Queenie the Half-Giant? Leaky’s ‘Fantastic Beasts’ Interviews #2: Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol
Nov 16, 2016
The second of our Fantastic Beasts interviews in London this week was with the enchanting Alison Sudol, and the boisterous Dan Fogler.
Dan strolls into the room, and sits down slowly with a slightly exhausted ‘ahhhh!’ and a grin on his face. Alison Sudol is nothing but smiles – they both light up the room instantly. Dan set his hands on the table, looked around at the interviewers and looked charmed, ‘Lazy Susan!’ He said – a tune in his voice. ‘It’d be great if these things spun around’, he commented, trying to make the top of the table spin.
‘That’d probably be quite inconvenient’ I grin, looking pointedly at the voice recorders on the table in front of them.
‘Like “Wait no, my phone!”” Alison laughs.
The pair are charming, and we can’t wait to find out more about their characters, and their experiences on set!
* Just a quick spoiler warning: Don’t read the rest of this article if you don’t want to know anything about the events in the film!
QUESTION: [To Dan] I am from Poland, so I just want to ask about your character’s name, Kovalski… So you are from Poland, right? It’s a Polish name, did you do any research about it?
Dan: “You know, he felt so close to me, my background is Russian-Romanian-Austrian, so basically just ‘Fleeing’ [laughs]. So I felt pretty close to the character. My great-grandfather was a baker on lower East Side, just off where my bakery was in the movie. So many synchronicities with my character – I felt like I was playing an ancestor when I auditioned, which is probably why I got the part”
QUESTION: [To Dan] What’s your Austrian background? (another interviewer also asked if he had any French background)
Dan: “My grandmother was a French teacher in World War II, actually. My Austrian background was my mother’s side, so that was Russian and Austrian on that side. My grandmother was Russian, my grandpa was from the Austrian side. My grandfather, Vogler, when they came over on the boat to Ellis Island they couldn’t pronounce the V, so it became ‘Fogler’ at Ellis Island, which is the bird, right?”
QUESTION: We see all the magic, but you as actors, what exactly do you play with? In scenes like in the apartment where you cook, you don’t see all the stuff in the air? Was it very difficult? I know CGI is used more and more, so it’s not new for actors?
Alison: “They had puppets, and they had drawings of the beasts as well. The puppets were unbelievable. They’re not in the movie, they were just for us.”
Dan: “They had these elaborate faces.”
Alison: “The way that they moved as well, the puppeteers would move these puppets and make little sounds and things. It was so spellbinding so you really got a sense of who you were interacting with in the scene. As far as the cooking scene, there were no puppets for the apple or the strudel [laughs], but in that case it was us all tapping into our imaginations and I needed to come up with a recipe. How to cook strudel, but also with a wand. We all had to learn how really interact with each other. We started off with that scene – it was the first coordinated magic in the movie.
“You really learn how to listen to each other and I thought it was an amazing mental exercise as adults, we really sort of lose touch with our imagination. You can be like “I’m gonna open a door” [mimics opening a door], and then you immediately forget where that door knob is, but then a little kid sees that door knob and that door knob remains there [motions to the imaginary door knob] no matter what, because they really create fully fledged images. I found it a wonderful exercise.”
QUESTION: [To Alison] Your character, did you base her on Mae West, or a little bit of Marylin Monroe?
Alison: “Ah Mae West, interesting! I actually did a lot of research on the twenties, but Clara Bow may have been my main inspiration. I found that her spirit was so wonderful. She’s from Brooklyn. She just had an extraordinary gift of fluidity of motion. She’d be “OH, so alive” and dancing [She makes a very Queenie-esque dancing motion], and exquisitely happy, and then something would happen and suddenly she was just on the verge of tears and you just felt everything. It felt very current to me, the way she expressed herself. She felt like a thoroughly modern woman, and very free, and completely un self-conscious as well. She just trod lightly on the earth, Clara Bow, and I wanted to do the same.”
QUESTION: [To Alison] She [Queenie] has very human feelings?
Alison: “Of course, Queenie is deeply humane, she sees into everybody. She is an amazing at compassion and understanding, and she is all heart. It actually became the biggest challenge for me to remain open, and staying out of the way, not cluttering myself with too many thoughts or fears or pressures – just allowing my heart to come first.”
QUESTION: Will we see you guys in the second film?
Dan: “I don’t know – that’s what they hinted at!”
INTERVIEWER: But did you sign the contract?
Dan: “We signed a contract for three and possibly four films”
INTERVIEWER: Ah, but it will be five, so renew your contract! There’s a great match between you in the film.
LEAKY: And there’s a lot of patisseries in Paris, so Jacob would love it!
QUESTION: How would you have your stories end? With a wedding or?
Dan: “It’d be fun it we ended up being someone’s parents or grandparents or something. I had this theory cause Hagrid, he has this story in one of the movies where he’s courting this giant woman [Madame Maxime], and he says [Dan puts on a rough West Country accent for this bit] “Ah, my mother, she was the magic one and my father was just a regular guy!” So I was wondering like, am I his father?
“But I don’t think so because [he turns to Alison] you don’t have any giants blood in your body, do you? No. Who knows.”
Alison: “Sometimes I see these normal sized people with really tall children, so you could totally have a Hagrid sized child, it’s possible. You never know.”
Dan: “I could totally see Jacob with a Hagrid sized child, like, “This kid is too big! Take him away, just drop him off somewhere – Newt’ll raise him, teach him how to hang out with the animals.” [Everyone laughs]
Alison: “That’s how he got so big, too much magical strudel! [laughs emphatically] I overfed him, sorry – I just LOVED him so much!”
Alison’s smiles shines, I’m sure you’ll know what I mean when you see more of Queenie’s character on film, but as a person – not just as a character – Alison Sudol can make everybody smile just with a smile of her own! The way she talks about Queenie is inspiring, and her attachment to the empathetic nature of Queenie as a Legilimens runs deep. Alison herself has the perfect composer for such a complex, enigmatic character: she manages to hold her presence in such a delicate, yet confident manner, and speaking to Colleen Atwood at the premiere revealed that this was what helped shape Queenie’s costume in many ways.
QUESTION: How did you get this job? Your characters are very likeable, and you are both probably about to be very popular if the movie gets big- which it’s going to be! So how did you prepare for this, was it difficult?
Alison: “Of course we’re very lucky, this is a very rare gift and we are very grateful.”
Dan: “Gracious and grateful. I wished on a star for this. Even though it was an audition process, I honestly feel like this is just a miracle that happened. I actually wished, I was like “Man, I need a miracle”. My career before this, I was just…. I didn’t know what was happening next. I thought it would be fantastic to be a part of – at some point down the line – an amazing franchise, have some stability and play a part where I would be able to play a character that shows the full spectrum of my abilities, and now here we are. I’m playing a part that is so like an ancestor, like it was written for me, you know? That’s why this feels like a dream.”
Dan’s disbelief is truly endearing. Jacob is basically in a trance throughout the entire movie – it’s like he can’t quite believe his luck. Dan does his character justice with not only his humour, but his ability to act with emotion, with depth. It’s really quite something to see both of these character in person, as actors, because the actors behind them are every bit as wonderful and intriguing!
QUESTION: What do you guys make of the political implications in this film?
Dan: “Thank God, that’s what the story tells, and the artist and the comedians and all of us who live in the right brain are supposed to be commenting on, “What the hell is happening in the world”, and she [Jo] does it so very well. In this there are so many themes that are relevant: racism and fear of the other, light vs dark, fear of the boogyman – using that fear as a catalyst to start war. There’s a lot of different parallels that are just too parallel.”
INTERVIEWER: But there is also tolerance, compassion – you are outsiders, in a way?
Dan: [About Jo] “She’s always preaching her wisdom, you know.”
QUESTION: But this was written before Trump was elected, and Brexit?
Dan: Well it was happening whilst we were shooting it!
Alison: “Also I think that there are artists who are very tapped into something very deep and undercurrent that is maybe ahead of its time, and so she wrote this but she wrote this a couple of years ago, she’s been thinking about this story for a very long time, but these are themes that have been bubbling under for a very long time. The things that are happening now did not come out of nowhere. These are attitudes and ways of approaching issues that have been bubbling under the surface and it’s so important that we focus on finding ways of commonality, and ways of accepting each other, finding ways of moving away from fear and hate and the tendency to point a finger at what we don’t understand and blame that for what’s going on in society and instead look at how we can join together and find more community and start working on solutions on a more grass-roots level because clearly the world is in trouble and we need magic more than ever. We’re all so proud to be a part of this film because it’s a beautiful film and it’s an amazing world to be in, but on a deeper level – on a human level – I think we all feel grateful to be a part of a movie that’s so needed.”
QUESTION (LEAKY): Was there a scene for you that reached out in a nostalgic way? For me, watching the film, the biggest thing was that they took this nostaglia of Harry Potter and flipped it. Even with the title scene, expecting to see Harry Potter but it comes up with Fantastic Beasts. When you were filming was there any scene in particular that said to you “J.K. Rowling wrote this film”?
Dan: “Well for me the biggest thing in the Harry Potter movies was the sorting hat. That really spoke to me because I went to summer camp and they had something called colour war. Everyone would get split into red team, blue team, green team – finding your own little cliques. I was between 10-15. You competed for points, just like in the movie, you know!”
LEAKY: “You were basically at Hogwarts!”
Dan: “Weeeell, not quite [laughs]. We’re doing Tug of War but you know, similar! Just the feeling of camaraderie and cliques and then in this movie the scene that spoke to me the most was the scene when I had to say goodbye to them. That to me was also summer camp, because was – man – it was just summer camp, all the firsts that I had. First girlfriends, first friends. You form your little motley crew, and then your parents come at the end and you have to say goodbye…”
“So many times I’d be blubbering like an idiot, and that’s what that scene is to me.”
QUESTION: Can you just tell us about working with Eddie?
Dan: “I’m pretty sure by the end of this conversation he’s gonna be knighted. Because, no I think he’s the youngest guy who’s gonna be knighted. That’s just my prediction. I think that he’s the most charming, amazing- I saw The Theory of Everything and I was like “This guy’s gonna win the Oscar” and then he did, and I thought man, if I could ever get to work with him I would just learn so much, and I did.”
INTERVIEWER: What, for example?
Dan: “I ebb and flow on the side of the bold and the broad. I come from theatre, so I’m just a clown at heart. He is on the other side of the spectrum. What he can just do – Theory of Everything was the perfect example. Everything was taken away from him – all he had was his eyes. That’s what Eddie does so well, I mean, he can tell half the movie with his eyes – not a lot of people can do that! Subtlety, he says so much with just a look. Brilliant.”
QUESTION: How do you prepare for the possibility that you could become superstars? Suppose both of you can step out onto the streets of London without being pestered every five metres, but if people want autographs and stuff – can you prepare for that? Are you afraid of it?
Dan: “I’ve had a bubble created, like a gerbil ball…” [Everyone laughs]
Alison: “Clever, that’s awesome.”
Dan: “But how do you know?”
Alison: “You really don’t, people have asked us if we’re ready and of course we knew we were stepping into a much bigger world – you can’t look at the sets without going “Wow, we’re in a big movie”, but the way that David Yates protected us from that is he kept everything and the scenes very intimate. We’d all kind of gather around in a group and it just felt like our little movie. As it gets closer and closer to the film there are more people who are starting to become aware of it but we’re just taking it one day at a time and if people want to say hello that’s good, that means they love the film. As long as it’s not in the bathroom or something – I have had that happen before!
“It’s lovely to be a part of something that people love!”
Dan: “Luckily the fans are lovely.”
Alison: “Yeah, and they believe in magic!”
Dan: “They say stuff like “Welcome to the family””
Alison: “I can’t wait also about like – the other night at the [New York] premiere there were some children there and they literally thought I was magic, and I was basically like “Well, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I will take it” and yes well “I can’t have my wand with me but here’s how to use yours” – that’s such a joy, and getting to interact with kids and telling them that beauty is something you have inside you and wand work magic is about intention – that’s exciting”
In a flash the interview was over. We thanked them for their time, and Alison and Dan glided out of the room, just as someone asked if they had met Jo Rowling. Alison turned back and said “Yes we have! And she’s as extraordinary as you would hope…”
Watch out for our interview with Eddie, Katherine and Ezra tomorrow!
Thank you to Warner Bros for these fantastic opportunities, we’ve loved getting to know more about the film, and can’t wait for everybody to see it!