Like millions of others, Eddie Redmayne grew up a Harry Potter fan — so much so that, while in college, he even auditioned to play young Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. That part may not have panned out (it went to actor Christian Coulson instead), but wouldn't be the last time Redmayne tried out for a role in J.K. Rowling's big-screen wizarding world. In the Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the star plays Newt Scamander, a magizoologist who accidentally sets a case full of magical creatures loose in New York. It's a fitting part for an actor so fond of the Potter world, especially considering how similar Redmayne and Newt turned out to be.
"I had this case, which I’d had for a long time. I keep my work stuff in it," the star says while at Beasts' New York press junket, recalling his first meeting with Beasts director David Yates at a British pub a few years back. Redmayne had shown up with the case, not realizing that it might seem like he was trying to imitate the very character he was hoping to play. Worried, he sat down next to the director with his case underneath the table, but before he knew it, the item was jutting out, threatening to catch Yates' eye. "I saw my case here and started pushing it back under the table," Redmayne says now, laughing. "I didn’t want to be one of those actors who turned up dressed as Superman."
Case or not, Redmayne got the part, and after fans see him in Fantastic Beasts, it'll be impossible to separate the Oscar winner from the magical character. The actor, with his big eyes and floppy smile, is a perfect fit for Newt, a kind but socially awkward wizard more comfortable with the creatures he hides in his case than with the humans he meets in New York. Yet while Redmayne was captivated by the role immediately, getting cast as Newt was no easy process, he says, due to Yates' decision to read the actor a few parts of the script at a time every time the duo met.
"It was deeply intoxicating, the story he told... it was like something out of Dickens," Redmayne says. "Every month or two I would come back and he would tell me the next couple of chapters... I was so seduced. And then I got to read the script, and I was so primed, it superseded all of my expectations."
Excited yet, Potterheads? Fantastic Beasts may not be a "real" Harry Potter movie, but it's just as entertaining and magical as anything you'd expect to come out of Rowling's never-ending imagination. And with an actor as passionate about the movie as Redmayne in the role, the name Newt Scamander could soon possibly become as familiar to audiences as Harry, Ron, and Hermione.
Images: Warner Bros.