Ezra Miller Tells Us Everything He Knows About That Big 'Fantastic Beasts' Reveal
This post contains spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
Ezra Miller wants to make sure that you know this article contains spoilers for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. After he starts with some chit-chat about our biblical names, he asks: "Are you going to put a huge spoiler warning on the top of the article?" So here it is. Your warning. Got it? Good. Now on to those spoilers.
In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, released in 2016, Miller plays a character called Credence Barebone. In 2018, after Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Gindelwald, we know who that person really is -- or at least we think we do. According to evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald, Credence is Aurelius Dumbledore. Yes, of those Dumbledores. Miller, a rampant Potter fan, was just as surprised as audiences have been when he heard this. (Especially thanks to a confusing misunderstanding.) With the promise that would "protect the secrets" -- as goes the hashtag -- Miller told me what he could.
But because this is Miller -- who is chatty, erudite, and the kind of person who will go to a premiere in a full on homage to Harry's owl Hedwig -- we cover a lot more than just Aurelius.
Thrillist: Where did you stand after the first film? Did J.K. Rowling tell you where she was taking Credence Barebone? Did you know he was definitely coming back?
Ezra Miller: I will give you the sequence of events. We finished making the first film. It was edited and cut as everyone was going like, "Ha ha ha a reality TV star will never become president. That would be too horrible to imagine." And then around the time when that reality television star was becoming president and we were releasing the film, I was on a loud bus ride with [producer] David Heyman, who said, "I'm going to tell you who you are." And I said, "OK." And he said, "You're Dumbledore's brother." And I said, "No fucking way. You mean Aberforth?" And David said, "Uh, yeah."
Oh shit. OK.
Miller: Because maybe he didn't hear me or maybe he just had a fart of the brain. Who knows? And then I immediately started asking questions. Like, "OK, wait, what does it mean? Does my accent become English and do my eyes turn blue?" I was like, "David it doesn't make any sense, it's a conflicting storyline. We know about Aberforth's childhood already. How can this be? This doesn't make any sense." And he was going, "I don't know, I don't know. I shouldn't have said anything. You'll have to ask Jo [Rowling]." And then essentially the next thing that happened was I had a panic attack for like a month while I tried to figure out how I was Aberforth Dumbledore, because it didn't make sense at all.
So you didn't go and immediately reach out to Jo and ask her what is the deal with this?
Miller: I don't reach out to Jo, dude. I have way too much respect for that person's precious time. I don't do the letter writing or the reaching out or the, like, can I get your email. I love it. It's so cool the way Jo operates. She drops by exactly when she has to and gives me exactly the information I need. So I knew it would be in time. So I was just like Harry in The Order of the Phoenix, trying to figure out stuff without Dumbledore for a little while. Which is good. Harry needs those times. That's how I see it.
Anyway, I did see Jo at the premiere of the film when we finished the promotional tour, and I saw her at the party and I said, "Wait Jo, David told me and I just don't understand. How does my accent get English? How do my eyes get blue? Is it a Time-Turner thing? How are there two storylines? I don't understand." She was like, "Oh, did David Heyman tell you that? No, that's all idiocy. You are, of course, Aurelius."
And I was like, "Oh, Aurelius?" I was like, "Oh Really... Us?" You know? And she was like, "Oh Really Us." And I was like, "Dang dang." Everything else she told me after that, which was very very little, I can't share. But that was the moment I actually figured out who I was, and I had this sort of dysphoric time of trying to figure out who I was and I just couldn't do it. And I blame David Heyman for that. But then also without David Heyman none of us would be here at all, so how long can you hold a grudge, you know? He's also the greatest guy and I love him so much. So I didn't ever hold a grudge, not even for a second. I understood he probably just hadn't heard my question and honestly on a rumbling bus ride, Aberforth, Aurelius, Albus -- what's the difference? They've all got similar names.
After seeing the film, I had that moment of panic too. Not to the extent that you did, but I heard the name, I left the theater, I started Googling. I was like, wait, is this a different name for Aberforth? It's a shocking moment. There's another question: Is Grindelwald telling the truth? How much can we trust him?
Miller: We don't know. We totally don't know. We don't know if it's true at all. It's a completely unreliable source. It's someone who we know will say pretty much anything for the greater good, right? His prize in mind. It's totally, totally unreliable. We don't know for sure really anything at all. I imagine that will remain true until probably the bitter end, knowing Jo's work.
Do you know the full story now?
Miller: No. I do not. And what I will tell you is no one does except for her. And then it trickles down. Probably the Davids know almost as much as anyone else and like top ministry officials are aware. And then Jude [Law] knows more than any of the rest of the cast. To my understand he does. Just how Evanna Lynch knows things that no one else knows. There are certain people are chosen, probably because Luna Lovegood writes for the Quibbler and would know all sorts of shit that no one else knows, because conspiracy theorists are correct most of the time. And then also Jude is Dumbledore, Albus. Dumbledore comma Albus. We know there's this sort of near omnipotence in the divination abilities, and just the general wisdoms of Albus Dumbledore.
The whole point of the movie is this identity crisis within Credence. How were you thinking about taking on this specific section?
Miller: The only reason why I feel comfortable answering this, again, and I hope you'll print this as part of the answer: The only reason I feel comfortable answering this is I do not know anything about what happens going forward. But for me, my angle for this film was very much about how dangerous the quest for a fixed identity is. I really find, in our struggle as humans to have purpose and concrete identity, we sacrifice often our moral integrity and we compromise our vision as a divine individual capable of anything in order to assign ourselves a given identity.
Often I feel that people live limited in the affixed identities they've chosen or subscribed to, and in that way people remain barred from the achievement of their own divine potential. Do you follow me? This is like an ISIS recruit or a military recruit, [who] I see as very similar characters in the world. Essentially they both were people who were left [with] a deficit of identity. You know? A deficit of real connective tissue of culture, of family, of education. And so they, in their thirst for purpose and identity, were easily manipulated by people who wish to use them as pawns for their ultimate agenda or objective.
Credence is like this military recruit now, or like this ISIS recruit, anyone who's ever been recruited to fight in a battle that is not their own. Credence becomes that figure, and what's been manipulated, it's his own trauma. And this is what they do. This is how people are systematically turned into murderers, into monsters, into the people who then become an enemy to someone else. They use trauma, they manipulate belief. They will utilize someone's religious beliefs as a means to create an enemy, sometimes even for their own cause, just to perpetuate war. These are observable historical tactics.
Know that this is how, historically, hegemons get people to be their pawns. So that's happened in a big way. The film ends with a would-be general putting a gun in a private's hand, saying, "Here's who you are now, you're a soldier of this denomination and this country's allegiance. And here's why you're angry and here's who is your enemy." He gives him a gun, a name, and an enemy in one. It's like every soldier ever who fought for a cause that was not theirs personally. That's how I see it.
It's a very upsetting ending.
Miller: It's only film two, baby. I'm sure it's going to get worse before it gets better.
What did you think about the reveal of Nagini, her backstory and relationship with Credence?
Miller: Look, as a Potter fan I'm in love with this flip mode, this inversion of perspective that's happening with this character, particularly in a story that's about right beasts and trying to understand beasts for who they are before we just know their name. Like, "Oh, there's a Wampus Cat." Sure, anyone can identify a Wampus Cat. You look at me you go, "Oh, that's that insane mentally ill queer actor." To reduce someone -- or any being -- to reduce it to a label is the great danger.
The flip mode is the greatest, and to invert the understanding of this being we only ever knew as a snake and a snake who was a Horcrux, a snake who was a servant of the Dark Lord. But to understand Nagini as this fierce, beautiful, sensitive, and compassionate, complicated, dimensional creature, for me as a Harry Potter fan this is amazing and is blowing my mind in every way. For me as an actor, working with Claudia Kim was one of the greatest honors, privileges, delights, and joys that I've known so far. So my feels are positive all around.
In terms of the controversy, you know, representation and proper representation of cultural experiences is incredibly important and it is something that has been completely missing from mainstream cinema for all of mainstream cinema's history. So as we are now endeavoring to completely uproot some of those structures and create a type of empathy machine, a type of shamanic project tool for the reflection of our own experience through cinema, it's vital that these conversations take place across the board no matter what they are or what they refer to or how deep the intricacies get.
Everyone is in the right to be angry, upset, confused about anything like this at any point. I think it's really good if we can not shy away from these things as controversies that we're supposed to avoid because it would be better if we can all just get along about everything. But if we can actually endeavor to discuss some of these things in a fair and receptive manner, in which people are listening to each other in a genuine and sincere way, this is going to help an acceleration that will take us into the true first golden age of cinema, which will be the rainbow age. It will be the equivalent of Dorothy stepping from black and white into color through the tornado, and this is the tornado, revolutionary struggle is about that tornado. We are about to get it on harder than ever before in global history, and that's coming and everyone can feel it, and some people are scared. Because the history of film hasn't just been black and white -- it's just been fucking white.
That's completely unacceptable, and misrepresentation through the tool of cinema has been a tool of genocide. The Nazis used it, everyone has got it on with cinema as a means of propaganda. That's what it's been. So let's do it, let's talk about everything, and let's make space for everyone to try stuff out, have it go terribly wrong, have it go right, have it go half-right, half-wrong. And let's keep talking, let's engage collectively in this conversation not as enemies, but as people who are here together in this world now. It is incumbent upon us to figure this shit out.