Versatile actor Eddie Redmayne loves Fantastic Beasts, appreciates follow-up movies and trusts his long-time mentor implicitly.
Mr. Redmayne, Do you recall your first shoot?
Of course, I do! It was for a children’s show called “Animal Ark,” and I was 14 or 15 at the time. It was in the summer holidays and I was dead set on dying my hair peroxide blond because all my friends were doing it – but I sprayed so much of the stuff onto my hair that it turned orange. I remember that my hair color changed every few minutes in that half-hour TV show because after every day of shooting, I would go home and make another attempt to change it.
That was 20 years ago – do you remember the ambitions and dreams you had back then?
Is that really 20 years ago already? Crazy! To be honest, at the time I had no great ambitions to go into movies or television, partly because up to then, I had only really done theater. As far as life choices are concerned, I would have been perfectly happy to carry on acting on stage, as I did in my school days.
So is ambition alien to you?
No, I wouldn’t say that, but my ambition has never been directed toward a particular goal. I want to do every job I take on as well as I possibly can, and I work hard for that. But I have never been a dreamer who sets himself certain goals and chases after them. Specific dreams, like getting to play Hamlet once in my life, are alien to me.
Did you have a mentor who would warn you about the pitfalls of an acting career?
Not exactly, but I did have a truly wonderful teacher. That was when I was still at school. His name was Simon Dormandy, and he had been an actor before switching to teaching later in life. He treated us teenagers at boarding school like adults, and the respect he showed us made a huge impact on me. I have a great deal to thank him for generally as far as my training goes, as I never attended an acting school afterwards. I still occasionally ask Simon’s advice when I’m faced with a big new challenge. To this day, there’s no one I feel I can rely on or am as safe with as him.
You have just shot a sequel to the hit movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Isn’t that a bit boring for a serious actor?
I imagine that might be true with some movies. But my experience on this film was different for a variety of reasons. For one thing, Joanne K. Rowling’s stories have that magic, imagination and playfulness that children adore, but that adults also love. You succumb to that magic as an actor, too. And the film doesn’t just tell the same story over again, it goes a step further. There’s a lot more at stake this time around for Newt Scamander, whom I portray, and the other characters in the movie.
So you don’t regret having signed up straight away to do a whole movie series?
Not at all! It’s great fun being part of this fantasy world. Everyone on the team is so incredibly creative, from the technicians who come up with the special effects, to the puppeteers, the costume designers and props people, to say nothing of the other actors. Our director, David Yates, really did put a wonderful troupe together. What also helps is that I’m far from tired of my role – I love Newt!
As an actor, does it make a big difference whether you play in these kinds of fantasy spectacles or in movie dramas, such as the Stephen Hawking film The Theory of Everything or The Danish Girl?
Not in terms of work. But for me it really is a welcome change to be playing a character in a very different context after dramatic roles in which I portray real people. It was very liberating to leave the tragedy of reality behind.
We are nomads – I find having a little order in my life quite pleasant
Does it feel a little odd already knowing that you will be shooting the next installment of Fantastic Beasts next summer and that you will be on tour, promoting the film, a year later in 2020 … do you like having things planned ahead to such a degree?
You’re right, this is not the norm. As an actor, you often lose control over your diary. We never know when our next role will come along, when we will be shooting, when a film will air in the movie theaters. As a result, we lead a nomadic life, rather like a wandering circus. Some people really like that – my wife, for one. She loves it when we travel a lot. But I find having a little more order in my life quite pleasant.
So you appreciate long-term film projects like this five-part movie series?
Yes. One good thing about this one is that so far at least, we have shot everything in London. That means I only need to travel from home to work, which definitely beats sitting in a hotel way on the other side of the world. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s most definitely not a bad thing to know now what work I’ll be doing next summer. Also, there’s plenty of time for unplanned projects and playing the nomad before then.
Looking back at your roles over the past two decades, is there one apart from Newt Scamander that you would like to play a second time?
Hmm … I can’t think of one right now. But I would gladly work with quite a few actors I’ve already filmed with, like Kristen Stewart and Julianne Moore, for example. Otherwise, I would appreciate the opportunity to do a remake of one film or another so that I could iron out a few of the mistakes I made the first time around. It’s a great pity that’s not possible!