The Theory of Everything actor has finally been confirmed to play “magizoologist” Newt Scamander in JK Rowling's Fantastic Beasts

Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, has been officially cast as the lead in JK Rowling's forthcoming Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Redmayne will play the role of “magizoologist” Newt Scamander, and begins shooting the film this summer, with longtime Harry Potter director David Yates.

The script has been written by Rowling, who is making her screenwriting debut, and is set in New York seven decades before the events in the Harry Potter series. The new saga, which Rowling has said will be "at least" a trilogy, is based on the adventures of Scamander, whose book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is, in the Harry Potter universe, a textbook taught in Hogwarts school.

It is believed that Yates – who has previously directed four Harry Potter films – is in the process of casting four further lead roles of two American girls and two American boys.

Eddie Redmayne upon hearing he won the Best Actor Oscar in 2015 Credit: 2015 Rex Features/Mandatory Credit - A.M.P.A.S/REX

On Wednesday morning, Rowling offered her support to the casting, saying Redmayne was "perfect".

Redmayne will next appear in Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl, based on the true story of Lili Elbe, one of the first people in the world to undergo sex reassignment surgery. He is also among the voice cast for the forthcoming film Thomas & Friends: Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure. It is thought that former Doctor Who star Matt Smith was also in the running to play Scamander.

"Eddie Redmayne has emerged as one of today's most extraordinarily talented and acclaimed actors," said a statement released by Greg Silverman, President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production, Warner Bros. Pictures. "We are thrilled to welcome him into JK Rowling's Wizarding World, where we know he will deliver a remarkable performance as Newt Scamander, the central character in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them."

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them will be released on Novermber 18, 2016.