Eddie Redmayne may be the nicest Best Actor Oscar winner that you would ever speak with. That’s not to cast aspersions or assumptions on any of the other icons who have held the golden statue, but when you speak with him in particular, you get the sense that he is genuinely bewildered and grateful yet still largely unaffected by his newfound notoriety.
During our conversation last week, Redmayne was gracious, even after a string of unexpected dropped calls and he even took a moment to record a somewhat lengthy birthday greeting for my niece, a fan since he made his mark as Marius in Tom Hooper’s big-screen adaptation of Les Misérables.
As a new father of his first daughter, the four-month old Iris, I shared one statement I received that warms my heart. Because of the bond between father and daughter, I was told, “You’ll always be loved. You’ll always be cared for.”
“What a beautiful thing,” he replied. “I will always hold on to that. Gosh, that’s wonderful, wonderful.”
This week, Redmayne’s quickly accelerating star status will get another boost, playing Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, the first of a new blockbuster franchise from the universe and creator of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling. As this big-budget adventure, also starring Katherine Waterston and Dan Fogler, was readying release, news came out of Warner Brothers’ intention to grow the film into at least four additional sequels. Redmayne is hopeful about his future as the shy hero, Newt.
It’s been announced recently that there will be four more films in this series. Without giving anything away about this one, is your character slated for future installments?
I think so. The impression is that he is. You can never be sure. We’ve been given these snippets of details from J.K. Rowling about what the future of films may be. What’s interesting thing to me is that Newt and his suitcase filled with creatures, they’re our inroad into this story that J. K. Rowling wants to tell on a much more epic scale of good verses evil. So hopefully I’ll get to go along for the ride, but first let’s just see if people enjoy this film.
Looking over your body of work, what I noticed was I don’t see a lot of easy acting projects. What you’ve done, either with Fantastic Beasts or The Theory of Everything (for which Redmayne won the Oscar), is physically demanding roles or acting against a green screen. Out of all of those, what is the hardest?
Do you know what’s interesting? I was doing a television thing several years ago in Budapest. Tom Hooper, who’s a director I’ve worked with a few times, was working on something else, and we went for lunch. And this television, it was called Birdsong, and it was like the first World War and it was incredibly intense, the experience of making it. I remember having lunch with Tom and saying, “This one, this feels like the hardest.” And then Tom turns to me and said, “But don’t they always feel like the hardest?” And he’s kind of right, like each time, if you’re giving everything you can to a part, you’re always trying to kind of push every ounce and I suppose they always feel like the hardest. So I had a huge amount of fun on Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, but at the same time, as you say, the CGI element or working with puppeteers and other sort of thing, it was wonderfully challenging. They always feel hard but I love what I do and I’m very lucky to do a job that I enjoy hugely. So it’s hard and rigorous but wonderfully fulfilling.
You played Stephen Hawking, a man grounded in science, and now you have Newt Scamander, who really knows there is a world beyond this one. Personally, where do you fall more into?
I grew up, I sang a lot in choirs when I was a kid so I was often in church and then I studied of history of art, so there was a lot of symbolism of Christian iconography as a massive part of my youth. My faith, I’m Christian, but I see it as a journey and a long, sort of extensive one and a dialogue constantly. I suppose I’m a religious person but not sort of massively.
Also, having studied for this film, all the beauty of nature. One of the things playing this part is that Newt is passionate about nature and creatures so I did a lot of looking into meeting people who spend their lives with animals and creatures and nature itself. I always think that you have to look to nature and the extraordinary scope and scale of it to be more, to think there is someone up there who (is directing)- that it’s no accident, put it that way.
Speaking of singing in choir, on YouTube, there’s a snippet of you singing “God Is With Us” with the Eton College Choir (Redmayne attended there at the same time as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge).
Yes, that was actually at school. I loved that piece, it’s a very beautiful piece of music.
How did your life change when you won the Best Actor award?
I was in the middle of making The Danish Girl and as soon as The Danish Girl finished, I started making the Fantastic Beasts and while I was making Fantastic Beasts, we were promoting the The Danish Girl and it was a rigorous year or two, energized, but it was almost impossible to sit down and take any of it in. It’s only been since finishing that film, with Iris arriving and Hannah, my wife and I, taking a bit of a time out just to be fully together as a family that I’ve had any sense of perspective on it.
In a weird way, it’s lovely to feel some form of great gratitude in the affirmation that you get from like the acting and the film community. At the some point, it just really galvanizes you to keep telling interesting stories and trying to get to keep pushing you in the right direction to do what you enjoy doing.
Watch the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, starring Eddie Redmayne, here: