After months of rumors, the news is official: Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne, whom we last saw in a sparkly villain cape in this year’s Jupiter Ascending, will be donning wizard robes for the role of Newt Scamander in J.K. Rowling‘s upcoming Harry Potter film spinoff, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The new film will be the first in a trilogy written by Rowling as an adaptation of her humorous fictional reference book of the same name. In the fictional world of Harry Potter, the fictional encyclopedia of Fantastic Beasts is written by Newt Scamander. In the upcoming film, Redmayne will be playing the role of the nerdy wizard as he travels to Jazz Age New York City to track down fearsome magical beasts and compile his famous bestiary.
Warner Bros. President of Creative Development Greg Silverman made the announcement on Monday, along with a statement from Fantastic Beasts director David Yates. Yates, who directed the final four films in the Harry Potter franchise, praised Redmayne, saying:
Eddie is a fearless actor, brimming with invention, wit, and humanity. I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of working with him as we start this new adventure in J.K. Rowling’s wonderful world, and I know she feels the same way.
With Redmayne having just snagged an Oscar as Best Actor for last year’s The Theory of Everything, this is a high-profile casting choice. And given that Fantastic Beasts is arguably the world’s most anticipated new entry for a franchise not owned by Disney, nothing less than would have done.
Still, plenty of fans had been hoping that Rowling and the production team would seize the opportunity to cast a non-white actor in the role. Such a casting would have been a huge coup in an industry landscape where male actors of color struggle to break into the upper echelon of bankable A-listers.
Still, Potter fans were quick to jump to celebration:
— Steele Sheen (@steelsheen) June 2, 2015
We’re sure Redmayne will be fine in the role. And as die-hard fans, we’ll be in the audience no matter what. But we’ll be wistfully thinking of the cool, diverse casting we could have had instead.
Hopefully Rowling and Yates will make up for the whiteness of the lead by casting an extremely diverse ensemble instead. Since the film is set in multicultural melting pot Manhattan, they’ll have no excuse.
We’ll be watching, guys.
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