Warner Bros.' upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes place in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, some seventy years or so before the battle between You-Know-Who and The Boy Who Lived. However, Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling - making her screenwriting debut on Fantastic Beasts - has cautioned that this new wizard adventure will not attempt to serve as a prequel to Harry's story; rather, for all intents and purposes, it's a standalone adventure about Mr. Newt Scamander.
There's only ever been one candidate listed as the front-runner to play Mr. Scamander in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts movie by director David Yates (the final four Harry Potter films) - namely, actor Eddie Redmayne, fresh off his Oscar winning turn in The Theory of Everything as well as his... memorable performance in the Wachowskis' Jupiter Ascending. Well, it's now official: Redmayne will be headlining the upcoming fantasy adventure.
Scamander, as Harry Potter buffs will already know, is a "preeminent magizoologist, who in his travels has encountered and documented a myriad of magical creatures," as he's described in the WB press release confirming Redmayne for the film. The character eventually pens the Hogwarts School textbook "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them", but Rowling and Yates' upcoming feature film starts out well before that happens. Plot details beyond that, however, remain under-wraps for the time being.
Here is the statement from WB President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production, Greg Silverman, regarding the casing of Redmayne as Mr. Scamander:
"Eddie Redmayne has emerged as one of today’s most extraordinarily talented and acclaimed actors. We are thrilled to welcome him into J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, where we know he will deliver a remarkable performance as Newt Scamander, the central character in ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.'"
Redmayne, whom Yates described as a "fearless actor, brimming with invention, wit and humanity" in WB's press release, won't be the only main character in Fantastic Beasts, of course. It's been reported that Rowling's script begins in New York and includes lead roles for four Americans: two women, two men. The casting process for the movie's female leads (said to be a pair of sisters, Queenie and Tina) is already underway, with folk like Saoirse Ronan, Dakota Fanning, and Kate Upton said to be among those in contention. There's no word yet on might play the two American men, though.
Most of the people working behind the scenes on Fantastic Beasts were also involved with the Harry Potter movies; including, producers David Heyman and Lionel Wigram, as well as writer/producer Steve Kloves. It stands to reason, then, that Fantastic Beasts shouldn't have much trouble upholding the quality standard of the Boy Wizard film saga, while also further exploring not just the Wizarding World - but doing so in an intriguing historical time period (read: 1920s-30s New York), no less. Yates' years of experience making these big-budget fantasies ought to likewise aid in bringing Rowling's new vision to cinematic life.
Interestingly, Fantastic Beasts will be the first Wizarding World film not based on previously-established source material with a firm storyline (seeing as the 2001 "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" faux-textbook that Rowling wrote for charity doesn't actually have a plot). Rowling's script doesn't have to compress a ton of material into a movie that runs between around two and a half hours (like the Harry Potter films did), but the concern is that her narrative will tread too close to those from her Harry Potter novels (in terms of the archetypes and tropes it relies on).
Redmayne should make for a compelling protagonist, so fingers crossed that Rowling has assembled a unique story that endears Mr. Scamander and his pals to moviegoers - not to mention, a tale that also takes advantage of the fact that there's so much of this fantastical setting that remains unexplored on the big screen.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens in U.S. theaters on November 18th, 2016. Additional release dates on November 16th, 2018 and November 20th, 2020 have already been claimed for the potential sequels.
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures
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