Q: Do you create as much detail beyond what we see in the Fantastic Beasts films as you did for the Harry Potter books?
A: Warner Bros had optioned the rights to the Fantastic Beasts years previously, so I knew that it might one day become a movie, but the only discussions we’d ever had about it were quite vague. I do remember thinking that if anything ever came of it, I’d have to make sure they got Newt Scamander right, because even though he never appeared except as a name within the Potter books, I knew a lot about him. He’d captured my imagination while I was writing his little book. I envisioned a doggedly different, awkward man who was at a loss with humans but phenomenally skilled with beasts.
As for Dumbledore and Grindelwald, I knew a huge amount more than ever appeared in the books, and this is my chance to show/tell some of it. Of course, in a film, one is revealing a story in a very different way than one does in a novel. Sometimes a single look does the job of three paragraphs. As readers of the original books will know, the pair of them don’t meet for a long time between their teenage interactions and their epoch-making confrontation in 1945. Nevertheless, we’ll be exploring their backstory in the films.
Q: What kinds of ‘beasts’ are we dealing with here – human or animal?
A: The idea of beasts works on several different levels within the movies. There’s the literal sense of non-human creatures: some of them cute, some of them terrifying, some simply strange. Then there is the metaphorical sense of the beast inside a man, the crude emotions that a manipulative genius like Grindelwald knows how to stoke and use. We’re also dealing with the idea of beastly people: that some humans are something less than human. Even where there is great charisma and intelligence, there may be an utter lack of conscience. Finally, I’m exploring the idea of creating beasts, which is to say, othering or dehumanising our fellow people, as the first step towards cruelty or extermination.
So through this beastly landscape walk our original four characters, led by the shambling figure of Newt Scamander, who loves the purity of creatures that the world might call monsters. The human world around Newt and his friends is becoming darker and more complex, and the original hunt for escaped creatures will become a hunt for something much more elusive and difficult: a return to humanity.