The films that take place in author J K Rowling's Wizarding World have always explored notions of good and evil, but nobody ever accused them of being political.

There were gently progressive themes strewn throughout the eight Harry Potter movies, as well as the first Fantastic Beasts movie, yet they managed to sidestep the culture wars for the most part. Not anymore.

Along with the rest of popular entertainment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has been sucked into the vortex of politics. The discussion centres around the figure mentioned in the title, a divisive wizard played by Johnny Depp.

Grindelwald, who was disguised as Colin Farrell in the first Fantastic Beasts movie, is shaking up the magic community with hateful rhetoric and thriving off the resultant disharmony. And he has bad hair. Sound familiar?

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David Heyman, the producer of all 10 Wizarding World movies - in addition to Gravity and both Paddington films - insists that creator/screenwriter Rowling doesn't have a contemporary agenda.

"I don't think this is a film that's meant to be a political statement or anything like that," Heyman tells TimeOut. "I think that Jo [Rowling] is speaking to the human condition and to issues that have been prevalent for many, many years."

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the most political story yet from the Harry Potter Wizarding World.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the most political story yet from the Harry Potter Wizarding World.

The Crimes of Grindelwald

takes place in late 1920s Paris, and Heyman says that Grindelwald represents the rise of facism in Europe pre-World War II.

"Jo has always been interested in contemporary politics but I will also say that what she's writing about in this film, which is 1920s Paris, was resolute then. History repeats itself."

Nevertheless, Heyman understands why audiences are making certain comparisons.

"It does feel tangible today because we're living in a time when people are choosing sides. But I think that's something that's been going on for a long time."

"It's reflecting history on contemporary times," adds Oscar-winner Eddie Redmayne, who leads the film as magizoologist Newt Scamander. "I think great artists have this antenna and this sort of sensitivity, almost like future-seers, and this film was written three years ago."

Jude Law plays a young Albus Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Jude Law plays a young Albus Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

Redmayne believes the message of the film is secondary.

"What [Rowling] does extraordinarily, I think, is she also creates these worlds of joy, of magic, of sort of romance and excitement, so you leave the film having seen a spectacle and then you begin to think about the elements of it that kind of reflect where we are now as well ... "

Another aspect of the film that has people talking is the appearance of a middle-aged version of Harry Potter's beloved mentor Albus Dumbledore, played in this film by Jude Law. Dumbledore tasks Newt with helping to bring down Grindelwald after the latter escapes from the magical authorities and starts stirring up support among discontented wizards.

After the final Harry Potter book was published, Rowling famously revealed that Dumbledore was gay, something the new film touches on during a flashback to a teenage Dumbledore with a young Grindelwald, after which Law's Dumbledore pointedly describes Grindelwald as having been "more than a brother".

"I think it's clear that they were more than brothers," says Heyman. "Dumbledore says it, and you can see that there is both regret but also feelings that he has for this boy and this man."

There has been some discussion around whether or not the film is being clear enough on this point.

"Are we hiding their homosexuality? No," continues Heyman. "But this is also a story, there's a journey there. You see these two: young Dumbledore and young Grindelwald, and you see the pact they make and you see the way they look into each other's eyes. That's more than brothers. That's more. I don't know what one needs to do. I think it's really beautifully pitched, by [director] David [Yates], by the actors."

Although he's now firmly a part of the larger Wizarding World, Redmayne says he's still getting used to the extent of Potter fandom.

Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston star in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston star in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

"The oddest thing is coming to places like the Wizarding World here [at Universal Studios in Los Angeles] or even when we went to China, seeing people dressed up as Tina or dressed up as Newt, brandishing your wands. That sort of stuff is so odd and impossible to get your head around. And surreal but wonderful at the same time."

Katherine Waterston, who plays Tina, the Auror with whom Newt has teamed up, says creator J K Rowling mostly stays away from the set for the good of the film.

"She's far too distracting!" Waterston tells TimeOut. "She comes on set and everything shuts down, we're like moths to a flame: 'Tell us everything!' She is really so enchanting, plus she's got all hot goss on where the characters go. So I think she understands that she has that power over us and she knows we have a film to make so she doesn't come around all the time. But it's awesome when she does."

LOWDOWN:
Who: Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston
What: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
When: In cinemas next Thursday