Just recently, it was reported that The Theory of Everything Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne was in talks for the lead role of Newt Scamander in Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and now an intriguing shortlist has emerged of actors and actresses contending for the other main roles. According to separate reports by TheWrap and Variety’s Justin Kroll, a bevy of talented thespians, along with some unusual choices, are up for the two female leads and the part of Newt’s male rival.
Saoirse Ronan, Dakota Fanning, Lili Simmons and Alison Sudol are all in consideration for the role of a character named Queenie, while Katherine Waterston, Elizabeth Debicki and Kate Upton are being looked at to play Queenie’s older sister Tina. Meanwhile, Steve Zissis, Zack Pearlman and Dan Fogler are apparently testing for the role of Jacob, Newt’s main rival in the field of magizoology.
No further details were available on how Queenie, Tina and Jacob factor into the story, but we already know that Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, intended to launch a new trilogy for Warner Bros., takes place in New York 70 years before the Harry Potter movies and centers on the travels of a magizoologist whose eventual textbook (the source of the title) would go on to become required reading for Hogwarts students.
Some of the names on the shortlist are less surprising than others. Ronan, who recently appeared in The Grand Budapest Hotel, has been turning in sensational performances for years ever since breaking out with an Oscar-nominated turn in Atonement, and she’s tested for many franchises before, including Star Wars. Fanning has been off the grid for a little while, but she’s another lauded child actress (I Am Sam, War of the Worlds) and she appears to be on the rise again with roles lined up in American Pastoral and Brain on Fire, among other buzzy projects. The inclusion of Simmons, a TV actress known for the raunchy Cinemax series Banshee, and Sudol, just emerging on the small screen in USA’s Dig and Amazon’s Transparent, is certainly more unexpected.
The real head-scratcher, though, is Upton. The Sports Illustrated model has not exactly floored us, dramatically speaking, in her film roles – she played a blonde bimbo stereotype in last year’s The Other Woman, one of 2014’s worst comedies, and had bit roles as hot people in Tower Heist and The Three Stooges. That she’s in contention for the same role as an actress like Waterston, who delivered a terrific turn in last year’s Inherent Vice, and Debicki, on the rise after The Great Gatsby, is honestly baffling.
As for the actors on the shortlist for the part of Jacob, what’s more interesting than the actual names is the type of actor Warner Bros. is looking for – comedically oriented, scruffy and a little heavy-set. All three are talented performers – Zissis is terrific on HBO’s Togetherness, Pearlman did solid work on the short-lived Fox comedy Mulaney and Fogler garnered laughs in Fanboys.
Casting confirmations surely aren’t far off, and you guys know the drill by now – as with any of these unverified shortlists, all or none of these names could be accurate, and the part could go to one of the listed actors or someone no one thought was ever in talks for the project. With production gearing up for later this year, though, actual deals will need to be signed soon.
David Yates (the last four Harry Potter films) is directing from a script by the series’ author J.K. Rowling. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has been set for November 18, 2016.