Eddie Redmayne is sheepishly telling me the story of meeting Fantastic Beasts director David Yates for the first time. There’s a broad, bright smile on his freckled face as he does.
Eddie has a case. A tan leather case just like the one his character Newt Scamander keeps his beasts in. It’s the first thing I notice, sitting by Eddie’s feet. He notices me notice it and I say, ‘Is that an Eddie case... or a Newt case?’
‘It’s an Eddie case,’ he says, patting it fondly.
‘I’ve had it for about eight years. My dad works in the city and has always had a briefcase. I always did this acting thing for a living, which didn’t feel like a proper job and I wanted something that made me feel like I was doing a proper job and so I got this case. I use it whenever I go on set. I keep my script and whatever mementos I find useful in it.’
He clears his throat gently, as a little chortle escapes his lips. ‘So when David and I had our first meeting about this movie I had this case with me. We met in a pub in Soho and sat down by a roaring fire. As he started telling me about Newt and the basic plot of this film – which included Newt having a magic case – I said, “I promise I didn’t know about Newt’s case. I didn’t bring this as some sort of weird method audition – like, don’t worry David, I come with my own case!” And I’m afraid it’s still here, it’s still got my life in it. Not quite as much as Newt has in his case, though...’
It wasn’t just the briefcase-shaped omen that convinced Eddie to take this role. It was the great respect he has for J.K. Rowling and David Yates (and Harry Potter for that matter, but we’ll get to that another time).
‘David has such a lovely manner and this incredible kindness to him. There was no question I wanted to do this movie. For me, it was a question of whether I’d get the gig. When I read J.K. Rowling’s script, I just had my mind blown. I was so excited by it. The amazing thing was that I found it funny, I found it a thriller, I found it romantic. At the end, I was deeply moved by it.'