J.K. Rowling ‘Very Close’ to Work on Harry Potter Spinoff ‘Fantastic Beasts’

After eight blockbuster Harry Potter films over the course of a decade, there was every reason to think that the franchise had run its course. But judging from Warner Bros.’ CinemaCon presentation Tuesday, the first spinoff from the series possesses a bit of wizarding kismet not shared by any of its predecessors — a deep level of engagement from the author of the Harry Potter books.

“This is a different level of involvement. I feel very very close to this project,” author J.K. Rowling said of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the spinoff the studio will be offering this Thanksgiving.

Rowling’s new story brings the Harry Potter world to New York in 1926, as told through the scholar Newt Scamander in the city’s community of witches and wizards. The preview and behind the scenes footage offered by Warners Tuesday showed Eddie Redmayne, who plays Scamander, transporting a briefcase full of unknown creatures into New York. The beasts remain out of sight to a customs agent, as Scamander puts his case on a special muggle-proof setting.

Rowling has been famously protective of the characters she created and at first leaned against extending the universe for the cinema. Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara reportedly stepped in to personally woo her to continue the magical sojourn. Rowling said in the Warners video, “never say never” and cast and crew described how they benefited by working with the storyteller directly.

Although none of the much-anticipated beasts were revealed to the CinemaCon audience, there were plenty of familiar Rowling elements: plates, flatware and other inanimate objects come to life and take flight. Characters appear and disappear in wizardly flashes. And Redmayne, as Scamander, makes an exit via his briefcase — simply stepping in, feet first, before fading away.

Redmayne and Colin Farrell took the stage to pitch the film, along with Dan Folger (Jacob Kowalski) and Alison Sudol (Queenie Goldstein). Farrell soon announced that the audience had heard enough yammering from actors and team “Beasts” simply went to the videotape. The film, directed by David Yates, is due out Nov. 18.

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