage here.
This interview has been edited for clarity. Additional formatting provided by Felicia Grady.