12 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets From the Cast and Crew of Fantastic Beasts

©2016 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved.
Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Publishing Rights © JKR

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first installment in a five-part series featuring the adventures of magizoologist Newt Scamander. We sat down with the cast, directors, and producers to find out a few of the production’s secrets. Revelio!

WARNING: Mild spoilers below. Consider saving this article for after you’ve seen the film!


Newt Scamander shows up in Harry Potter as the author of the guide Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—a book J.K. Rowling then wrote as Scamander in 2001 for charity. “The character of Newt appealed to me, and as often happened with the Potterverse, I had some thoughts about what happened to Newt and who he was,” Rowling said at a press conference for the Fantastic Beasts film. Warner Bros. then optioned Fantastic Beasts, and when they approached her about finally making it, “I thought ‘Wait a moment, wait a moment—I’d better tell them what I’ve got, because I wouldn’t want them to get Newt wrong,’” she said. “I sat down to write some notes, and [before I knew it], I’d written a story, and then that story became a screenplay. So it was never really a calculated, ‘I think I want to revisit the world.’ It came as these things always do—through a story.”


Fantastic Beasts marks Rowling’s screenwriting debut, and though she was very involved with that process during the filming of the Potter franchise—she had final approval on all screenplays—she still bought a book about how to write a script. But she never opened it. “It just sat on my desk, and I think I felt that that was my homework,” she said at a press conference for the film. “I haven’t actually done my homework, maybe I just thought I’d absorb it somehow.” Thankfully, she had Steve Kloves—who penned the Harry Potter scripts—to help her. “I would say that Steve was my tutor on this, and it’s a reason I was so keen to have him attached to this project, because I knew he would be the guy I could phone at 4 a.m. if I needed to. I never phoned him at 4 a.m., but I suppose I could have.”


“One of them was really dark,” Rowling said at the press conference. “There was a lot of stuff in the sewers. I don’t know what was going on in my life at that moment, I just remember David [Yates] saying ‘This is very dark draft ...’ Dot Dot Dot. ‘You need to lighten this up a little.’ We went through a lot of drafts, but that’s always my process—this isn’t a screenwriting thing. I tend to generate a lot of material, and some of the ideas from some of those drafts I’m sure will be in the following movies.”


Newt’s got some incredible creatures in his suitcase, including a Niffler, a Demiguise, a Thunderbird, an Erumpent, an Occamy, and many more—an array as huge as what can be found in the human animal kingdom. Some of them can be found in Rowling’s book, and some are brand-new. “A couple of the beasts that were in the movie were always in the movie,” Rowling said. “And then we swapped a couple as we went, just because … there were some escapades we wanted to put in. So we swapped a couple of beasts—[it] just felt better. But I think everyone is going to want a Niffler after this. I want a Niffler! We all want Nifflers.”


According to the film’s press notes, to create the beasts, the film’s visual effects team started with Rowling’s book. They also found inspiration for both the look and personalities of the creatures in real life animals. For example, animators took the behavior of the Niffler (above)—a duck-billed beast that stuffs every shiny thing it can find into its marsupial pouch—from the honey badger. They also, of course, turned to the ultimate source, Rowling, who said that she “saw everything—we have the most extraordinary creative team. They’ve done such beautiful work on this movie. It’s been amazing.”


According to lead actress Katherine Waterston, who plays Porpentina Goldstein, it didn’t bother her to not have a book to go to as a resource going into Fantastic Beasts. “I was thrilled to just have the script, which was quite like a book itself,” she said in a roundtable interview before the movie’s release. “It was so detailed and rich, but ours and a secret from the world.” The actors couldn’t take the scripts home with them, though—they had to lock them up in a safe at the end of the day. “It was like a library on set,” Waterston said. “You’d check [the script] out, put it back in.”


In roundtable interviews, director David Yates recounted what happened when Rowling visited the New York set, which was built in Watford, England: “She stood there ... and she did an expletive and said ‘This is more impressive than the opening ceremony [of the London Olympics].” At the press conference for the film, Eddie Redmayne, who plays Newt Scamander, agreed. “What was most wonderful was that so much of this would be built,” he said. “I thought there was going to be so much green screen, and the reality was that a lot of New York was built in Watford, just outside of London. There were cars brought over from the period, there was smoke rising from the streets. It was a sensory overload.” You can get a glimpse of the sets in the featurette above.


In order to play Newt, a magizoologist with a case full of magical creatures, Redmayne met with animal handlers—and he ended up incorporating some of what he learned into his character. “There was a woman who was looking after an anteater that had just been born, and she was feeding her with a bottle, and yet she would scrunch up, and it was impossible for the handler to get the bottle in her mouth,” he remembered. “So the way that she made [the anteater] release herself was to tickle her. There was a moment in the script in which the Niffler was trying to claw onto his pouch, so we brought that idea in.”

Redmayne also met a tracker who told him that, when searching for animals, he would walk with his feet in a wide v-shape, setting one foot down carefully and examining the ground before placing the other foot “to make sure there’s not a leaf or anything that the other foot is going to crush.” The tracker stood with his feet in that position in his daily life, and Redmayne co-opted the stance and walk for Newt.

“J.K. Rowling had written that the character walks his own walk, and has a Buster Keaton-esque quality, and I thought What the hell does that mean?” Redmayne said. “So I stole the walk from this guy. But he also did this thing where he said that nature often works in opposites. So if you find nettles, nearby you’ll often find duck leaves, and if you spit on duck leaves and rub them together, then they soothe nettle stings. So we were down in the case and I was meant to give Dan [Fogler] a pill to stop [a rash from a Murtlap bite], and I was like, ‘Can I have plants that I can spit on?’” The little things Redmayne picked up in these sessions helped make Newt a fuller character.


Alison Sudol, who plays Queenie Goldstein, said in roundtable interviews that the cast not only got to see images of the creatures as they would ultimately appear in the film, but even had puppets on set. “We had these extraordinary puppeteers who basically had the creature’s head and the beginnings of their body, especially for the larger beasts, and they were amazing,” she said. “The way that they operated these creatures—the way that they moved, the sounds they made, were so visual, so vivid.”

Among the puppets was the Erumpent, built by the same puppeteers behind the stage play War Horse, which was more than 16 feet tall and required three people to operate. There were also, Redmayne said in the press conference, “not quite animatronic, but really grisly, slightly disgusting gelatin things for the Murtlaps,” marine creatures that look like rats with anemones on their backs (you can see a Murtlap in the clip above).

Sudol said Yates was also invaluable in bringing the creatures to life on set. “David would gather us together at the beginning of every scene and he would talk about the creatures and their essence and what they were like—[for example], the chuntering of the Demiguise,” she said. “First of all, anything that David says is just the most wonderful sounding thing, because he’s just a magical man, but the word chunter—how can you not see them? You’d have to just be sort of a stump if you couldn’t imagine that.”


Potter fan extraordinaire Ezra Miller plays Credence, a role that the actor described in roundtable interviews as potentially “challenging to the psyche.” He spoke with costume designer Colleen Atwood about “wanting to hold onto myself through that process”; to help, he said, Atwood “sewed into the inside of the jacket that Credence wears this symbol of an eagle and a horse to remind me of myself even as I went into the role of Credence.”


©2016 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved.
Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts Publishing Rights © JKR

Dan Fogler, who plays No-Maj (a.k.a. Muggle) Jacob Kowalski, said the toughest scene was a chase featuring the Erumpent (above). “It was freezing out, but I was just like ‘Yay!’” he said in roundtable interviews. “My favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark, so in my mind, the Erumpent was the boulder and I was Indiana Jones. I am screaming like a lunatic, but in my mind, I’m Indiana Jones.”


At one point, an edit of the film featured a scene late in the movie where Waterston and Sudol sang Ilvermorny’s school song. In roundtables, Redmayne described the song as “beautiful and haunting and kind of amazing … but then at the end of this really Gaelic song, suddenly it turned into like—and it was amazingly fun to watch—a cheerleader [routine].” The wands turned into pop-poms, the actresses did a jump, and fireworks went off. “I adored it,” Redmayne said. “But I think in the edit what they found, at that point in the movie, s**t is going down,” and it seemed strange to have a musical interlude.

Though Redmayne was sad to see the sequence go, Waterston was not: She was “quite relieved” it didn’t make the final cut. Fingers crossed the scene makes it to the DVD extras!

Every New Movie, TV Series, and Special Coming to Netflix in May

Netflix is making way for loads of laughs in its library in May, with a handful of original comedy specials (Steve Martin, Martin Short, Carol Burnett, Tig Notaro, and John Mulvaney will all be there), plus the long-awaited return of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Here’s every new movie, TV series, and special making its way to Netflix in May.


27: Gone Too Soon

A Life of Its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana


Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures: Season 1

Beautiful Girls


God's Own Country

Hachi: A Dog's Tale

Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

High School Musical 3: Senior Year

John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous Live at Radio City

Mr. Woodcock

My Perfect Romance

Pocoyo & Cars

Pocoyo & The Space Circus

Queens of Comedy: Season 1

Reasonable Doubt

Red Dragon

Scream 2


Simon: Season 1

Sliding Doors


The Bourne Ultimatum

The Carter Effect

The Clapper

The Reaping

The Strange Name Movie

Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V: Season 2




A Little Help with Carol Burnett


Busted!: Season 1

Dear White People: Volume 2

End Game

Forgive Us Our Debts

Kong: King of the Apes: Season 2


My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Tina Fey

No Estoy Loca

The Rain: Season 1


Faces Places


The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale



Hari Kondabolu: Warn Your Relatives


Dirty Girl

MAY 11

Bill Nye Saves the World: Season 3

Evil Genius: the True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Spirit Riding Free: Season 5

The Kissing Booth

The Who Was? Show: Season 1

MAY 13

Ali Wong: Hard Knock Wife

MAY 14

The Phantom of the Opera

MAY 15

Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Season 4

Grand Designs: Seasons 13 - 14

Only God Forgives

The Game 365: Seasons 15 - 16

MAY 16


Mamma Mia!

The 40-Year-Old Virgin

The Kingdom


MAY 18


Catching Feelings

Inspector Gadget: Season 4

MAY 19

Bridge to Terabithia

Disney’s Scandal: Season 7

Small Town Crime

MAY 20

Some Kind of Beautiful

MAY 21

Señora Acero: Season 4

MAY 22

Mob Psycho 100: Season 1

Shooter: Season 2

Terrace House: Opening New Doors: Part 2

Tig Notaro Happy To Be Here

MAY 23


MAY 24

Fauda: Season 2

Survivors Guide to Prison

MAY 25


Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life

The Toys That Made Us: Season 2

Trollhunters: Part 3

MAY 26

Sara's Notebook

MAY 27

The Break with Michelle Wolf

MAY 29

Disney·Pixar's Coco

MAY 30

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 4

MAY 31

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Howard Stern

20 Best Docuseries You Can Stream Right Now
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)
A scene from Wild Wild Country (2018)

If your main interests are true crime and cooking, you’re in the middle of a Renaissance Age. The Michelangelos of nonfiction are consistently bringing stellar storytelling to twisty tales of murder and mayhem as well as luxurious shots of food prepared by the most creative culinary minds.

But these aren’t the only genres that documentary series are tackling. There’s a host of history, arts, travel, and more at your streaming fingertips. When you want to take a break from puzzling out who’s been wrongfully imprisoned, that is.

Here are the 20 best docuseries to watch right now, so start streaming.


What happens when an Indian guru with thousands of American followers sets up shop near a small town in Oregon with the intent to create a commune? Incredibly sourced, this documentary that touches on every major civic issue—from religious liberty to voting rights—should be your new obsession. When you choose a side, be prepared to switch. Multiple times.

Where to watch it: Netflix

2. FLINT TOWN (2018)

If your heart is broken by what’s going on in Flint, Michigan, be prepared to have that pain magnified and complicated. The filmmakers behind this provocative series were embedded with police in Flint to offer us a glimpse at the area’s local struggles and national attention from November 2015 through early 2017.

Where to watch it: Netflix


Narrated by Meryl Streep, this three-part series covers a half-century of American experience from the earliest days of second-wave feminism through Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination in the 1990s. Ellen DeGeneres, Condoleezza Rice, Sally Ride, Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and more are featured, and the series got six more episodes in a second season.

Where to watch it:

4. THE JINX (2015)

After the massive success of Serial in 2014, a one-two punch of true crime docuseries landed the following year. One was the immensely captivating study of power, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, which chronicled the bizarre, tangled web of the real estate mogul who was suspected of several murders. The show, which could be measured in jaw-drops per hour, both registered real life and uniquely affected it.

Where to watch it: HBO


The second major true crime phenom of 2015 was 10 years in the making. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos uncovered the unthinkable story of Steven Avery, a man wrongfully convicted of sexual assault who was later convicted of murdering a different woman, Teresa Halbach. Not just a magnifying glass on the justice system and a potential small town conspiracy, it’s also a display of how stories can successfully get our blood boiling.

Where to watch it: Netflix

6. WORMWOOD (2017)

Speaking of good conspiracies: documentary titan Errol Morris turns his keen eye to a CIA project that’s as famous as it is unknown—MKUltra. A Cold War-era mind control experiment. LSD and hypnosis. The mysterious death of a scientist. His son’s 60-year search for answers. Morris brings his incisive eye to the hunt.

Where to watch it: Netflix

7. FIVE CAME BACK (2017)

Based on Mark Harris’s superlative book, this historical doc features filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Guillermo del Toro discussing the WWII-era work of predecessors John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. Also narrated by Meryl Streep, it looks at how the war shaped the directors and how they shaped the war. As a bonus, Netflix has the war-time documentaries featured in the film available to stream.

Where to watch it: Netflix


If you can’t afford film school, and your local college won’t let you audit any more courses, Mark Cousins’s 915-minute history is the next best thing. Unrivaled in its scope, watching it is like having a charming encyclopedia discuss its favorite movies. Yes, at 15-episodes it’s sprawling, so, yes, you should watch it all in one go. Carve out a weekend and be ready to take notes on all the movies you want to watch afterward.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now


David Chang, the host of the first season of The Mind of a Chef, has returned with a cultural mash-up disguised as a foodie show. What does it mean for pizza to be “authentic”? What do Korea and the American South have in common? With his casual charm in tow, Chang and a variety of special guests explore people through the food we love to eat as an artifact that brings us all together.

Where to watch it: Netflix

10. JAZZ (2000)

A legend of nonfiction, Ken Burns has more than a few docuseries available to stream, including long-form explorations of the Civil War and baseball. His 10-episode series on jazz exhaustively tracks nearly a century of the formation and evolution of the musical style across the United States. You’ll wanna mark off a big section of the calendar and crank up the volume.

Where to watch it: Amazon

11. THE STAIRCASE (2004)

In 2001, author Michael Peterson reported to police that his wife had died after falling down a set of stairs, but police didn’t buy the story and charged him with her murder. Before the current true crime boom, before Serial and all the rest, there was Jean-Xavier de Lestrade’s Peabody Award-winning docuseries following Peterson’s winding court case. The mystery at the heart of the trial and the unparalleled access Lestrade had to Peterson’s defense make this a must-see. (Netflix just announced that it will be releasing three new episodes of the series this summer.)

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

12. PLANET EARTH II (2016)

The sequel to the 2006 original is a real stunner. Narrated (naturally) by Sir David Attenborough, featuring music from Hans Zimmer, and boasting gorgeous photography of our immeasurably fascinating planet, this follow-up takes us through different terrains to see the life contained within. There are snow leopards in the mountains, a swimming sloth in the islands, and even langurs in our own urban jungle. Open your eyes wide to learn a lot or put it on in the background to zen out.

Where to watch it: Netflix


The cheapest way to visit Yosemite, Yellowstone, Muir Woods, and more. This Emmy-winning, six-part series is both a travelogue and a history lesson in conservation that takes up the argument of why these beautiful places should be preserved: to quote President Roosevelt, “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”

Where to watch it: Amazon

14. CONFLICT (2015)

Experience the too-often-untold stories of conflict zones through the lenses of world class photographers like Nicole Tung, Donna Ferraro, and João Silva. This heart-testing, bias-obliterating series is unique in its views into dark places and eye toward hope.

Where to watch it: Netflix

15. LAST CHANCE U (2016)

Far more than a sports documentary, the story of the players at East Mississippi Community College will have you rooting for personal victories as much as the points on the scoreboard. Many of the outstanding players on the squad lost spots at Division I schools because of disciplinary infractions or failing academics, so they’re seeking redemption in a program that wants them to return to the big-name schools. There are two full seasons to binge and a third on the way.

Where to watch it: Netflix

16. VICE (2013)

Currently in its sixth season, the series is known for asking tough questions that need immediate answers and giving viewers a street-level view of everything from killing cancer to juvenile justice reform. Its confrontational style of gonzo provocation won’t be everyone’s cup of spiked tea, but it’s filling an important gap that used to be filled by major network investigative journalists. When they let their subjects—from child soldiers suffering PTSD after fighting for ISIS to coal miners in Appalachia—tell their stories, nonfiction magic happens.

Where to watch it: HBO

17. CHEF’S TABLE (2015)

From David Gelb, the documentarian behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this doc series is a backstage pass to the kitchens of the world’s most elite chefs. The teams at Osteria Francescana, Blue Hill, Alinea, Pujol, and more open their doors to share their process, culinary creativity, and, of course, dozens of delicious courses. No shame in licking your screen.

Where to watch it: Netflix

18. NOBU’S JAPAN (2014)

For those looking to learn more about culture while chowing down, world-renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa guides guest chefs to different regions of Japan to ingest the sights, sounds, and spirits of the area before crafting a dish inspired by the journey. History is the main course, with a healthy dash of culinary invention that honors tradition.

Where to watch it: Sundance Now

19. THE SYSTEM (2014)

Should a jury decide if a child is sentenced to life in jail without parole? How can you go to jail for 20 years for shooting your gun inside your own home to deter thieves? These are just two of the questions examined by this knockout series about the conflicts, outdated methods, and biases lurking in America’s criminal justice system. Insightful and infuriating, it makes a strong companion to Ava DuVernay’s 13th.

Where to watch it: Al Jazeera and Sundance Now


It won’t be available until April 27 (so close!), but it’s well worth adding to your queue. This four-part series utilizes a wealth of footage, including unseen personal videos, to share the tragic story of Robert F. Kennedy’s run for president in the context of an era riven by racial strife. Watching this socio-political memorial told by many who were there (including Marian Wright and Congressman John Lewis), it will be impossible not to draw connections to the current day and wonder: What if?

Where to watch it: Netflix


More from mental floss studios