This November’s return to the world of J.K. Rowling is one of the year’s most anticipated movies. What makes it even more exciting is that Oscar winner Eddie Redymane is such an inspired choice as innocent, likeable magiozoologist Newt Scamander. Here are eight reasons why.
1. He was always the frontrunner
Shortly after Redmayne won that Oscar for his brilliant performance as Stephen Hawking in 'The Theory of Everything', trade bible Variety revealed that he was Warner Brothers' first choice to take on the role of Newt Scamander. Although it hadn't become a hit, the studio was clearly impressed by his performance in 'Jupiter Ascending'. This was always going to be a sought-after role. Other high-profile actors linked to Scamander included Nicholas Hoult, basking in the critical and commercial success of 'Mad Max: Fury Road', and former Doctor Who Matt Smith, who was championed by excited Whovians.
2. He's extraordinarily versatile
Cast your eyes over the Redmayne CV. Notice a pattern there? Of course you don't. While some actors become associated with particular genres or types of role, Eddie Redmayne is impossible to pin down. He can play heroes (Stephen Hawking, obviously) and villains (a Nazi sympathiser in 'Glorious 39'). He's as comfortable in the past ('The Other Boleyn Girl', 'Black Death') as he is in the fantastical sci-fi future ('Jupiter Ascending'). Hell, he can even play another gender ('The Danish Girl'). He can sing too. Remember his big song 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables' in 'Les Miserables'? He also does voice work, graduating from a small role in 'Thomas & Friends: Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure' to the main character Dug in Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park's upcoming feature, 'Early Man'.
3. Newt is the first grown-up JK Rowling hero to hit the big screen
Think about it: the main protagonists in the Harry Potter stories were all children. It was only right at the very end of The Deathly Hallows that we saw them as adults. Newt Scamander is a very different kind of Rowling character operating in a very different time and place within what we might describe as the Potter Universe. The story unfolds 70 years before the events of 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' and is inspired by the field guide of the same title that was on Harry's first year reading list. There's no coming-of-age story arc for Newt. He's already a grown-up, who swiftly finds himself flung into the magical action.
4. It's a role that plays to all of Redmayne's strengths
British Ministry of Magic employee Newt finds himself in the New York of 1926, where he accidentally unleashes a briefcase full of his collected critters. This proves to have devastating consequences for the delicately balanced relationship between the wizarding community and the No-Maj (US term for 'muggles') one. The state of magic in early 20th century America is very different to that in modern-day Britain, which means that he's very much a, er, Newt out of water. As producer David Heyman told Total Film: “Newt is someone who communicates better with his creatures than he does with people." He added that Redmayne "is very good at playing characters that are out of step, as it were, and bringing to them a real heart and compassion. He has a desire to bring truth to every moment. . . And he’s a timeless actor, so he fits perfectly into 1920s New York.”
5. He's bringing sexiness to wizardry
OK, so the Harry Potter series was not without its romance and snogging. But sexiness was hardly one of its defining characteristics. Burberry/Prada model and GQ's Best Dressed Man of 2015 Eddie Redmayne, on the other hand, oozes sex appeal. Just look at all those besotted blogs devoted to him. Look too at the artwork and trailer for 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'. There's not much to go on at this stage, but he appears to be rocking the brilliant, slightly aloof and mysterious English thinking woman's crumpet shtick that worked so well for Benedict Cumberbatch in 'Sherlock', with charm in place of chilliness.
6. He always wanted to be in the Harry Potter movies
Remember that New Year's Eve special edition of The Graham Norton show back in 2014? Redmayne was his usual hilarious, show-stealing self, explaining how he auditioned unsuccessfully for the role of Bilbo Baggins in 'The Hobbit'. He began by revealing that the Potter series had got his fantasy blockbuster hopes up. "There was a whole family of ginger people. I thought that somehow at some point I might be part of that. It never happened," he opined. It has now.
7. His appeal is universal
Ask yourself this: have you ever come across someone who doesn't like Eddie Redmayne? As David Heyman told Total Film: "He’s very charming and appealing to men and women alike." It's safe to say that kids will be entranced by him too when they see his Newt Scamander.
8. This could be the start of something big
If there's one thing that unites all of Eddie Redmayne's performances, it's his absolute commitment to the roles he takes on. Even on those rare occasions when the films themselves haven't been much cop, Redmayne has always managed to stand out. 'Fantastic Beasts…' was conceived as a trilogy. If he stars in all three films (nothing's been confirmed yet), it will be his first big fantasy franchise, allowing him to develop the character of Newt Scamander in his own unique style over years to come. It's quite possible that J.K. Rowling's name will eventually become more synonymous with Newt Scamander than with Harry Potter.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be bringing the magic to Cineworld from 18th November.