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September 12, 2016
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Eddie shared his guide to some of the “Fantastic Beasts” in his new film with the New York Times.

Anticipation for “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” has been so high that fans began dressing up as its main character, Newt Scamander, based solely on the trailer. That surprised its star, Eddie Redmayne, when he attended Comic-Con International in July and looked out into the audience only to see several Newts staring back at him.

“I found that deeply exciting and weirdly shocking,” he said by phone from London. Imagine what will happen when the movie arrives Nov. 18, and eager Harry Potter fans get another look at J. K. Rowling’s wizarding world.

Ms. Rowling’s story — this is her debut as a screenwriter — follows a self-proclaimed “magizoologist” who was expelled from Hogwarts but eventually wrote one of the school’s most important textbooks. He has been traveling the world collecting, studying and building relationships with all kinds of magical beasts, toting them in a suitcase as part of his mission to educate wizards about why beasts are so important to them. But when some creatures escape and take to the streets of 1926 New York, the mishap could expose the wizarding world and lead to war.

While the beasts are at the heart of the film’s title, humans are at the heart of its story, said David Heyman, a producer on the “Harry Potter” movies: “The ‘Potter’ films and this film all emanate from a place of character. Newt is an outsider, a bit like all of J. K.’s characters.” That’s why he feels best able to connect with the beasts, though eventually he connects with people as well.

But about those beasts. To learn how to work with them, Mr. Redmayne (left, with Katherine Waterston and Colin Farrell in the film) spent time at wildlife parks observing animal handlers. He incorporated his research into his character, and into the movie. Here, Mr. Redmayne explains how a baby anteater proved inspiring, why he needed an animator on set with him and which beast is his favorite (though he loves them all, really).


The Bowtruckle
While Newt knows he shouldn’t have favorites among the beasts, there is one he’s quite fond of, and it’s Mr. Redmayne’s favorite as well: the skinny, plantlike Bowtruckle, which is difficult to spot thanks to its ability to blend into foliage. Newt has four Bowtruckles. They eat only insects and are loyal to their handlers. “They’re wonderful at picking locks,” Mr. Redmayne said. “There’s a specific Bowtruckle called Pickett who Newt loves. Pickett has attachment issues, and Newt lets him swing along in his top pocket.”


The Swooping Evil
Butterfly meets pterodactyl in this colorful winged beast with the ability to suck out brains. “My inner 9-year-old is obsessed with the Swooping Evil,” Mr. Redmayne said. “He’s like this spiky ball with a thread that hangs down from Newt’s finger. When you spin him out, almost like a yo-yo, he unfurls into this terrifying creature.” Newt sporadically milks venom from the Swooping Evil, but he’s still studying how the venom can be put to use.


The Demiguise
This beast has large eyes like an owl but otherwise moves like and resembles a primate, hairy and agile. “It has this capacity to go from being visible to invisible, so their pelts can be used to make invisibility cloaks,” Mr. Redmayne said. That’s why the Demiguise is often hunted and remains very rare. It also has a kind of precognitive vision; to catch it, spontaneous tricks are necessary.


The Niffler
The Niffler is a small furry creature with a platypus-like snout and an appetite for shiny things. Newt’s interactions with him are based on Mr. Redmayne’s observations of a zoologist working with a baby anteater. “It would curl up into a little ball, and in order to make it relax, she would tickle his little belly,” he said. “There’s a moment where the Niffler has gorged himself on glittery stuff, and Newt is trying to get him to release his jewels. So he ends up tickling him.”

Each of the beasts is a computer-generated creation designed and brought to life by a specific artist. For his scenes with the Niffler, Mr. Redmayne asked the animator Pablo Grillo to act out the creature’s mannerisms on the set so that the person most aware of its nuances could help give depth to his performance. “My fear was doing a lot of green screen, because I have quite a dodgy imagination,” Mr. Redmayne said.

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