Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Mads Mikkelsen, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Jessica Williams, William Nadylam and Victoria Yeates
Tripping the Light Fantastic Beasts
By Jay S. Jacobs
The Fantastic Beasts are back. The Secrets of Dumbledore is the third film in the second series of movies based on the wizarding world of author JK Rowling. These movies are prequels to the beloved Harry Potter series, and as you can tell by the title, this latest one revolves around one of the most beloved characters in the Harry Potter books and films, master wizard Aldus Dumbledore.
You would think it would be intimidating to take on such an iconic role.
“It was a no brainer,” Jude Law said in a recent virtual press conference for the latest film in the series, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. “‘Would you like to play Albus Dumbledore?’ Yes, I would. I felt like I’d been in preparation subconsciously, from the minute I started reading the books to my children.”
Of course, Law was in a particularly tricky position – taking on the part of Dumbledore – but playing him as a younger man than the wizened wizard that we all met in the Harry Potter movies. (Dumbledore was played in the first film by the late Richard Harris, and when Harris passed away as the second film was being made, the role was inherited for the rest of the series by Michael Gambon. So we’re seeing a character who we know – or at least we think we know – but meeting him before he became the man he would become.
Playing Dumbledore is “not a process of change,” Jude Law explained. “It’s more a process of regression I suppose. One of the joys that [director] David [Yates] really allowed me to investigate was rather than feeling the weight of the brilliant performances by Michael Gambon and Richard Harris was to really go back and understand that he’s not the fully formed Dumbledore of the Harry Potter books and films. He is a man still finding his way, still confronting and resolving his demons.”
Of course, Law had played Dumbledore in the second Fantastic Beasts film The Crimes of Grindelwald, so it is something Law has been experiencing for a few years now.
“That’s what I mean by regression,” Law continued. “I suppose that in this film in particular, he’s facing the past. He’s facing himself and his own guilt. If there were a quality that links him, I would say it’s his mischievousness, his humor and his belief in people. He sees the positive. How Dumbledore believed in Draco, he believed even in Tom Riddle. He sees the good, or the potential good. I think that’s something that he’s always had.”
In the films, Dumbledore teams up with the hero of the Fantastic Beasts series, “magizoologist” Newt Scamander, as played by Eddie Redmayne.
“I love the new Dumbledore relationship,” Redmayne said. “What I love is that it’s got that complexity of master and apprentice. But it’s evolved throughout the movies to being something almost fraternal. I would say in this one is older brother/younger brother. There’s a moment in this film when Newt even takes it upon himself, sees the vulnerability and Dumbledore and tries to pass on a moment of wisdom to him.”
Law is not the only actor taking on a role which had been done by another actor. Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen has taken over the villainous role of Dumbledore’s nemesis (and former lover) Grindelwald, who had been previously played by Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp. Although Mikkelsen does not like to think of Grindelwald as a villain. (“Misunderstood,” he corrected when the character was called that.)
“I was thrown into it a little later than the rest of the gang,” Mikkelsen said. “I mean, they’d done two films and then they were halfway [this one] through when I joined the party.”
Mikkelsen replaced Depp after the third film was already being made due to allegations made against Depp by his ex-wife Amber Heard that he was abusive. It is a charge Depp has strenuously denied and right as The Secrets of Dumbledore is being released to theaters Depp and Heard are in a Virginia courtroom determining whether the charges will be deemed false or not.
However, Depp’s loss was Mikkelsen’s gain, and he was happy to join the franchise.
“It’s like a family who visits, and you just can only hope that they will adopt you,” Mikkelsen said. “And they did. The whole gang is fantastic. The crew is fantastic. [Director] David [Yates] is fantastic. If they’re the family, he’s the Godfather. He’s done this so many times. (ed. note: Beyond filming all three Fantastic Beast films, Yates also helmed the last four Harry Potter films.) So he makes everybody feel at home. My journey was swift, but I felt at home right away.”
Of course, for as much as the film takes on Dumbledore and Grindelwald, the main character of the film and the series is the “magizoologist” Newt Scamander.
“What I what I love about Newt is fundamentally he’s an introverted guy and is most comfortable with his creatures and in his own world,” Redmayne said. But Dumbledore has seen a quality in him that he has the potential for leadership, albeit in an unconventional way. What I love about this movie, it’s like a wizarding heist movie, in which this group of outsiders all band together. All of us are unconventional. The leader is unconventional. There’s a kind of wonder in that.”
While Newt is the leader of the pack, there is a whole group of eccentric outcasts who are trying to save the universe from evil tyranny. For example, there was comic actor Dan Fogler who plays Jacob, a “muggle” baker and the only non-wizard allowed to be part of the troupe. (Including getting his own magic wand.)
“He reflects the times, in a lot of ways,” Fogler explained. “We’re heading into the Great Depression. He’s extremely down on his luck. It seems like he’s just in this constant state of loss. He’s lost. He’s lost his love. He’s lost his appetite. He’s losing his bakery. He’s losing his mind, you know? That’s where you see him. He’s very sad when you first see him, but he still holds that glimmer of hope that Queenie is going to come back. He’s hallucinating and then Lally comes and offers him a chance to come back and join the adventure again.
“Professor Eulalie Hicks is a charms professor at Ilvermorny, the North American wizarding school,” explained Jessica Williams, the actress who plays Lally. “She is a brilliant witch, who I think is a good teacher. She went to school with Queenie and with Tina at the same time. She’s someone who’s really good at seeing into the heart of people and the heart of the matter.”
And the heart of the matter for Jacob is beyond mere good and evil.
“[Jacob] does it all for his love,” Fogler explained. “That’s his whole motivation.”
That love is the aforementioned Queenie, played by Alison Sudol – who is also well known as a singer/songwriter under the stage name A Fine Frenzy.
“At the end of the second film, we see Queenie make a pretty shocking decision, something that no one really expected,” Sudol said. “But if you follow through the film, and you really think about it, she was in one unfortunate circumstance after another because of the way that the wizarding world operates. The prejudice. Really, all she wants to do is just be with the person she loves. The narrowmindedness of the world she lives in puts her into a really vulnerable position where somebody that’s really manipulative can tell her what she wants to hear. That’s going to have an impact.”
Also motivated by love is Bunty, whose mission is abetted by the fact that she has been crushing on Newt for most of her life. As the actress who plays her, Victoria Yeates acknowledged.
“She’s obsessed, I suppose,” Yeates said. “She idolizes him. She has watched him for most of her life growing up in Hogwarts. She loves beasts. She’s happier in the basement with beasts. She wants to be as good as him. There’s a lot of different levels of love, I think, a lot of respect. It happens, doesn’t it, unrequited love? It has been eight years, but I hope she’ll get there. I hope she’ll branch out at some point. She just needs more time than other people to branch out. She’s happy. She’s happy. She’s happy in his shadow.”
Less happy is the character of Yusuf, who is fighting off anger, hatred and demons. And people’s strange need to poke at him.
“People seem to want to take things out of him,” said actor William Nadylam. “Whether it’s Newt trying to take things out of his eye, or Grindelwald about trying to extract things from his head. I don’t know what the is message there.” He laughs.
Nadylam also sees the purposeful impact of his character. “Yusuf is someone who is motivated by pain and vengeance. That’s a recurring theme, in fact. What I love about the writing is what we’re doing is talking about humanity, talking about what motivates us, what are the subtleties that make us. He has been pursuing vengeance, looking for the person who created the demise of his family and realized that he was chasing the wrong target.”
The character, like all of the characters, have deep back stories and very complex motivations which have been explored and massaged through three films – and for at least Dumbledore, many more films than that. And that isn’t even taking into account the books.
“There’s just so much in the character to mine and to investigate as an actor,” Law said. “That’s before you even get into this extraordinary world of magic. That’s just him as a as a human. But the magic is really fun too. I remember Eddie telling me that on the second film – the first film for me – where he talked about if there’s a situation or a problem with a scene. ‘Remember, you’ve got magic at your disposal.’ The scene in Berlin [in the new film], when I had to pass on information to the team went from being a scene where I was basically passing over maps to a scene with a magic hat and all sorts of things flying out. Again, that was the excuse of, ‘Well, yeah, it’s magic. So I can do that.’”
“As far as working with Jude is concerned, I adore this man,” Redmayne concurred. “He was a friend before we started working together. One of the real joys about working on a series of films is you get to push things. You feel so comfortable working with each other that you can push boundaries, I suppose. There’s a kind of shorthand, so that was joyful in this.”
Newt is not the only character who connects with Dumbledore and a friend and mentor.
“[Lally] is really good at defensive magic,” Williams said. “Dumbledore recruits her to help her deal with his bad ex. I really feel like this is a good person to call for something like that. I think that she is someone who in this situation, trusts Dumbledore, even though she doesn’t necessarily know how things are going to play out. Because again, she kind of sees the heart of people.”
“Dumbledore has provided [Yusuf] with a mission,” said Nadylam. “He’s been given a mission. He’s part of an army. For the person who had lost everything he’s been provided with one of the most beautiful gifts – a family led by Newt and a purpose.”
That sense of purpose is shared by Bunty. As stated by Yeates, “She’s given a more important role. She grows in confidence. She would do anything for her beloved Newt, anything. You just see her step out of the shadows more. And Dumbledore gives her a mission, which will be very important to the film without giving too much away.”
Mikkelsen is not sure why he so often plays such… complicated… characters.
“It’s not something I find myself,” Mikkelsen said. “It’s in the story. It’s in David’s head. It was also true this character is very linked to Dumbledore. Me and Jude we had quite a few conversations about what that relationship looked like. My character is shaped out of that world. Nobody in history starts out saying I’m going to be the bad guy, right? We have to figure out what his mission is. What’s his goal? Why is he trying to make the world a better place in that manner? I think that they started out having a common and a mutual goal as young adults or big children. Then it got blurry. The ways of getting to that goal were different than they imagined.”
Queenie is stuck in a strange new place as well.
“At the start of this film, we find her in a world that is very different than any world she’s ever been in before,” Sudol said. “She’s being utilized for this tremendous power that she has, that she’s either had to hide in the past, or she’s been made to feel guilty about. There is something interesting about that – about a person who hasn’t actually been able to live fully as who they are. I think a lot of young women can relate to that as well. What happens when somebody sees that thing in you – that burning part of you that nobody else sees? She’s in a tricky, interesting position. We don’t really know where she’s going to go and who she is and how she’s going to move forward. She’s at a point in her life where she has two ways to go. She’s made a decision. Maybe she won’t be able to get away. Or maybe she will. That’s what her journey is now.”
However, not matter how strange their path may be, it is one that is fascinating and delightful for the actors.
“When you get to incorporate magic or creatures,” Redmayne said. “That for me is has been some of the most fun.”
Copyright ©2022 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 14, 2022.
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