Leaky’s “Fantastic Beasts” Set Report: Talking to David Heyman

Sep 12, 2016

Posted by: Catherine

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

David Heyman was the first to speak to us, and his visit was a pleasant surprise. While we were told we would get to speak to David Yates and part of the cast, we did not expect David Heyman and Stuart Craig to take time away from their work to come say hello, but they wanted to!


Heyman was the first to stroll in, and for someone in casual clothing, holding a mug of steaming tea or coffee who looks like he needs the caffeine, he simultaneously makes you feel at ease while capturing all of your attention.


It is immediately clear that Heyman is just as much in love with the world J.K. Rowling has created as we are. It changed his life. Ecstatic about being able to create movies for the wizarding world once more, Heyman wanted to talk about how it all began. His first move, once the project was settled was to bring David Yates back.



I was wondering if you could first talk a little bit about bringing David Yates in as the director, was he always kind of in your mind as you guys were thinking of?


Yeah, I mean, listen, David knows this universe very well and so, there’s a short-hand and ease in terms of bringing him up to speed. And we felt that was important given that we were going to go straight in and move forward. Also, someone who would have a really good relationship with Jo which he’s built up over the last four films. That was important to us, too. And, you know, he’s great.


And, the other thing is, I think this film has a lot of colors, you know, it’s got darkness, it’s got fun and humor. It’s got adventure. It’s got sort of tender character moments and it’s funny. It’s very funny at times and I think that David’s really good at a wide variety of things and can handle them deftly and also in a way that feels truthful. So, it’s not humor just for gags. It comes from a place of character and that was really important to us. So, I think he’s very deft with the broad spectrum. And one of the things I love about this film is that it has so many different colors. It’s not just a dark film or it’s not just a difficult name or it’s not just this or that. It’s got a rich pamphlet of things. I think he’s right. He’s hugely talented and I think he brings a lot to each of us.


After all the producers, writers and directors were on board—the essential people needed to create a film—it was time to find the face of Newt Scamander and his friends. Eddie was their first and only choice as Newt, and once they had him secured the real casting process exploded.



Can you talk about how you cast Eddie and Katherine and Alison and Dan, the big quartet now.


Sure. So, we began with Eddie Redmayne and he said yes. He was our first and only choice. You know, we wanted someone who could play that outsider quality, who was immediately sympathetic and appealing. Who was you know, one of the great gifts of this film. I suppose like the Potters to a degree, was that you don’t have to cast a movie star in the lead part. Eddie is a movie star but he’s never been in anything of this scale really, carrying it. And that’s really exciting to us, but he’s immediately empathetic. You can believe that he’s a major Zoologist, that he’s kind of quirky, kind of off-center. But he has a deep-seated intelligence, which Eddie, you know, Eddie is super smart, he’s immediately appealing. He’s got a grasp over comedy and drama. You feel a lot for him and I think he’s a perfect lead.


He’s also someone who can exist at any time. You know, I think he sits very comfortably in the nineteen twenties. Lord knows he played enough period characters. But, I also think that he has a certain modern appeal too, so, he’s got all. I mean, well, you don’t cast someone for their silhouette but he’s got a wonderful, wonderful silhouette. You know that tall, thin and he’s great, so, we began with him. And then, we went through the process of casting the others and that wasn’t as linear a process.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 1.15.33 AM

We ended up doing a series of screen tests and pairings with different people. And, it was a long search, you know, it took a while because we wanted to get it just right. And Eddie was brilliant in that process, you know, he was screen tested with the others, ever generous. He quite liked it, in a way, because I think you can try things out. And, in that process but at the same time he was such a compassionate person. He’d been on the other side. He didn’t have to audition for this. He got the part. Because the others did [have to audition]. And, he had the fear, I think. So, when he was going through that process- probably that we were auditioning him really. We weren’t. And he was very sympathetic to those on the other side. In a sense that, you know, it’s quite nerve wracking being a part of a process like this. It’s the people you know that many aren’t gonna get it, and you want to treat them as kindly and with as much respect as he did and we did. So, he was involved in each of the cast auditions. And we did them in America and we did them here. And we ended up with Katherine, Alison, and Dan.


And you know, all three play outsiders beautifully. All three are outside– the characters they play are outsiders., Katherine, again in intelligence and you know when she smiles, the whole world, you know lights up. And she goes on a journey to one of becoming increasingly comfortable. She’s someone who, as a character in the film has been a little bit on the outside. On the fringes– and you can really see her trying to do the right thing. And trying to, again, having a deep-seated intelligence.

If you look at Alison, she’s luminescent. The camera loves her and you can see why someone like Dan would be smitten with her, and I think that she is, is alive and those eyes, you know. She has a real inner and outer beauty and I think that just comes across fantastically and she has an ethereal quality which was important for the part.

Then you look at Dan, who’s the real outsider. He’s a nomad entering this world. And he’s a nomad who wants to be an enthusiast. I get e-mails from Dan every couple of weeks saying, I’m pinching myself, I’m so excited to be here. Thank you. I think he is loving being part of this universe. And he is a great comedian, and that was important for us. But at the same time he can do the drama. You know, he’s a Tony Award winning actor. Uh, it’s funny when we first met him, he was playing a very different character. You know, black gloves. You know, like a nineteen seventies biker in a way. He was in long hair, curly and now fits so perfectly in the nineteen twenties wearing those suits. He’s great, really funny at the same time you feel that humor and all that. But deep down there’s an enthusiastic side about life, but also within sort of a depth and a truth to his performance.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.25.07 AM

The cast of Fantastic Beasts is significantly older than the Potter cast when they started back in 2001. We asked him how this affected the casting process, and other aspects of making the film–even how audiences will adjust to and react to a more adult cast. Haymen seemed relieved.



Well, the books and the movie famously grew up with the characters and matured. But this film you’re beginning with already adult characters and with the history of the films behind you entry point wise, does it feel tonally where we left off with the Harry Potter series?


I can tell you it means we don’t have to face one of the great challenges that we have to face on the Potters’, which is, uh, having the kids for three and a half hours, I’m afraid, I promise you that wasn’t factored into Jo Rowling’s reason for having adults. But, we do come in with Newt– he’s an adult. Like a lot of Joe’s central characters, and I think all four are like this in some ways, he’s an outsider. You know, he doesn’t sit comfortably within the universe as it were or within his universe. He’s probably more comfortable with the creatures than he is with people.

I think you can find elements of outsider-dom as it were, with each of the characters in this and with, Harry, Ron, Hermione, who find in each other and with their colleagues and friends, a community. And, that’s something that comes with this. I would not say this film is as dark as the last Potter. So, I don’t think we’re picking up there, in its term. I think it’s a lot more humor than there was in the last couple of Potters. But, I think there’s this similar emotional potency and character richness. So, we’re not following characters go from eleven to seventeen. We’re not seeing them grow up in that way but each of the characters goes on a journey. And I think that in terms of its audience, it has the potential to appeal to young adults alike.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.25.42 AM


The main characters from Harry Potter have become such important role models for fans. I think– especially Hermione, with young girls has become like, such an icon. Was it important to you as you were crafting these new characters, to continue that tradition?


Just speaking personally– I look at the films that I’ve produced. I mean, it’s funny. I don’t know that I looked at this or was aware of this until I’d made several films then I look back. It’s that Steve Jobs thing, you know, you can write history looking back ’cause you can’t write it looking forward. So, it’s not something I was thinking of, but now I do think about it, I think I’m very interested and I think that Jo is interested in outsiders– because in some way, I think everybody in this room knows how we’re in, or how many friends, or how many lovers, or how many marriages. You feel at times like an outsider. We all do.

And I think that and friends in relation — I think you look at how people out of who are outsiders. And I think that’s universally relatable, and inspiring model as you see those characters struggle and manage to deal with the circumstances and situations they find themselves in. I think you have strong women characters, you have strong male characters, you look at the themes of doing the right thing, of community of the greyness of the world. There’s no such thing as absolute good or absolute, you know. It’s also the choices you make– inform a lot of Jo’s work. And I think those themes– many of the themes that you see in Potter will find expression here. It’s slightly different as you said– We’re not dealing with people going through their teenage years to young adulthood. We’re not dealing with that. But many of the themes remain.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 12.25.27 AM

Jo Rowling has taken on a different role with these films, than she did with Harry Potter. As the author of Harry Potter, Jo eventually (after Harry Potter exploded into a world wide phenomenon) became one of the film adaptions’ producers. This time, she was truly at the helm as the screenwriter—she created the world once more, imagined all of its beasts, and every little detail. Jo wrote it and the rest of the team worked to make it a reality.



Talk about the development process of this like how earlier on did conversations begin of wanting to make another film and then honing in and deciding on doing this as an idea?


Jo wrote the script – simple as that. She didn’t need to go back to this world for any other reason than she wanted to. She’s passionate about her world. The amazing thing about Jo is, she knows this world inside and out. I’m told that during the making of the Potters’ that sometimes we’d go to her for something obscure like, you know the Black family tree in the fifth film. We had to make it real so, we had three or four lines in the book of the characters or three or four names in the book. In the film we had to show the whole thing. So we emailed her and half an hour later, an e-mail came back going back six generations. We were hunting names, connecting birth days, death days. Who was married to whom. It was a job. So, it was just sort of incredible–the depth of knowledge of this one. And I think it’s one of the reasons the books work as well as they do, what you read is but the surface of her knowledge of this universe. It’s incredibly well thought through. It’s not random. And all of the connective connective tissue uh, is well considered.

So, when it came time to this after we finished the films, there was an excitement about embarking on new challenges and also a deep melancholy, but the family that we had been was all going our separate ways and it’s such a privilege and such fun to exist in Jo’s wizarding world. I mean it’s fantastic! You know, just constantly creating, inventing, imagining and what I like about it all being so thought through is it’s not just fun for fun’s sake. But it’s actually a method to it all and a reason behind it all.

So, we were thinking about what to do and Lionel Wigram, who was one of the producers on this and who was the executive who I first sent Harry Potter. Way back in the beginning of nineteen ninety seven. Lionel whom I’ve known since I was thirteen years old, fourteen years old. He was thinking about what we could do and he had the idea of maybe doing a documentary about Newt. But ultimately I think Jo got word of that and sort of notion as, you know. I mean, we wouldn’t have done it without Jo’s permission or also a lot like, not sure we could’ve, but most certainly wouldn’t have done even if we could’ve.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 1.10.02 AM


I mean that’s the thing, amazingly during the early part of the process on Potter is everybody thinks she had files sitting at home. Absolutely not. In the beginning, she had no contractual– No, no, but– you wanted to support her, you wanted to, you know, we’d have been fools to do otherwise. And frankly, as a producer, one of my central roles is as a guardian of sorts– I feel on the films I’ve worked on–which were based on books. There’s a real sense of it being an author’s creation and though, of course, you’re making something different and separate, you want to respect the author’s vision or the reason why you got involved.

So, Lionel had this idea. Jo got wind of it. She said, “well, funny enough I’d been thinking about something already.” And she had this whole idea in some form. I mean, it’s changed and developed over the course of the year and a half and two years that’s been going on. But she knows how each part connects with her universe. She knows the history of magic before we were with Newt Scamander. She knows the history of the school where Queenie and Tina may have gone– I mean she has all this in her head. She knows creatures– their history, where they’re from and on. She’s knows who Newt’s family is, she knows Queenie and Tina’s family, she has it all figured out in some way. So, when she started, she showed us the script and [we] went, “Whoo.” Mm. Thank you.



So, speaking to that a bit. The source material for this is obviously very different than for Potter. You have Jo’s script and you have the book that she wrote. But unlike in Harry Potter where she describes Hogwarts perfectly, everyone sees themselves there, there’s a bit more room to play with the elements she provides and I was just wondering, how that has been?



It’s been great. She’s a great partner and actually even on the first Harry Potter film, even though she didn’t have the final say, when she came, she’s so helpful. She looked at the wands felt they were a little elaborate– we made them a little less elaborate and so, with this one, there was one thing which she felt was a little too elaborate. And you know, sure, there’s a lot of what we tried to do with the creatures, for example, is give them — I mean, for the most part they’re quite rooted, maybe, possibly, we think Occamy is the most extraordinary. But in a way, you look at Pickett or Demiguise or the Niffler or the Erumpent. They feel rooted in creatures that exist.

And we wanted to not create fantasies so much, even though they’re fantastical, there’s this sort of language which was developed in film for creatures which is a sort of fantasy language, obviously different directors and different films employ it differently but there’s part of that now but you can see what we’re trying to do– I hope– is try and ground them a little more.

It’s not the most sophisticated magic. I mean, there is sophisticated magic– but it’s not… It wants to feel grounded. A lot of the environments want to feel a combination of modern– I think MACUSA, very classical, but with American nineteen twenties modernity. That’s a combination I know Stuart described sort of Sienna Cathedral Marble, for example, or something like that. It’s got a classical feel with a modernity that’s submerging at that time in the world. You look at the basement- it’s classical it’s… you look at the same in Potter. There’s classicism about it and that’s very much a part of Jo’s vision.

Most certainly one of the challenges is you don’t have the security of the book. If you have those books, and they’ve been big hits– It’s both a challenge, but also a gift. You know you’d say, “Ah, yeah, quotes the book so. We don’t have that. But we do have Jo. And that sort of, tireless imagination is a gift. And she’s always there if we need to consult her, and she’s been absolutely brilliant about that.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 10.41.14 PM


You have the Fantastic Beasts Book, the encyclopedia…





And there a lot of creatures in that and Jo knows all the details about them but… how did you choose the first five or seven that were revealed? For the [film] and how are you using the book?


For the script? Well, it’s a combination– the book helps us with some of the creatures and most certainly who they are, where they’re from, some of the qualities that they embody. Jo has added a few. But Newt wrote this book. So, not Jo. It’s Newt. Jo wrote about Newt. So, it’s connected to Newt and the book that he’s written and the adventure that he’s on, writing rather the book.



The first seven that are being used are inside Fantastic Beasts.


Which ones?



The Niffler, Merpeople, Lethifolds, Augurey, Bowtruckles, Crup, and Ashwinder. And I was just wondering if there was a particular process that you went through in choosing any of the first ones ever to be featured?






No process at all?


Jo wrote the script. And that really was it– I mean that’s really the basis of it. As Jo wrote the script, a lot of these creatures and beasts were in there and part of the story. And then there would be a couple that we would, you know, we’re looking for some variety. So, that informed some of the decisions and certain, you know– what needs we have of the creatures– but most of it is what Jo’s written in the screenplay.

It’s one of these– it’s funny, you know– it’s sometimes a producer’s– it’s both a gift and a nightmare. You know, you get a script and the writer writes and an army of thousands came over the mountain and you go…Yeah, you know, all of a sudden– Oh, my God a thousand extras. What’re we gonna do? And then sometimes, you cut it down to an army of three? But they were using the creatures that are in Jo’s script. And then when we’re not– when we’re augmenting, it’s more to round out the environment. And to give a broader canvas so that we’re trying to be varied. I mean you’ve got some that fly, some that are more insect, some that are grey, you know, you’re just trying to– from a design aspect– you’re just trying to aesthetically broaden it in terms of qualities. Give a broader picture.


Heyman was pulled away to get back to work. Not that we minded, he was going to make us a film that we were quickly becoming more and more excited to see. Doubt about this spin off series was quickly slipping away. After he left, we had very little time to take a second look at the photos around us before Stuart Craig glided in and took a seat.

The Leaky Cauldron is not associated with J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or any of the individuals or companies associated with producing and publishing Harry Potter books and films.