From beyond the gates of Hogwarts, the cast and crew of the last but one instalment of the Harry Potter series talk about the fun they had while filming the magical adventure.
Growing up outside Hogwarts
After more than a decade, Harry Potter has finished shooting at Leavesden Studios. But from the first day, a strange atmosphere hung over the set — a sense of melancholy that after 10 years and countless technical and artistic challenges met and overcome, this was the final act — and the pressure is intense as the cast and crew try to outdo themselves one last time.
Says Daniel Radcliffe, “There’s definitely an awareness that this is the last one and we really have to get it right. I think, on the other films, we always knew there’d be another chance. This time, we’re very eager to make sure everything goes to plan and it’s the spectacular ending everyone wants.”
The seventh film sees Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his trusted friends, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), unmoored from the protection of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as they embark on a quest to find and destroy the ‘Horcruxes’. Much of the first part of the film will be taken up by conflicts between the three friends, and by their desperate attempts to stay one step ahead of those hunting for them.
Director David Yates, who also made “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, says, “The first part is going to feel very much like a road movie. We’re taking these three characters away from the comfort zone of Hogwarts. You’re so used to the surroundings of this magical school with all its trappings, you’re almost conditioned to expect that things will start in the Great Hall, and a lot of the story will take place in the school.”
The first film also brings the characters into the very real world of contemporary London. “It felt very different,” agrees Rupert Grint. “Since we left Hogwarts, there were no familiar sets. One night we filmed in Piccadilly Circus in London, which was really amazing. They closed off the whole road; it was a massive operation. It was so weird having total control over that part of town, that it was closed off just for us.”
Yates adds, “These three kids are thrown into the grown-up world for the first time, with all its jeopardy and all its dangers. They’re exposed and vulnerable in a way they’ve never really been vulnerable before. So it’s like a thriller in a way, but I think it will feel fresher to the audience.”
One of the very earliest scenes gives a good illustration of the challenges involved. A group of Harry’s schoolfriends and members of the Order of the Phoenix arrive at the Dursely’s home to transport Harry back to the wizarding world without giving Voldemort’s Death Eaters a chance to attack him en route.
The plan involves Ron, Fred and George Weasley, Fleur Delacourt, Hermione and a wizard called Mundungus Fletcher drinking vials of Polyjuice potion to turn into Harry’s doppelgangers, so the Death Eaters won’t know which of the seven Harrys fleeing the building is the real one.
Except of course, in the real world, a bit of CG-trickery was needed to allow Daniel Radcliffe to play seven parts at once. And since CG can’t do everything, “it’s the single most complicated sequence we’ve done on any of the films,” Radcliffe says. “Everyone’s changing into me and no one knows what’s going on; I’m dressing up as everyone else… they’re dressing up as me, and it’s quite confusing. But considering how hard it is, it’s going quite quickly.” Says Yates, “This bit is technically tricky and time-consuming, and it involves a lot of planning. To get eight seconds of ‘Wow, that’s cool!’ takes so much effort. But it will be incredibly fun to watch.”
On the run
The ‘road movie’ section — when Harry, Ron and Hermione, knowing that they are Voldemort’s real target, leave family and friends behind and go on the run — presented new challenges. Apart from shooting exterior scenes around the glens of Scotland and many other outside locations, most of the films have been based on sets at Leavesden. But the long journey around Britain that Harry, Ron and Hermione undertake in this film meant that there was much more location work to be done this time. Radcliffe recalls, “We probably spent the first three months on and off at locations. We sort of did it all in one big block.”
Luckily, the usually rainy British summer time cooperated. “There were a few times we couldn’t go outside because of the rain,” grins Rupert Grint, “but we were quite lucky, really. It was a fun time on the road because we really were living quite rough for parts of it. I had to wear a wig, actually, to give the sense of time passing when we can’t cut our hair. It eventually gets really bushy and crazy!”
“We did one scene where we’re in the forest and we get chased by Death Eaters,” recalls Emma Watson. “They had the camera on a zip wire, to run at twice the speed we can, so we’re going full-out downhill, dodging trees, with six guys behind us going crazy. They had two camera guys on quad bikes chasing us as well. It got quite competitive! I did quite a lot of athletics at school, so I enjoyed giving Dan and Rupert a run for their money!”
Grint responds, “I’m not used to running so that was quite a new thing for me, but I think I did alright. Dan was quite keen to show us up but I kept up pretty well.”
“You end up wishing you hadn’t given it so much on the first take,” laughs Watson. “You just don’t have the stamina to keep it up. By day three you don’t care anymore if there’s a snatcher behind you; you just want to slow down. I haven’t had this much action or stunts since the third film, though, so it’s nice to have a break from the heavy emotional stuff and spend days where it’s like, ‘OK, run, go!’”
But for all the scale and bombast, it’s still the little things that get everyone talking, like the fact that, after six books of a steadily developing love story between Ron and Hermione, this time they actually kiss.
“It’s just very, very weird,” laughs Emma Watson. “I grew up with both of them, so it was just really awkward. The nicest thing about it was that, before we did it, we just turned to each other and said, ‘Gosh, this is going to be awful, isn’t it?’ So at least we were both in the same boat!”
And how will they all cope with the end of the Potter era? “I hope I’ll work with these people again,” says Radcliffe. “But the fact that we were all here as a team, I’ll probably never have that again. It’s a sad thought that this band of brothers will have to dissolve. But we will all stay in contact, I’m sure.”
“There’s a mixed feeling really,” says Rupert Grint. “Part of me doesn’t really want it to end, because it’s been a huge part of my life and it’s going to be weird not to have that routine. But, at the same time, I’m ready to move on. It’s been 10 years, so it’s nice to have a bit of freedom.”
“This has been like my home, my school, my family, it’s been everything,” says Emma Watson. “Obviously I’ll be very sad to leave so many people that I care about behind, but excited to do other things as well. I actually have the funny feeling that the three of us will remain close after all of this is over, because we’ve shared this experience.”
PHOTOS AND TEXT: © 2010 Warner Bros. Ent.
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“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” opens worldwide on November 19, 2010, with Part 2 opening on July 15, 2011, from Warner Bros. Pictures.