NEW YORK — For Ezra Miller, the chance to play Credence Barebone in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was “one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened to me — to dive into this mythology that was my upbringing.”
That’s saying a lot, given Miller also has not only played the Flash in two films earlier this year (“Suicide Squad” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”) — but he also will be headlining in his own “Flash” movie, set for release in 2018.
Yet, Miller loved the “inherent challenges of playing such a tormented soul like Credence” in “Fantastic Beasts …” because the actor, who previously snared raves for his performances in such films as “We Need to Talk About Kevin” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” grew up “obsessively reading” J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.
With “Fantastic Beasts …,” her first screenplay, Rowling is launching a planned five-movie franchise based on a small detail from her Potter saga. The hero of this series of films, Newt Scamander (played by Eddie Redmayne), was the author of the “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” textbook that was required reading for Harry Potter and his fellow student wizards at Hogwarts.
In this new film, Credence Barebone is living in 1926 New York City, the adopted son of Mary Lou Barebone, the leader of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, a “No-Maj” anti-witchcraft group. In this era, “No-Maj” is the American term for the “muggles” — regular human non-wizards — we came to know in Rowling’s Britain-set “Harry Potter” stories.
In “Fantastic Beasts …” Credence is a very dark, mysterious character, who clearly has a lot of issues. His life is a living hell, and he’s constantly physically and psychologically abused by his adopted mother. Furthermore, he is targeted for attention by Percival Graves (Colin Farrell), the director of magical security at the Magical Congress of the United States of America.
A special treat for Miller during the many months of filming “Fantastic Beasts …” was “the day J.K. Rowling came to the set one of the days I was working. I got to talk to her and walk around the set with her a bit. It was both unbelievably bizarre and very humbling. … I also found Jo Rowling to be so humble herself as a human being. I was so taken aback, because it’s almost impossible to compare yourself to a person like that who has such a mind — a mind that can create this totally original new universe.”
Considering the success director David Yates had helming the final four Harry Potter films, Miller said it made perfect sense that he be the one to kick off Rowling’s new franchise.
“David is the best caretaker of this world. That’s why, when they found him, he remained throughout the whole rest of the Potter saga. J.K. Rowling really trusts him with her work, and I think they have similarly potent channels of creativity. David has a unique mind, and it takes a very unique mind to encompass and hold the wealth of information that comes from J.K. Rowling.”
Asked why Rowling’s tales have so deeply connected with a worldwide audience, Miller noted that “when we are children, we are magic. Also, children have some innate sense of justice, of morality, and I think we lose those qualities, for the most part, over time as we grow older.”
The actor pointed out that if we “look around, a lot of adults in our world are jaded and tired. I think for me Jo Rowling built the bridge over which I was able to recapture those qualities into my adult life that were the gifts of childhood.”
In addition, Miller said he believed that Rowling’s writing provides “the type of stories for children that clearly present a recognition of some very scary things. She doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that there is horror and bad stuff out in the world at large.
“But then she shows you the tools that you have within yourself to overcome those horrors and bad people and bad things.”