Nearly 15 years after the search for an unknown British actor to play Harry Potter, producer David Heyman had another famous wizard to cast – Newt Scamander. But this time there would be no great search, and the actor wouldn’t be totally unknown. ‘From the outset, Eddie Redmayne was our first and only choice,’ Heyman once wrote in the Telegraph. ‘He has all the elements required to be Newt: he’s smart, funny, utterly British, and immensely sympathetic – even as an outsider more comfortable with his beasts than with people.’
Beyond Newt, of course, Redmayne is best known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of the late physicist Stephen Hawking, whom he played in 2014 biopic The Theory of Everything. Two years later, he was reintroduced to the world as the star of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, where he led a new generation of talent (Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler and Ezra Miller) into a new era (well, the 1920s) for the Wizarding World.
As Newt, he portrayed a different kind of hero than Harry Potter. For one, he was an adult, which was reflected in the film’s mature tone. And two, he played Newt slightly more awkward, more shy and more reserved – a hero who, as Heyman said, was more ‘comfortable with his beasts than with people’. For the forthcoming second film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which moves the action from New York to Paris, Newt will begin to take on a pivotal role in a larger story – as he’s asked by Albus Dumbledore himself to forestall the rise of Gellert Grindelwald.
Katherine Waterston appeared in a string of supporting roles before making a breakthrough with Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice in 2014, and as Chrisann Brennan, the wife of Steve Jobs, in Danny Boyle’s eponymous biopic in 2015.
A year later, she landed the role of Tina Goldstein, the demoted Auror who initially tries to arrest Newt but eventually strikes up a budding flirtation with him. Speaking of the role, she told SFX magazine that, ‘it was a process of reconnecting with that child-like part of myself… I was struck by how far away from playfulness I had gotten.’
She has since appeared in major films like Alien: Covenant and Logan Lucky, bringing her unique blend of vulnerability and vigour to every role.
Alison Sudol, meanwhile, had a career as the singer-songwriter A Fine Frenzy before she decided to take up acting – having released three studio albums and one live album between 2007 and 2013. Her first major role was as the recurring love interest Kaya in the debut season of Amazon Studios’ award-winning show, Transparent. She went on to secure the role of the doomed Emma in the short-lived apocalyptic thriller Dig. However, the role of Tina’s younger sister, Queenie, a Legilimens who strikes up a romance with Dan Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski, was the part that she had been waiting for.
‘This is a wild, surreal dream for me,’ she once told the Independent. ‘I read all of the [Harry Potter] books. I read some of the books on tour, actually, and its really lovely to have that sort of universe to escape to, because when you’re on tour you are constantly moving from city to city, and it’s all quite disorientating. Then to go to such a strong vivid world in my bunk at night is really quite lovely.’
Dan Fogler was a filmmaker, voiceover artist, musician, comic book creator and stand-up comedian, as well as an actor, prior to joining Fantastic Beasts, but considered winning the audition for his biggest role yet, No-Maj Jacob Kowalski, a ‘long shot’. As it happened, he found out he got the part while he was selling his comic books at San Diego Comic Con in 2015.
‘It was just incredible,’ he once told Pottermore, ‘like everything that came before had been a dream.’ A year later, he would return with his Fantastic Beasts co-stars for his first panel in the legendary Hall H at San Diego Comic Con. ‘If the Harry Potter universe calls, you don’t hesitate. If you have an opportunity to be a part of it, you jump on, hold on and stay on for as long as you can.’
Having appeared in films such as Minority Report, Phone Booth, S.W.A.T. and most famously of all, Martin McDonagh’s 2008 black comedy In Bruges, Colin Farrell had fashioned a reputation for playing questionably moral rogues. Perfect for Percival Graves, the enigmatic head Auror of MACUSA, whose rough edge and mysterious mission to find an Obscurus betrayed a secret identity – he was actually Gellert Grindelwald in disguise.
A clever move – after all, who would suspect an actor as big as Farrell of being a mask for a villain underneath? As for Percival, despite being quite antagonistic in the film, Farrell was adamant to defend his character. In SFX magazine in 2016 he said: ‘Villain? How dare you! So judgmental. No, no, [Percival’s] a good guy; the kind of guy you want to have a beer with, and some chicken wings.’
Johnny Depp’s fascination with the fantastical made him a good match for the Wizarding World, and when it was revealed at the end of the first Fantastic Beasts film that his icy-haired interpretation of Gellert Grindelwald had been hidden away all along behind Colin Farrell, the shock-ending had audiences stunned.
Of course, Johnny Depp has always been drawn to the more eccentric roles of cinema – the strange misfits we fell in love with. He has earned acclaim for his frequent collaborations with gothic mastermind Tim Burton, starring in the likes of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In Edward Scissorhands, Depp broke hearts playing the isolated title character, when the offbeat fairy tale fast became a beloved cult classic.
But he is most famously known for his creation of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The character, famously inspired by Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards – smothered in eyeliner and oozing with charisma – saw a new generation of audiences fall in love with Depp, and earnt him his first of three Academy Award nominations.
From one franchise to another, Johnny Depp’s role as Grindelwald in this year’s The Crimes of Grindelwald is set to take audiences by storm, with the film set to focus closely on Grindelwald’s ascent.
Earlier this month, Depp surprised audiences once again by turning up at Comic-Con 2018 in Hall H, with an impromptu, almost Shakespearean soliloquy as Grindelwald. After many reinventions, who knows what Depp’s interpretation of Grindelwald will entail…
Zoë Kravitz technically made her debut as Leta Lestrange in the original Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – appearing in a framed photo Newt kept of her in his enchanted case. But in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, we’ll finally meet the mysterious Lestrange proper.
As for Kravitz, beyond her ‘hobby’ of recording and releasing music, she has appeared in various TV shows and films, including the Young Adult franchise Divergent, 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, and, most recently, HBO’s hit drama Big Little Lies.
Speaking about Lestrange’s grand introduction in this new chapter of Fantastic Beasts, Kravitz told Entertainment Tonight: ‘You definitely see more of me than in the first one! Being a Lestrange is an interesting thing. You know, you obviously want to make the character interesting and layered. She’s had a really complicated past and been misunderstood.’
‘It’s gonna be incredible. The story and the magic are just extraordinary.’
With the role of beloved Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore already immortalised by the likes of Richard Harris and Michael Gambon, the idea of a younger Dumbledore, years before the big long beard, was tough to imagine. Step forward Jude Law, whose youthful charm, charisma and wry smile made him an excellent choice to take on a very complex man.
Jude Law’s career has been going from strength to strength since the 90s, where Law’s break-out role as the blonde globetrotter Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr Ripley earnt him a BAFTA for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and an Academy Award nomination. From there, Jude Law has taken on a variety of interesting and layered characters, such as Gigolo Joe in Steven Spielberg’s AI: Artificial Intelligence and W.P. Inman in Cold Mountain. More recently, Law tackled every actor’s dream role: playing Hamlet on Broadway to rave reviews.
Thanks to Law’s love of playing complex rogues, the Dumbledore-esque twinkle in the eye is certainly alive in him.
There’s an extra layer of magic when an actor joins the Wizarding World and they're already a superfan in the first place. This cannot be reiterated enough when we talk of Ezra Miller, the star who has already gained widespread attention from his performances in We Need to Talk About Kevin and his recent initiation into the DC Universe as The Flash.
Since joining Fantastic Beasts as the troubled character Credence, Ezra Miller has raved about growing up with the Harry Potter books – indeed, this actor represents the original Harry Potter generation, the young millennials who grew up reading the books at the same age as Harry.
‘I’ve listened to the audiobooks 100 times – at least 100 times,’ Ezra once told Pottermore. ‘I read the books and cried; I listened to the audiobooks and cried; I watched the movies and cried. But I kept listening. I was 17 years old when we got to the end of Harry Potter. I had them on repeat all those years of my life.’
Now, Ezra gets to immerse in the Wizarding World himself, and we couldn't be happier for him.
Join us next time for part three, where we look at the national treasures – the actors we already knew and loved from Maggie Smith to Alan Rickman.
For part one, where we examined the Hogwarts students who became stars, have a read here.