The LRM Interview: Dan Fogler on His Lovable Character in JK Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
While Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander is the central character of the new JK Rowling-penned movie Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, just as much love should be given to Dan Fogler’s Jacob Kowalski, who Scamander meets on his journey to America.
The movie is set in 1926 New York and Fogler’s character encounters Scamander as he’s trying to help the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) tackle a mysterious entity that has been destroying large chunks of the city, endangering the secrecy of the wizarding community. Jacob is a “No-Maj”—in other words, he’s not a wizard—so he is immediately pulled into this fantastic secret world of Nifflers and other magical creatures that escape from Scamander’s briefcase zoo once he arrives. Along with Newt, an auror named Tina (Katherine Waterston) and her beautiful sister Queenie (Alison Sudol from Transparent), they venture across the city trying to capture all the escaped beasts.
Jacob Kowalski is quite a fun character who almost steals the movie from Redmayne with his interactions both with Queenie and the creatures they encounter.
LRM spoke with Fogler out of the New York junket for the film.
LRM: I love Jacob. He’s the heart and soul of the movie, and I think he’s the character that they’re going to have make sure to put in every movie, so I hope you’ve signed a contract… or haven’t signed a contract, whichever is better for you. David Yates told me the story about his wife basically saying “How about Dan Fogler?” Had you heard that story?
Dan Fogler: I do know it and have heard it, thanks. She saw the audition tapes, and he liked me, but she saw something in me. She was like, “This is the guy,” and he was like (doing a spot-on impression of David Yates), “I know but I have to see everyone else in the world,” you know? (laughs) so they saw everybody who had more name recognition, I guess. But thank God, she kept saying, “No, no, you gotta come back to this guy.”
LRM: So their marriage wasn’t at risk about this point…
Fogler: I hope not, but she was so lovely. Every time I see her, I give her a hug. Thank God for her.
LRM: I feel like so many filmmakers I speak to, do that process. They see someone and they’re great, but they feel like they have to see hundreds of others before going with the first person they see.
Fogler: You have to, right.
LRM: What was it like on your end as a process where you audition and were you pretty happy with your audition? What did you actually do?
Fogler: I feel like I nail every single audition. (laughs) I walked out and I was like, “YES!” I saw this thing Philip Seymour Hoffman said on the Actor’s Studio, he was just like, “You’re going to audition a lot, there’s going to be a lot of rejection. You have to treat every audition like a performance. As an actor, that’s how you fulfill the fire in your heart,” so that’s what I treated it like. Every time I went in there was a performance. I went in with a costume.. and it seemed to work.
LRM: Nice. Was the costume anything like what you ended up wearing in the movie?
Fogler: Nothing at all. I just did the cliché things you get when you think of someone in the ‘20s. I was thinking like a patchwork Newsies hat, and I had hobo gloves with cut-off fingers, you know what I mean. It helped me get into a character.
LRM: You’re a New Yorker, I feel most of the time. Are you still a New Yorker?
Fogler: Yeah, I live in Brooklyn, man.
LRM: How do you get into the head of someone from the ‘20s? I live on Orchard Street and live in one of those buildings that’s been there since the turn of the century.
Fogler: It’s in my blood, man. I always felt like I should have been born in the ‘20s, but my great grandfather was a baker, and he worked on probably the same Lower East Side streets that we work on in the movie. I brought that. It was in my DNA, like I already knew the character.
LRM: You have a nice romance with Queenie (played by Alison Sudol from “Transparent”). I’m not sure that’s a spoiler but you do have a little flirtation going on with her. Like I said, I think everyone is going to walk out of the movie loving the two of you.
Fogler: Oh, wow.
LRM: I think you’ve ensured you two will be in all four other movies. I’m not sure about Eddie.
Fogler: I’m pretty sure Eddie will have his own thing going on for a long time.
LRM: How did you and Alison get into that? Was it just one of those things where you first meet on set so you can explore that?
Fogler: We first met in the screen test, and it was good, man. The chemistry was there. She was just so sweet and delightful, and then once we got on set and I saw her looking like Marilyn Monroe—I called her “Carolyn Monroe,” she was Marilyn’s cousin—with the luminescent skin and the curls and the ultra-femininity, but just oblivious of that femininity, which makes her even more attractive. For me, for Jacob, it was love at first sight. He’s totally enchanted by this enchantress, so it wasn’t hard to play that.
LRM: Did you know very early on, even from your first audition, that this was something JK Rowling had written? You knew that it was going to be set in the Harry Potter universe and the whole thing?
Fogler: Yeah, they said, “This is in the Harry Potter universe,” so I was like, “You want me to play a worm man? Whatever you want me to do! I’m slimy, I’m disgusting, I’m disfigured…whatever you want!” (laughs) “Sign me on!” And then I get to play someone who is really close to the ultimate… I love clown characters, because you get to make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, do everything. I wished for this to happen, sort of. It just seemed just too perfect that this character felt like it was made for me.
LRM: At what point, do you get the whole script and know what exactly you’ll be put through and what you’ll be doing? There’s a lot.
Fogler: Once we were cast, then they sent the first draft, but it changed as we went along.
LRM: I’m curious what it’s like stepping into a briefcase, which isn’t a spoiler, we’ve seen that in the trailers and other promo material, but what’s it like creating that illusion as an actor? What’s there for you to work with?
Fogler: Right, I love the physical comedy of that, getting into the case, getting stuck… just seems so classic to me. Just classic clown. The way they did that was they cut out a groove in the floor so my legs went down under the floor and then I would just jump up and down trying to force myself in, and then later, they painted out the bottom… they painted out my legs… so it looks like I’m actually trying to squeeze into this box.
LRM: You’ve done a lot of movies, but is this the one with the biggest FX and movie magic type stuff going on? Even the beasts are visual FX you’re interacting with but aren’t there.
Fogler: Yeah, this is the biggest movie I’ve ever worked on, but what was comforting was that it was the biggest movie that Ron Perlman ever worked on.
LRM: Well, I don’t know about Ron Perlman…
Fogler: No, he said.
LRM: I was on the set of “Pacific Rim” with him, and I saw the set they built of Hong Kong…
Fogler: But Pacific Rim, is that a franchise? Globally known?
LRM: Like I said, they built an entire chunk of Hong Kong…
Fogler: But is it a franchise that is known and loved throughout the whole world?
LRM: Okay… no.
Fogler: That’s what I’m talking about! It’s the most expensive set that’s ever been built.
LRM: Okay, fair enough. I’m going to talk to David Heyman later and find out the exact price tag of that set. I’m sure he’ll tell me.
Fogler: Yeah. (laughs)
LRM: There are so many scenes you do with creatures, and you get into some action. I’m not sure ho comfortable you feel about getting into action and that sort of physical comedy.
Fogler: I love it. I mean, my favorite movie is Raiders of the Lost Ark. I love action movies, and we got to pay homage to Chaplin and Buster Keaton, who were clowns, but they were action stars in their own right, doing their own stunts. So we got to pay homage to them, and when I’m running from the Arumpant, in my mind, I was Indiana Jones running from the boulder. I was a kid again.
LRM: That’s one of the scenes I was thinking of, because that was just a great scene and I was like ‘Wow, Dan’s really getting into this action thing.”
Fogler: I love it, I love it. I love all the hands on stuff. I’d rather do my own stunts. They wouldn’t let me do the craziest stuff, but whatever I could do. My favorite thing that didn’t make it into the movie was a scene where the “Demigeiss” is in the department store—he’s invisible. He tramples me but I grab him, and I’m being pulled through the store. To me, that was Indiana Jones being pulled behind the truck. I got to do all these things that my inner child was so happy!
LRM: So they shot that scene but…?
Fogler: It never made it.
LRM: David Yates told me about another scene where your girlfriend breaks up with Jacob? It seemed like it might be too sad after he doesn’t get his bank loan.
Fogler: That whole sequence, that was about ten minutes they cut out of it. Just me seeing the bakery I want to open, which is at this point is condemned. I’m just looking at it and then I see my fiancée, we break up and then there was this whole sequence where I try to get into my house, but she has the key, so I have to go all the way around and climb up…
LRM: So this was quite an elaborate scene? Hopefully it will be on the DVD.
Fogler: Yeah, yeah.
LRM: Do you have anything else going on between now and whenever they call you back for “Fantastic Beasts 2”?
Fogler: Yeah, I’m Uncle Marvin on the Goldbergs.
LRM: Oh, that’s still going on? When does the next season start?
Fogler: Well, I have this Thanksgiving episode coming up, and then they were talking about having me come back for a bunch more.
LRM: So you’re just popping in and out at this point?
Fogler: Yeah, and I’m doing a lot of my own writing. I write comic books and screenplays and plays.
LRM: What kind of comic stuff have you been doing?
Fogler: I have a comic called Moon Lake, which is like Twilight Zone style, and then I have this new one called Brooklyn Gladiator, which is like Blade Runner, that kind of world.
LRM: Who publishes it?
Fogler: Moon Lake is published by Arcaia and Boom Studios and it looks like Brooklyn Gladiator is going to be published by Heavy Metal but we’re still negotiating.
LRM: Do you have a lot of publishers showing up with your comic and saying, “Hey, we want to make a movie out of this?” Have you had to deal with that yet?
Fogler: I mean, I’m looking forward to that. (laughs)
LRM: Do you got Comic-Con in San Diego?
Fogler: Oh, yeah, all the time. Yeah, yeah.
LRM: A friend of mine runs a small comic book company and producers keep coming by their booth to get free comics to “make into a movie.”
Fogler: They just want free comics.
LRM: Exactly! When you make a comic, you need to budget for the 100 free copies just to give to the producers who want to make a movie out of it.
Fogler: Yeah, I end up giving so many away, anyway, because you just want it out there in the world.
LRM: Congratulations on the movie. Have you seen it with an audience yet?
Fogler: I just saw it with Alison.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them opens on November 18 with previews on Thursday night, but look for more interviews from the movie right here on LRM!