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What you need to know about J.K. Rowling’s screenwriting debut

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a book that once only existed in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, as a textbook for students at Hogwarts. In 2001, J.K. Rowling gave us muggles a chance to immerse ourselves further into the magical world by publishing a copy of the book under the pseudonym Newt Scamander (the fictitious author of the textbook).

Fast-forward about 11 years. Warner Bros. proposes the idea of making Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them into a film to J.K. Rowling. Although intrigued by the idea, Rowling later said in a statement that she found the idea of the story being realized by another writer difficult. “Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt,” she said. After thinking it over, Rowling decided to pitch her own idea for a film to Warner Bros. Thus, her screenwriting debut unraveled.

The film will focus on Newt Scamander and take place in New York, 70 years before Harry Potter’s story. Rowling cleared up any confusion in the statement saying, “Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films.”

While loyal fans may be able to recite spells verbatim and name every character and their respective house, there is little known about our new Chosen One – Newt Scamander. According to the “About the Author” section of the book, Scamander was a famed Magizoologist and developed an interest in magical creatures from a very young age. After graduating from Hogwarts (as a Hufflepuff), Scamander worked at the Ministry of Magic in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. He also worked in the Office for House-Elf Relocation and in the Beast Division.

Over the years, he traveled far and wide on many adventures, describing encounters with thestrals, hippogrifs, Norwegian ridgebacks, merepeople and werewolves. With all his expeditions, there must be a story worth sharing. A quote from the book gives an idea of what the film may be after:

I have visited lairs, burrows and nests across five continents, observed the curious habits of magical beasts in a hundred countries, witnessed their powers, gained their trust and, on occasion, beaten them off with my travelling kettle.

—Newton Scamander

After the release of the book and the announcement of the adapted film, there was a gap of silence in regards to news on the film or Rowling’s involvement in creating it. That is until a few weeks ago, when Rowling tweeted an anagram to be deciphered by fans about her latest project:

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Just 24 hours later, it was solved, and found to be eluding to none other than Newt Scamander. In a very clever way, Rowling stirred things up, bringing back our initial excitement for a new way to be a part of the magical world.

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The film is set for release on November 18, 2016 and will be produced by David Heyman, who produced all the Potter films, and directed by David Yates, who directed Harry Potter films Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Throw in screenwriting and co-directing from Rowling, and we have a dream team.

If you would like to learn more about Scamander and his adventures, or read a forward written by none other than Albus Dumbledore, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them can be purchased at the Muggle Bookshop for a few galleons.

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Sydney Zuelke

Sydney Zuelke