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Theory of Everything actor takes lead role in new Harry Potter franchise

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Oscar Award-winning veteran of The Theory of Everything, Les Misérables and Jupiter Ascending Eddie Redmayne will play the lead in the new film trilogy based in the setting of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books, Warner Bros. has announced.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which marks Rowling's screenwriting debut, will follow the character of Newt Scamander, a famous researcher of the animals of the wizarding world, or "magizoologist." Scamander is known in Harry Potter canon as the author of a required Hogwarts textbook for which the film is named. Rowling also wrote a "real" version of the Fantastic Beasts textbook in 2001, with the majority of proceeds from its sale going to the Comic Relief charity.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book

The first film, at least, is confirmed to take place roughly seventy years before the events of the Harry Potter books and also thousands of miles away, in the New York City of the 1920s. A brand new trilogy of Harry Potter films would be galvanizing enough for the broad fandom that's grown up around the books, but the change of time and setting, not to mention the extent of Rowling's creative control, has piqued interest even further. Despite its large American audience, the Harry Potter books have contained very few hints about the state of wizarding and witching in the New World.

While Redmayne's acting chops are undeniable, hopes for a lead actor who might add more diversity to the setting's predominantly white list of leads seem to have been dashed with this announcement. Speculation on the frontrunners to play supporting characters Tina and Queenie also point predominantly to white actresses, among them Saoirse Ronan, Dakota Fanning and Kate Upton. Veteran Harry Potter director and writer David Yates and Steve Kloves have already been brought on board the production to direct and help with scriptwriting, with the film's release date set for Nov. 18, 2016.