The new tentpole series “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” will feature several characters from the “Harry Potter” universe, J.K. Rowling confirmed at a press conference for the movie on Thursday afternoon.
Fans hoping to get a glimpse of a young Albus Dumbledore will need to wait for the second movie, part of a five-part prequel series planned by Warner Bros. But although the older Dumbledore never revealed his sexual orientation in the books or films — it was the author herself who coaxed him out of the closet during a 2007 interview at Carnegie Hall — the younger incarnation of the character might be less private. “Well, I’m very comfortable with the question,” Rowling said to reporters when asked about a gay Dumbledore. “I would like to say because this is obviously a five-part story, there’s lots to unpack in that relationship.”
“You will see Dumbledore as a younger man and quite a troubled man,” Rowling added. “We’ll see him at that formative period of his life. As far as his sexuality is concerned,” she said taking a beat, “watch this space.”
Rowling was warm and gregarious at a rare public appearance with the cast of the Warner Bros. movie — including Eddie Redmayne, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, and Ezra Miller — and director David Yates (“Harry Potter”). But unlike the eight “Potter” films, the “Fantastic Beats” screenplays, based on a threadbare 2001 novella, are all being adapted by the author herself.
How did she learn the craft of screenwriting? “I did buy a book that I never read,” Rowling said. “It just sat on my desk. I was very involved with the ‘Potter’ scripts,” she said about her screenplay approval of those stories.
“Fantastic Beasts” became a movie franchise when Warner Bros. optioned the rights to the novella several years ago. When the studio approached Rowling about adapting it into a movie, she told them she had a back story already etched out for Newt Scamander (Redmayne), the Magizoologist who arrives to New York with a briefcase packed with magical animals. “The character of Newt appealed to me,” Rowling said. “I had some thoughts about what happened to Newt and who Newt was. I thought, ‘I better tell them, because I wouldn’t want them to get Newt wrong.’” Her notes turned into a draft for the first script.
Rowling fielded questions about what message she had for fans who were skeptical about revisiting the “Harry Potter” world on the big screen without its influential star. “Well, it’s true that Harry is not in the movie, because he’s not born yet,” Rowling said of the stories set in an earlier time period. “But this is very much of the world. And there are characters” — she emphasized that she was speaking about a plural group — “you will learn more about through ‘Fantastic Beasts.’ I’m being so careful. This is ‘Potter.’ There’s a certain glory in writing a standalone novel where you can write anything you want. Now I’m back in top-secret territory again.”
“I think we’ve done the best job we can,” she said. “I’ve told a story I really want to tell.” But Rowling said she wasn’t giving up her day job. “I’m still writing novels,” Rowling said. “That’s why I look so tired. I’m writing a novel and a screenplay currently.”
Rowling, who has been vocal on social media about the results of this week’s U.S. presidential election, wouldn’t speak about Donald Trump. “I think I don’t want to say anymore,” she said. “We are here for the movie.” However, the themes of the film — set during a time where dystopian forces threaten the wizarding world — came from current events. “It was partly informed by what I see as a rise in populism around the world,” she said.
Rowling also talked about her writing process. “I need to do it,” she said. “I feel strange if I don’t write. Clearly, I don’t need to write anymore. I love it so much. I would feel almost like a psychic amputation if I didn’t do it. I have to write.”
She said she’s not picky about where or when she works. “I can write anywhere and anytime,” Rowling said. “I have written a surprising amount of one chapter on the lavatory, which is the only place where I could get temper and peace. Last night, I was in a bleak mood boarding the plane, and I thought, ‘I need to work.’ I got out the second screenplay and did work on that. It made me feel better.”
The first “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” opens on Nov. 18.