When news broke that J.K. Rowling was writing a Harry Potter spinoff film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, we were beside ourselves with glee. What would it be like? What should it include? We made our best guesses at the time, but when we ran into Harry Potter producer David Heyman while he was out and about promoting his space-spectacular Gravity this week, at the premiere on Tuesday and at a Peggy Siegal luncheon on Wednesday, we had a chance to put our theories to the test, and then some. "Honestly, we haven't begun, because [Rowling] has got to write the script," Heyman said. "But it's fun to start thinking about it!"
First up, Hogwarts. Even if Fantastic Beasts protagonist Newt Scamander has graduated from wizarding school, we could see him heading there for a consult, and butting heads with who we surmised would be headmaster at the time, Phineas Black. ("Yes, he would be," Heyman confirmed). When we suggested that Black could provide conflict, since he wouldn't support Newt's research or goals of understanding other species, Heyman lit up. "I love this! I'm going to remember that." As for the once and future headmaster Dumbledore, Heyman agreed that just a cameo should do the trick. "It could still be Michael Gambon [even if Dumbledore was younger]," Heyman said. "But I like that. A little wink is a good idea."
Heyman then asked us the more pressing casting question, "Who should play Newt?" Did he want a relatively unknown actor, someone who hasn't been overexposed? "I like that," he said. "Please, I need all the help I can get!" Well, then! We thought about it and rattled off a few names:
- Dev Patel ("He's a really good actor," Heyman agreed.)
- Thomas Brodie-Sangster, despite the fact that he's playing another character named Newt in The Maze Runner ("I know him, he's excellent.")
- Jack Gleeson, who's said he wants to go into academia after his reign as King Joffrey on Game of Thrones ends, but perhaps could be convinced to play an academic instead ("How old is he?" Heyman asked. "Newt is a tiny bit older.")
- Bret McKenzie, who is much older, but can play younger ("He's really good.")
- And if they wanted to promote from within, Harry Melling, who originally played Dudley Dursley but has thinned out considerably as he's grown up, which is why he was wearing a fat suit in Deathly Hallows ("He's a really good actor, and I love his work, but that's a little more difficult because he's been Dudley.")
Heyman stopped us so he could write it all down. "I love these!" he said. "This is a nice blend of types." As he typed away, Alfonso Cuarón walked past us. And wouldn't he make a great director for Fantastic Beasts? His Prisoner of Azkaban is widely regarded as the best of the Potter films, and most crucial, it introduced the Hippogriff. (Newt's mother is a Hippogriff breeder, so the film is likely to include them, along with a slew of other magical creatures.) "I love Alfonso, and I would make the yellow pages with him," Heyman said. "When I was asked to get involved in Gravity, I said yes before I read the script. He's one of the greats." But, again, as with all of this, too soon to tell.