David Yates Says He Was Taken by Surprise When Author Announced “Fantastic Beasts” Would Be Five Films
As director David Yates continues his press tour for his new film, he unsurprisingly continues to be asked about Fantastic Beasts. In September, Yates said the story was “done for a while” but that he would “never say never” to returning to the franchise.
Now, in an interview with Inside Total Film podcast, he’s echoing the same sentiments of the series being “parked” but with perhaps a slightly more optimistic tone for the future:
I’m sure at some point Newt may well be back. Who can tell?
More surprising, however, is the revelation that when J.K. Rowling announced in 2016 that the Fantastic Beasts series would be five films, Yates was taken completely by surprise.
The idea that there were gonna be five films was a total surprise to most of us because Jo just mentioned it spontaneously at a press screening once.… I was there with Eddie and the other actors, and we were talking about the movie that we were making that we were very excited about, that first ‘Fantastic Beasts’ film. And Jo said, ‘Oh, and by the way, there’s five of them,’ and we all looked at each other because no-one had told us there were gonna be five. We’d committed to this one, so that was the first we’d heard of it.
The event he’s describing was the Fantastic Beasts Global Fan Event, which was livestreamed to a fanbase that was very excited to hear that the previously announced trilogy would become a five-part series. The event is still available to watch on YouTube, and it’s very interesting to rewatch with this insight from Yates:
Beginning at about 50 minutes into the video, seemingly looking at both David Yates and producer David Heyman, Rowling describes how they’ve done recent script sessions and says the trilogy idea was a “placeholder.” She then confirms with David (presumably Heyman) that she is allowed to continue before revealing, “I’ve now done the plotting properly, so we’re pretty sure it’s gonna be five movies.”
Stars Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Katherine Waterston, and Eddie Redmayne react in shock, and Rowling explains that they weren’t aware of the news. David Yates smiles gleefully, seemingly having been in on the secret – so it’s interesting to learn years later that he was actually as surprised as the cast. It does make us wonder, though, how thoroughly the five-film plan had been thought out before Rowling decided to go rogue and make the announcement.
Elsewhere on his press tour, Yates was asked about the Harry Potter TV series reboot and confirmed that he has no intention of being involved. In the process, he again seemed to imply that he isn’t currently interested in returning to Fantastic Beasts.
I could not, in any conceivable way, get involved. It’s simply: I spent a long time at that school, in those corridors and in those classrooms, and it was an exquisite experience and one I will always treasure. But to go back and do another year or two, for me, I feel I’ve left it….
I wish that show so well, it’s gonna be amazing to see them re-explore all it can be for the next generation. I think it’ll be a challenge for everyone involved, but it’s a very exciting enterprise and I wish it well.
He also talked about the challenges of splitting Deathly Hallows into two movies, explaining that he and film editor Mark Day had to do a lot of work to make the ending of Part 1 feel climactic.
The great challenge of [‘Deathly Hallows – Part 1’] was it didn’t actually have a third act. It kind of ran out of steam halfway through, and Mark and I would often sit there figuring it out and saying, ‘This movie doesn’t have a third act. How are we gonna…? Hang on, this is crazy. It doesn’t have a third act.’
…The idea was [‘Part 1’] was a road movie. Take the kids out of the school, put them in jeopardy outside of that safe place, and see how they grow up and their relationship is tested. But then you go straight into the climax and the fireworks to the final one. We noodled ‘Part 1’ to bits to try and feel that the end of the movie had an escalation when, in fact, it’s jazz hands. [Laughs]
There’s not much going on at the end in the second half of the movie, and I say that with great– People still say to me, ‘My favorite film is “Hallows – Part 1,” mate. That was so amazing. It felt like a European road movie.’ And I’m going, ‘Yeah, but the work we did in the edit was unbelievable.’
Whatever they did to work their magic in the editing room, it succeeded. Deathly Hallows – Part 1 ends with Voldemort stealing the Elder Wand from Dumbledore’s tomb, setting up an epic battle in Part 2.