Update: It’s now been confirmed by Warner Bros. that Eddie Redmayne will officially star in the lead role of Newt Scamander. 

It was previously reported that he was the front-runner but it’s official: Eddie Redmayne is in talks to lead the upcoming Harry Potter spin-off movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Variety reports that Redmayne has been offered the coveted role in the adaptation of the book that was written as a companion piece by J.K. Rowling to the main Harry Potter franchise (it even appears in the franchise as one of Harry’s textbooks). He was initially intrigued but pensive about moving forward until he saw a script; evidently he was happy with what he read. Warner Bros. had no comment but while Harry Potter director David Yates may yet have other actors on a list, it looks like the role is all but sewn up for Redmayne.

He will play the brilliantly named Newt Scamander, a “magiczoologist” and author of the eponymous book that chornicles the various weird and wonderful creatures found in the Potterverse. With a screenplay written by Rowling herself (her first foray into feature film writing), the story will be set some 70 years before the start of the Potter movies in New York. There are four other key roles still to be filled, two American girls and two American boys, but Yates and the producers wanted to wait until they had someone locked in for the lead role before going ahead with casting others.

Rowling said of the project:

Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for 17 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.

WB is evidently so confident in the potential of the adaptation and that Pottermania is still rampant as it’s supposedly being planned as a franchise with two more films to follow; of course that’s contingent on the success of the first one, but I doubt they’ll have any trouble there.

Despite the failed box office success of Jupiter Ascending, which saw Redmayne play an incredibly hammy alien villain, he is still a highly sought-after talent following his deserved Oscar win for playing Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. He will next be seen in the biographical drama The Danish Girl, out on January 1st, 2016.

Fans of the book: is Redmayne a good choice for the role of Newt Scamander?

Source: Variety