"I thought that looked like the Hogwarts train," says Claudia Kim (Nagini) to 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald' co-star Ezra Miller (Credence) as they sit themselves down to a roundtable interview with media. Miller replies without missing a beat, "A miniature Hogwarts express?! I would freak out and steal it!" Such is the enthusiasm of everyone involved with J. K. Rowling and David Yates' latest film-project, the second instalment of the 'Fantastic Beasts' franchise, that key cast-members came together on a sunny Saturday earlier this month in Los Angeles to speak excitedly to media about their on-screen counterparts, each other, and their love for Rowling's wizarding world.
And once again, it's Miller who sums up the mood of all who are present at the Fantastic Beasts press junket, screaming dramatically in falsetto at an international journalist who dares to speak of spoilers, "There's big reveals in the movie! There's lots of secrets!! And you'll find out cool things!!! And it's the best movie ever made!!!!!" As the kids would say, 'It's a big mood.'
Coup De Main also spoke to cast-members Eddie Redmayne (Newt Scamander), Katherine Waterston (Tina Goldstein), Alison Sudol (Queenie Goldstein), Dan Fogler (Jacob Kowalski) and Callum Turner (Theseus Scamander), as well as producer David Heyman in LA, with Waterston explaining that their return for this second film was "like a reunion with a character. Every time we come back, it's really wonderful to get to return to someone, like they're waiting there for you."
Redmayne and Waterston keep the day light-hearted, joking that "a lot of our press has been like couple's therapy" with "a lot of bickering," while Miller is pushed by media to analyse his personality: "You have to pretend to be extroverted when you do interviews - especially if you have introvert tendencies, you have to be performative. It's hard to judge any book even by the first 75 pages or so, and I think I contain a lot. There's parts of me that really, really do utterly identify with Credence, and certain elements of his journey on different microcosms are applied to different landscapes in my life and are very real. And then there's the universal accessibility of suffering, of story, of 'the great personality', the undefinable, the unknown. So yeah, I'm not as happy as I try to pretend to be all the time. I'll admit it."
And when prodded even further to dissect how he unwinds after being in character, Miller deadpans, "We find that murder is the best way to just let it all [out]. Like after a hard day, you have to just kind of meet it where it's at. Then you go kill at least one person. Usually eat 'em." Kim responds sarcastically, "It's such a blessing to have him around." "Because I'm good at murder," retorts Miller. "He can be like this," Kim continues, "But he is so focused and in character that just being around him and in that set really brings you straight to character and pulls you into that world."
Redmayne too has a reflective moment, sharing with journalists an anecdote: "I had a moment two nights ago, because one of my best friends is a guy called Jamie Dornan and we used to share a rented apartment here for weeks of unsuccessful auditions and we look back on it with really rose-tinted spectacles, like it was this really romantic and wonderful time, but actually it was hell. We were being told 'no' consistently. But he's got two brilliant films out at the moment. I'm going to do a Q&A with him this evening and we were having this time-out moment yesterday in our hotel going, 'You still pinch yourself! Can you believe it?!' As you drive down the streets and there are Crimes Of Grindelwald posters and it doesn't feel like you. Or you always feel outside of it. But it feels odd and extraordinary in equal measure."
And thinking of the future, Redmayne reveals that, "We got off a plane the other day and J.K. Rowling had tweeted that some of the next film was going to be set in Rio de Janeiro, which was the first we had heard of it," and that "Dumbledore's not going anywhere!" "He's just beginning," chimes in Waterston, "And we know he doesn't bite the dust!"
COUP DE MAIN: Eddie you've talked about a scene which got cut from the script, in which Newt was unhappy about the publication of 'Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them' being a huge success, because it had ramifications on how wizards were treating magical creatures. Do you think it's better for a spotlight to be shone? Or do you think commercialisation is dangerous?
EDDIE REDMAYNE: Oh my gosh, what an interesting question, and I don't think I ever got to fully read that scene. I saw a scene in which Newt's become really famous and there are fans trying to come into the room and he just doesn't have the facility to cope with that and he's a bit all over the place. But, oh that's right! There was a scene that said that the success of the book had meant that the illegal trade in nifflers had gone up, like <gestures wildly>. But I think it's all about education. So I think the more we educate ourselves, the more we engage and can't hide from things that are confronting us. So I suppose I still think it's worthwhile to put a spotlight on things.
CDM: Would Newt Scamander and David Attenborough be friends if they met?
EDDIE: I think they would be frickin' bezzies.
KATHERINE WATERSTON: 100%!
CDM: What would they talk about?
EDDIE: What would they talk about? Oh my god, what wouldn't they talk about?! I think they would start with the issue with plastic, I think - plastic and the oceans, that would be the first thing they would be dealing with. And I think Newt could be kind of helpful there. I'm sure a couple of spells could sort that out.
KATHERINE: And Newt doesn't encounter a lot of people that share his interests, so I bet it would be really fun for him.
EDDIE: I'm hoping a mini Hagrid arrives in this series at some point. That would be kind of lovely.
KATHERINE: Yeah, get a little young Hagrid in there!
[ *spoiler alert* ]
CDM: Alison, did you expect for Queenie's character arc to go such a surprising way in this film?
ALISON SUDOL: I was told certain things way, way, way before the script got to us, so I was prepared in a certain way for the arc, but I couldn't wrap my head around why at all. And even when I read the script I still couldn't understand. And it took a lot of digging in, and I spent a lot of time with so many questions and I had so many notes, and I was reading different things and archetypes, and trying to figure out how this could happen and what led her there. And talking to David Yates a ton, and then David was talking to Jo, and they were conferring and coming back to me, and ultimately, you have this young woman who desperately wants to have a family because she's an orphan, it's always been her and her sister, and then she falls in love and the man she falls in love with alienates her from her sister because her sister's a real rule-follower and they're not supposed to be together these two. So right there, the foundation of her family is ruptured. It's not solid anymore and she wants to solidify it so badly. And so then she makes some decisions which maybe in hindsight aren't necessarily the wisest, but she's just doing what she can, out of a lot of fear. And adding to this, she has this enormous gift that is one that very few wizards have. It's rare and it's powerful, and in her world at least, it's a nuisance. People are always saying, "Queenie! Stop reading my mind!" In the greater wizarding world it is revered, but she hasn't been taught how to hone it or anything, so she's got this part of herself that she hasn't integrated, and so you have all of these things which take her off of her balance and you have her in Paris and she can't read minds in other languages, and that's the other problem, she couldn't even read Eddie/Newt's mind - he's got an accent, but forget it in Paris! And so she is just off her kilter and getting more and more desperate to try and solidify something, and so if you think about it like that, it actually makes quite a lot of sense. And also, one hopes it would help people empathise with those who are also vulnerable who are manipulated and brought into causes that are radical - causes where from an outside view you think, 'How could somebody ever do that?' But actually, if someone is lonely enough and lost enough and they are greeted with love and compassion and welcoming, that is a very powerful and very dangerous power.
CDM: David Yates has said that one of the main themes of 'The Crimes Of Grindelwald' is the idea of ‘being corrupted’ by love, and falling in love, falling out of love, falling in love with an ideology, and being drawn into love. Do you think love is the strongest human emotion?
DAN FOGLER: It's love.
ALISON: I feel like it's beyond emotion, love. It's something that's more than just feeling it. Love is something that moves through you, but it's also an action, and it's a choice, and it's a lack of choice. It's something that's so ephemeral. We don't understand it. And that's why I think it's so hard to control.
DAN: I heard that it's impossible to maintain hate and anger for long periods of time, because vibrating at that frequency actually hurts your immune system - it makes you sick. And laughing and love, it actually heals your immune system.
ALISON: Apparently your body can't produce cortisol when you smile.
DAN: The stress hormone?
ALISON: Yeah, so even if you're just like, 'Oh my god, traffic is so bad and I'm <shrieks> and I feel bad,' just keep that smile on your face and your body can't produce it.
DAN: That's so funny.
ALISON: Just fake it.
CDM: With the new 'Fantastic Beasts' film exploring values of tolerance and understanding and the promotion of fear, and the persecution of otherness being extremely relevant to what is going on in the world right now, did that add a layer of surrealness while filming the movie?
DAVID HEYMAN: Yes, but they also relate to what was going on in the world fifty years ago. Alas, history repeats itself. And there's been prejudice and bigotry of all forms. There's been hatred and lack of sympathy for people who are different. There's been a desire to stigmatise and bully and diminish people for hundreds of years. We are in a time where it's louder, admittedly, people are speaking louder, the nature of communication is such that it is heard louder, and we may like it less, but it's there and it's been going on. So, Jo is speaking to today, but she's speaking to history too.
CDM: The film explores interesting ideas of identity. Do you think identity is a constant thing? Or something that is always evolving?
DAVID: A theme that runs through Jo's work from the very beginning is what Dumbledore talks to Harry about early on, "We are defined by the choices we make." And this is a film about the choices that people make. Callum can talk about his character and in terms of the character itself, but really that's a theme that runs through all of her work, and is particularly at the heart of this one.
CALLUM TURNER: Very much so. That's what this film is about, taking that responsibility to become who you can be. And the choices that people make expose who they really are. And that's what we are finding out in this world right now - highlighting certain situations and people, but it's just bringing to light who they actually are. And it happens in this movie. And Grindelwald is seductive. And Queenie goes because she can't get one thing, so she thinks that maybe that's the answer.
DAVID: Grindelwald is to me a much scarier villain than Voldemort, because Grindelwald makes sense to certain people. Voldemort's power is fear and intimidation. As Callum said, Grindelwald seduces. As much as we may hate certain politicians because they do not speak our language, we have to understand that they are answering the needs and vulnerabilities and insecurities of others. Grindelwald is doing that. That's why Queenie goes over. He makes perfect sense. I understand why Queenie does what she does. I may hate it, I may not like it, it may make me sad, but yeah [it makes sense].
CDM: It’s said in the movie that in times of need, a phoenix comes to help members of the Dumbledore family. What do you wish would come to help you in your own personal times of need?
EZRA MILLER: People always ask like it's theoretical, like we don't have magical creatures that come to our aid. And then you're putting us and our personal security at risk to share the identities and whereabouts of the magical creatures that do help us. And these sorts of presumptions make these interview processes very difficult. Do you think Claudia Kim and I don't have magical creatures that come and visit us and communicate to us? You think we can tell you about them?! Have you ever even watched E.T.? Man! It's hard, guys.
CLAUDIA KIM: The Demiguise though is pretty cool, right?
EZRA: Yeah, that Demiguise is looking great over there. I love that Demiguise. Did you see that one over there?
'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald' is out in New Zealand cinemas from November 15th.