Dan Fogler: Being A Part Of Harry Potter World Was Like Winning A Lottery

Jacob Kowalski from Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is all set to enthral audiences all over the world with his witty humour and ‘wizarding’ tricks. SpotboyE.com caught up with the actor, Dan Fogler for a heart to heart discussion about the movie

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Dan Fogler: Being A Part Of Harry Potter World Was Like Winning A Lottery
Harry Potter movies have been the most popular movies throughout the last two decades. JK Rowling's brilliant imaginative creation - a world of wizards - was not just loved by children but by adults alike. Almost 5 years after the Harry Potter movies got over, now we have the prequel to the film, Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. It will be a 5 film series, starring a completely different cast from the Harry Potter movies.

Oscar Award winner, Eddie Redmayne, will play the lead as Newt Scamander with Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo and Colin Farrell in the first instalment of the movie which releases worldwide this Friday.

SpotboyE.com caught up with one of the four lead actors in the movie, Dan Fogler, for a brief tete-a-tete. Excerpts:

Before being one of the leads in Fantastic Beats, how much exposure have you had to Harry Potter and JK Rowling’s Wizarding world?
I had seen all the movies, and was definitely a fan. Potter spoke to me in a very similar way that Star Wars spoke to me. Potter has that same kind of archetypal mythology that you find in any hero’s journey. So, Harry and his search for his parents, to me was essentially Luke (from Star Wars) and the search for his father. And so many aspects of the films, like the Sorting Hat, just spoke to my inner ‘sleep-away camper’ and all the amazing adolescent things you experience there. You watch these characters grow and see them become super powerful adults by the end, and you really care about them.

So, when I found out that I was going to be part of that universe, it was like winning the lottery. Then, to be surrounded by Academy Award winners everywhere you look; and to have a wonderful time on set with the director; to feel like you’re able to play and that your thoughts are being heard and respected.  My God, it was just the best case scenario.

Image Source: anoncraft

When and how did you get to know that you had got the part?
I was at Comic-Con last year when I heard that I got the part. I was there selling my comic book when my agent called me. He said, ‘Where are you right now?’  I said, ‘I’m at Comic Con.  I’m sweating my brains out selling my books and swimming upstream on the floor here.’ It was nuts. I was going one direction with my books and everyone was coming toward me; it was like a sea of pop culture. So, my agent tells me, ‘Well Comic-Con next year is going to be a lot different.’ That’s when I just felt this tear rolling down my face and suddenly my posture got a lot better. It was magical.

Do you have a favourite Harry Potter moment?
There are so many. But I love the Time-Turner in Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, which Hermione (Granger) uses to get to her classes early. I thought it was brilliant how everything tied together. I was watching that part again the other day and oh my god, it gives me chills even now!

In your character is there anything which particularly resonates with you in real life?
Yes. Right off the top of my head, I would say that it’s the connection that I have to the 1920s era. I’ve always said that I was born in the wrong time zone. I always appreciated those early black and white movies with Charlie Chaplin and James Cagney, and, in our movie, you’ll see a few homage to those classic characters. Eddie [Redmayne] and I, we both had the Chaplin duck-walk and these Laurel-Hardy and Abbott-Costello moments, as well as a bit of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

These characters just come off the page. You’re reading the script and thinking, ‘My God, these are iconic characters already.’  And that’s because they’re embedded in this complex mythology that JK Rowling is creating that speaks to that hero’s journey. Rowling is tapping into that aspect of our imaginations, which we all have in our DNA from hearing stories since childhood.

What aspect of your character in the movie, Jacob Kowalski, do you relate to the most?
I grew up in New York and my family has been in New York for several generations. My great-grandfather was a baker on the Lower East Side, and he had the best pumpernickel in Manhattan. It was Fogler’s Pumpernickel. So, this character is really in my blood. I read the script and thought, ‘I know this guy already.’ Every once in a while you get a part that is so similar to you that you’ve just got to step into it. And I think that’s what they must have noticed, the comfort that I had with it.

Image Source: anoncraft

What about the other characters in the film? Do you associate with them as well on a personal level?
So, you have this urban, familiar, awesome New York backdrop, set in my favourite time period, and then you release these magical creatures into the city, and you have these two guys – Newt and Jacob – who are on totally separate ends of the spectrum, and yet they complete each other, in a way.  Only, instead of Sherlock and Watson, it’s more like Sherlock and Costello [laughs]. What more could I have asked for?

Newt and Jacob are almost two different sides of the same coin – Jacob’s got the street smarts and Newt has the scientific smarts, and they both have something to teach each other.  And Queenie and Tina are also two sides of the same coin – left brain and right brain in a lot of ways.  And then, when you put the four of us together, it just seems to balance out.

Image Source: anoncraft

In the book, the chemistry and camaraderie between these four central characters is fantastic. They are this unlikely band of heroes. Did you feel that off-screen as well with fellow actors - Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol?
With Eddie, it was really easy to like him because he’s so damn charming. Before the screen tests for this film, I had just seen Eddie in The Theory Of Everything, so I was basically in awe of his talent. And then meeting him and seeing that he was just so down-to-earth and charming and funny, I would be happy if he was number one on the sheet for whatever movie I’d do from here on out.

And Katherine – I refer to her as Katharine Hepburn in this role. She’s just so stunning, but as Tina, not only is she this tough woman in a pantsuit like Katharine Hepburn, she also has a sensitivity, like a Diane Keaton, where you realize that she’s also this fish out of water, trying to make her way in this world.

Alison, of course, the moment I saw her in costume, I thought she could be Marilyn Monroe’s cousin. She just glows, and her personality is so sweet and effervescent. She’s like an angel, so it’s easy to see why my character would fall in love with Queenie.

Image Source: anoncraft

There was this great vibe on the sets. Everybody really liked each other. There wasn’t any drama off the set; it was all in front of the camera, where it should be.

What do you think it is about Jacob that allows him to enter this Wizarding world that no non-wizard has ever seen?
I think it’s a perfect storm with Jacob. I like to think of him as the last guy that left World War I, like they didn’t tell him it was over. He was just digging a ditch and stuck his head up one day and said, ‘What?  Where the hell is everybody?’ [Laughs]. He just saw horrors over there, so when he gets back to New York, he’s desensitized and just wants to be calm. He wants to settle down, get married, have some kids, open up a bakery and that’s it. Just do what he loves for the rest of his life. And, instead, he’s pulled into this wonderland. I think because he’s seen terrifying things, he’s able to keep his composure with this major whirlwind spectacle all around him.

Jacob fits really well into the puzzle because each character is a misfit. Newt is a fish out of water and he can only deal with creatures on their level, as far as socializing with people; and Jacob is just generally a big-hearted, gregarious guy who loves everybody. So, he teaches Newt to come out of his shell, and Newt teaches Jacob about these amazing creatures, for which he finds he has a real affinity.

Image Source: anoncraft

How did you bring in the comic side of Jacob into action?
So we played a lot with the idea of: ‘How can I just react to this with no words? How would Chaplin react to this moment?’ And then, from that, there came a lot of amazing humour and a lot of great physical comedy from reacting suddenly to a stampede of creatures flying at me [laughs].

Any other comic references you practised for this role apart from Chaplin?
Again, Jacob's character is like another iconic character – Bottom, the weaver, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Jacob’s the baker; he’s like one of the mechanicals who gets to play with the devils and the fairies and the wizards and witches in the forest. The journey is so similar, where he is transformed; he falls in love; and, at the end of the day, he had such a great time that he doesn’t want to say goodbye to it all. This is Midsummer Night’s Dream – it’s Bottom’s dream. He wakes up and he sits there, fascinated, wondering, ‘Was it a dream?  Did any of these things happen to me?’ And that was the first monologue I ever did: Bottom.

Do you have a favourite beast?
Oh, yeah. Well, they’re all so sweet in their own regard. The Demiguise is like a sweet chimpanzee-meets-Einstein, and he and Jacob have this really kind of sweet relationship. The Demiguise sees in Jacob someone who is safe, and he goes right to him. Also, the Niffler is hysterical.

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How is David Yates as a director?
Well, for me, it was a best case scenario because David is an actor’s director. He’s so passionate about what he’s working on, but he creates a scenario where this big franchise just feels like a very intimate film that you’re making with him and with each other. The collaboration is there, and he’s always open to hearing ideas. That just instils you with a huge confidence, and it’s just a joy to come to work every day in that atmosphere. He’s also just so blunt and to the point in a very helpful and sensitive way. He’s the captain of the ship and his temperament is just lovely.

Do you think audiences will come with nostalgia of Harry Potter to watch this film?
I hope that they don't only come to this with the nostalgia and love of the original Harry Potter movies. Because then they will be surprised and awed to find themselves in a completely new space with new characters and their own awesome journey.

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