Leaky’s “Fantastic Beasts” Set Report: Exploring MACUSA

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Sep 12, 2016

Posted by: Catherine

Exclusives, Fantastic Beasts, Fantastic Beasts Movie, Leaky, News, SetReports, Warner Bros.

Between talking to David Heyman, Stuart Craig, and David Yates and interviewing the cast of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we had the time for a little lunch and to tour a couple indoor sets that were not being used for filming that day. The two sets we visited were the grand atrium entrance of MACUSA, and the subway where the final battle was to take place (they were going to begin filming the final scene the next day).

 

Our first visit is to a dark, less than half lit set of the main atrium of MACUSA. Our lovely Warner Bros. rep held my arm and insisted (like a good mother duck watching over her flock) that we keep our noses out of our notebooks and use our hands to walk up the slightly unsteady stairs, rather than scribble away.

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The top of the stairs opened into a vast atrium with black and white striped walls that lead up to no ceiling (CGI would later make the room infinitely taller and truly magical). There were splashes of red thrown among the black and white, including a long gentle arch that stretched the entire back of the room, and over the entrance to the atrium.

 

The floor was tiled with charcoal grey and dark red marble tiles, with gold diamonds where the corners of the tiles meet. The floor raised into a platform in the middle of the room, that supported four grand red pillars, made up five smaller pillars. The red pillars were ringed with gold at the bottom, middle, and top, and mounted each was mounted by a golden phoenix—wings spread in flight.

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In the middle of the raised platform, a collection of metal statues stood, looking solemnly at each other. The child statue pulls at her mother’s hand, who is paying no attention to her. The statues are settlers (presumably 1700s witches and wizards) accused of witchcraft during the first Salem witch hunts, and in danger. These statues serve as a reminder of the dangers of living with magic among No-Maj.

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Around the perimeter of 3 of the 4 walls in the room, white stone statues stood upon black posts. There were men who looked eerily like Fudge—roly-poly elite, stately dressed, some even with bowler hats, that exuded political power (pictured below, a zoomed in screen shot from a video released earlier this year). One of the statues in particular was of a man in an exquisite coat, brandishing a walking cane, who looked as if he was half-human, half-lion. His hair cascaded around him like a mane, and his face, with a broad short snout, looked like it could have sprouted whiskers (not pictured). All of these stately men, erected in stone, I assumed were past wizarding presidents of MACUSA. There was one empty black pillar, possibly awaiting a statue of President Seraphina.

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Along the fourth wall not containing statues on pillars, were rows and rows of 1920s office desks. The desks were covered in files and papers, and many of the witches and wizards who sat at the desks (perhaps one of them is Tina Goldstein’s desk) used the windowsills of the soaring windows beside them as bookshelves. Many of the forms that scattered these desks seem to be some kind of arrest records. Perhaps for those who violated the wizarding statute of secrecy, or worse, for evil witches and wizards like those on the wanted posters back in the producer’s drawing room.

 

Between theses rows of desks and the raised platform where the statues of the puritans stand, the Latin words “MACUSA * INTEGRITAS * UNITAS * VIRTUS” tiled into the floor over and over again, in a straight line. A reminder to MACUSA office workers (like Tina Goldstein) that MACUSA’s mantra is “Integrity, Unity, and Virtue”.

 

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Down the stairs we came up, and low beneath the set of the MACUSA atrium, is a set of silver tunnels. The columns that created the archways of the tunnels were mini replicas of the grand pillars composed of 5 smaller columns in the atrium above. Though, no phoenixes were attached to these. An endless row of simple triangular lamps hung from the arches to light the paths down these tunnels. Everything was spray painted in grey and silver, with no splash of color and hardly any light. Perhaps these tunnels connected MACUSA to the subway system.

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Our last stop is the MACUSA subway, or to No-Maj, part of the New York Subway. This set was housed in a different stage building (Stage E). As we scurried over to see the subway tunnel and Eddie wrapped up shooting, we were told that the subway tunnel hadn’t been used yet. It was currently being built and prepared for the movie’s final show down, an epic and magical battle.

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As we walked around the wooden stilts holding together the skeleton of an ordinary subway tunnel, we weaved our way through carts of broken glass and whole panes of glass, special effects gear, stunt ropes and landing pads. The amount of work and material going into crafting this finale was indescribable.

 

The subway tunnel was made of red brick and rounded arches. A glass ceiling was laid in strips, some of the glass panels intact, some perfectly broken, some completely missing. A rounded staircase rose up through arches. At the top of the staircase were wooden boxes sitting upon elbow-high posts. “Drop Tickets Here” the box requested.

 

To the No-Maj and Muggle eye, the 1920’s subway tunnel was hardly any different than the ones used frequently today. But as fans of the Wizarding World, we know that insanely magical events are hidden beneath the mundane. For what occurs during this epic finale, we’ll have to wait until November to find out.

(Click to enlarge images)

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