Magazine article The New Yorker

Bewitched

Magazine article The New Yorker

Bewitched

Article excerpt

BEWITCHED

The actor Ben Whishaw pulled up in a black car the other day and popped into an East Village store called Enchantments, which specializes in essential oils, talismans, books of spells, and other witchy accoutrements. A black cat leaped onto the cash register. "That's Medea," the shop's owner, Stacy Rapp, said. "The Greek Medea, not the Tyler Perry Madea."

Whishaw, who is thirty-five, bashful, and from Bedfordshire, caressed the cat--he used to own several, but gave them to his grandmother when his film career exploded, eight years ago. He is best known for playing Q in the two latest Bond films: not the crusty old gadget-maker made famous by Desmond Llewelyn but a coy young tech geek with a windswept mop of hair. He is frequently cast as a writer (John Keats, in "Bright Star"; Herman Melville, in "In the Heart of the Sea"), a rocker (Bob Dylan, or a slice of him, in "I'm Not There"; Freddie Mercury, possibly, in a long-rumored bio-pic), or a lover (he pined for Eddie Redmayne in "The Danish Girl").

Now he's tackling a Puritan: he stars as John Proctor in a Broadway revival of "The Crucible," Arthur Miller's McCarthy-minded drama about the Salem witch trials, directed by the Belgian experimentalist Ivo van Hove. During rehearsals, Whishaw had heard about Enchantments from his co-star Tavi Gevinson, the nineteen-year-old actress and the editor of the online magazine Rookie , who goes there for candles.

"What are you interested in? Spells?" Rapp, who wore black ear studs and a skull-and-crossbones bandanna, asked. "We can't really fly on brooms, I'm sorry to say. We do sell them, though."

"Do you do spells?" Whishaw asked.

"Spells are basically a tool," Rapp explained. "A spell is a tool to focus your energy in a specific direction. We do get a lot of people in your line of work coming in, saying, 'I'm up for a big role, I have this audition, I need some luck.' "

Whishaw said that he does own crystals, which he bought in Glastonbury, a pagan pilgrimage site. "I have a smoky quartz, a beautiful smoky quartz, which I brought with me from the U.K. I'm going to take it to the theatre and just have it in the dressing room. I don't know why. I like it there."

"Quartz is cleansing," Rapp assured him. She changed a light bulb as Whishaw looked around, the floor creaking underfoot. He paused by a shelf of ceramic skulls. …

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