It's official. Following reports that Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne was in talks to play the lead role in the anticipated Harry Potter spinoff film Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them comes official confirmation from Warner Bros. that Redmayne will, in fact, play Newt Scamander in the film.
In addition to confirming Eddie Redmayne's casting, Warner Bros. describes the character as:
Newt Scamander, the Wizarding World’s preeminent magizoologist, who in his travels has encountered and documented a myriad of magical creatures, ultimately leading to his penning the Hogwarts School textbook "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."
Eddie Redmayne is one of a few names that made the rounds when speculation and reports about Fantastic Beasts' casting began to circulate. Matt Smith and Nicholas Hoult were also said to be eyed for the role. However, the more recent reports suggested Redmayne was signing on, and WB's announcement confirms it. Eddie Redmayne's credits include Les Miserables, Jupiter Ascending and an Oscar-winning performance in The Theory of Everything.
This marks the first official bit of casting for the highly anticipated feature adaptation of J.K. Rowling's magical creature reference guide. It's been reported that there are four additional lead characters, two male and two female, and recent reports listed Kate Upton, Dakota Fanning and Saoirse Ronan among the actors potentially being eyed for the roles.
Back when Variety reported that Eddie Redmayne was in talks for the part of Newt Scamander, the trade noted that the additional four stars were American characters. That falls in line with what we know about the plot of the film, which J.K. Rowling herself has confirmed takes place in New York. Beyond that, and knowing what little we do about Newt Scamander, we don't have a lot to go on in terms of the plot of Fantastic Beasts. The title and the reference guide penned by the character obviously suggests that there will be fantastic beasts of the magical variety. We're hoping that includes dragons.
Though the story is set in the same universe as the Harry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them will take place some seventy years before Harry Potter attended Hogwarts. So we might not expect many -- if any -- direct connections between this new story and the Harry Potter series. With that said, J.K. Rowling is penning the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts, and Warner Bros. notes that she's developed the character Newt Scamander "to further explore the unique wizarding world she has crafted in print and bring it to life on screen." With this new story picking up in a different time period and on a different continent, there's enough distance between Fantastic Beasts and Harry Potter to allow Fantastic Beasts to stand completely on its own if that's Rowling's plan. But is it too much to hope for a tie-in or two? That remains to be seen. (Albus Dumbledore was, after all, alive and well back during this time period. Just saying.)
With Redmayne's casting officially announced, hopefully we'll begin hearing confirmation and details about other roles in the film. Directed by David Yates, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them will arrive in theaters (including IMAX and 3D) on November 18, 2016.