The end is near for millions of Muggles around the world as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II, the final chapter of one of the most popular film series of all time, is scheduled for release on July 15th. The film, which is based on author J.K. Rowling's seventh and final book about the boy wizard, promises to pick up where last fall's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I left off, and features the conclusion of Harry's long-waging battle against "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!"
Just about a year ago we had the rare opportunity to travel to London, England and visit the set while they were shooting both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II simultaneously. Last September we told you about our visit to the set and everything we learned about Part I. Now we can tell you everything that we learned about Part II.
Just like all the previous films, the final chapter of the series was shot at Leavesden Studios in
West Hertfordshire, England. While on set we had an opportunity to speak with several members of the cast and crew including director David Yates and actors Evanna Lynch, James and Oliver Phelps, Warwick Davis, Rupert Grint and of course ... Harry himself, Daniel Radcliffe.
One of the coolest things that we've ever seen on a movie set came when we had an opportunity to watch the crew shoot a pivotal scene from the finale of this series. We were escorted onto the set and marveled when we realized that we had entered the Great Hall of Hogwarts. The attention to detail was amazing. Every brick in the wall was real and aged with cracks and dust like a real castle. The scene they were shooting revolved around Professor Snape Alan Rickman) gathering all the Hogwarts students into the Great Hall. At this point in the story Harry has been banned from the school and Snape is explaining to the students that he has heard a rumor that Harry has snuck back in. In a calm yet menacing voice Snape tells the students that Harry Potter is any enemy of Hogwarts and that anyone who helps him is responsible of treason. Just then Harry busts through the doors surrounded by Dumbledore's Army and explains to the students that Snape is the real threat. Watching the scene play out in front of us sent a chill up our spine, it was quite a thing to see.
Next, we spoke with 3 ft. 6 in. tall actor Warwick Davis, who plays both Professor Fitwick and Griphook in the final two films. The actor talked to us about playing both roles in the series. "It's just so nice that David has the faith and trust in me to be able to pull it off and play some interesting scenes. But my connection with Griphook goes way back to the first film in which I did the voice for Griphook," he explained. "But it was funny, because now when I look at it, I sort of snicker at myself, but we were able to overcome that. In a way, I kind of gave the first Griphook a voice that sort of suited that style of that film and also the size of the character at times. But when it came to this one it just wasn't going to be quite right for him so, you know, maybe we'll have a chance to go back in the likes of George Lucas and tinker with it later on and kind of sort out the continuity in that, perhaps," joked the actor.
Warwick Davis went on to discuss some of the challenges of working on a film series as large in scope as this one. "You're in green screen and you're having to kind of piece it together in your head, because those scenes are only as real, I think, as the actors who are actually performing in them. If you believe it then the audience will also believe in it. So if we aren't reacting correctly to the size of the dragon, for example, it's not going to work. So I really work very hard in making sure that I get all the information I can and just give it enough of a reaction to whatever I might be seeing." We followed up asking the actor if he finds that kind of work challenging. "Well, it's something I've grown up doing. Since I was eleven, I've been working on Star Wars movies and with all of these special effects. That's my genre, you know, sci-fi, horror, and all of that. So all of it involves make believe and imagining things that are there that aren't, so I've got quite used to doing it."
"But it can be quite difficult," the actor went on to say. "I remember one particularly challenging day I had on Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. That really was taking film making to a sort of minimalist level. They sometimes didn't even build a set. They would just say, that's going to be there, and it was literally a blue screen studio. One day George Lucas says, we need you to be leading this creature around. It's a big dinosaur sort of creature and I said, okay, so do I have the reins? He said, can you just imagine that you're jumping out and grabbing the reins and then you lead him off," Warwick Davis explained. "So I was literally standing in the middle of a blue studio and then jumping up at imaginary reins, grabbing them and then having to pull this creature along. Then seeing the movie, I was like, oh that actually works. But it was going back to my days of drama school for that, my improvisations, imagining what this was all like."
Finally, the actor spoke to us about an experience he once had with a Harry Potter fan. "I was in Orlando a few years ago, working a shoot for Walt Disney World and a person that came to the event said, we have kind of a Harry Potter club that we do at Border's Bookstore and they wondered if I'd go along. I was like, what the heck. Why don't I just go along? So there's about thirty of the members there and I went in and I read some of the book and then we just talked about the movies and stuff. It was just a really nice evening," said Warwick Davis. "There were people aged from six to sixty. I mean, the age range was huge, and they were all dressed up and just passionate about the books and the films as well. They seemed to love them in equal measure. They tend to be very, you know...they've always got a wand with them as well. Like a light saber to a Star Wars fan, if you see a wand then you know that they are a Harry Potter fan."
We also spoke with actress Evanna Lynch who has played Hogwarts student Luna Lovegood since Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Lynch wasn't even a professional actress when she auditioned for the role, just a hardcore fan of the books that's dream came true when she was cast in the series of films. We began by asking the actress if it has sunken in yet that the series is coming to a conclusion. "It did a while ago because in all the interviews we do people ask us how you are feeling now that it's ending. But then one of the days we were watching the Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on DVD, and there was just loads of scenes of us together and I just started crying. We were in the Room of Requirement and it feels like there was sort of symbolism because my first scene when I started was in the Room of Requirement and I was just really shy," the actress said. "To me it seems like leaving childhood, like leaving Harry Potter and going out into the adult world and battling. So yeah that really upset me."
Since Evanna Lynch was a fan of the books before she was an actress, we asked her if when she read the final book she was surprised by how many deaths occurred. "I suppose but J.K. Rowling did say it was going to be a bloodbath," replied the actress. "I was expecting a massacre. I didn't really predict any deaths; I didn't like to do that. I was not surprised that Snape died, that was one thing I was pretty sure about. I was surprised in that it was a really nice ending. You know the way at the end of most books authors feel they have to have a massive sense of regret and everything, to complete it," she explained. "You weren't left with that. Sure everyone died but Harry, he finally got away from being such a, you know, freak and being looked at by everyone. Now he just has a normal life. Yeah, that was a surprise but it was nice."
Next, we had a chance to talk with actors and real life brothers James and Oliver Phelps who play Fred and George Weasley, older brothers to Ron, in the series. As fans of the book series already know, Fred will loose his life in the upcoming film and Oliver Phelps discussed what it was like to watch his brother die on set. "It was a bit odd and surreal to watch my twin die because he is not just another person playing a character he is my proper brother. So it was a bit strange. In this film they are quite different from the laughing joking guys they were in the previous films but it has also been quite fun." When we spoke to the actors, Oliver Phelps had make-up on that made it appear as if part of his ear had been cut off and we asked the actor how they were able to make it look so real. "I can't tell you how the ear is done, it is a trick of the trade."
"We had a picture of it and we were at the pub with our mates," James Phelps explained. "We were talking about what we had done at work and we mentioned there had been a bit of an accident." "I still had a beanie like hat on too," said Oliver Phelps. "Then we showed them the picture of when it first happened and the costume was all bloody and everything," said James Phelps. "They we all like, what the bloody hell happened? It looked pretty real," he finished. "It looked more like a Quentin Tarantino film than a Harry Potter film I think. When they first put it on it kept falling off so it was funny to be able to take my ear off," explained Oliver Phelps.
"We were in Japan when book seven was released and it was not released in Japan yet so I had to get it and then I turned my phone off so no one would disturb me and I read through it in two days," continued James Phelps. "I was on the bullet train when I read about what happens to Fred and at that exact time the ticket guy came around and I felt like I just died, I wanted him to go away and leave me alone," the actor said. "I left my phone on and got a text message from a friend asking what we did to JK Rowling," joked Oliver Phelps. "He said, she must not like you guys, you lose your ear and James dies! There were actually people at the fifth or sixth premiere that said Fred would not last," explained the actor. "I don't really think about a death scene in the sense of my own mortality," continued James Phelps. "I believe that when your number is up it is up. I actually fell asleep one time when I was laying there and I woke up and there was no one in the hall. They were all standing at the windows giggling at me. It is just part of the acting process."
Finally, James Phelps discussed with us his memories of when he first joined the cast. "This was the first production we were ever in so we came into it thinking that every movie was done like this. Robbie Coltrane told us this was like having a Rolls Royce for your first car ... it probably won't get any bigger or better. We followed up by asking the actors if it had sunk in yet that they were working on the finale film of the series. "It is starting to sink in now but at the beginning of filming it just seemed like we were back at our normal routine," Oliver Phelps explained. "There are some people who are already packing up their departments because there is nothing left for them to do and they have been here over ten years, much longer than we have. For them it must be even harder to leave the party early."
We also had a chance to speak with actor Rupert Grint, who of course plays Ron Weasley, Harry's best friend in the series. The actor talked to us about filming the epic action scenes and battles that will take place at the end of the movie. "We've done a lot already, all the battle stuff. Some of the scenes ... all the sets we've known for years like The Great Hall, they just get destroyed and become these burning wrecks. It's quite shocking to see these familiar places get destroyed, but the scenes are going to be really epic." The actor also discussed shooting Part I and Part II at the same time. "It feels like one story. When we started it we were just concentrating on the first one because we didn't have the script for the second one until quite later, actually. But to me it doesn't really feel like two films."
We asked Rupert Grint if there were any scenes in the film that were difficult for the actor to do emotionally? "Yeah, in this film it was the first time I really had to be emotional, especially when Ron loses his brother. That was quite a big scene with the whole Weasley family. It was a depressing scene to do because you've got Fred lying on the floor and it's quite shocking because it's a character we've associated with jokes and mucking about. It's quite horrible. There have been a lot of heavy, emotional scenes like that," he explained. Finally, we asked the actor if there were any souvenirs from the film series that the actor would like to "hypothetically" take home with him after the production wraps. "Hypothetically, of course. I'd like the Night Bus. It's on the runway and no one's really doing anything with it. I'm going to keep an eye on it," he joked. "I've got a tie and one of the chess pieces. I'd like to keep the wand. That would be quite a cool thing to take."
Next, we spoke with director David Yates who when it is all said and done will have directed the last half of the entire film series. He began directing the franchise with the forth film Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and continued by following that up with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, and now Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. Since Part II is expected to be more of a war story, we asked the director to discuss how he crafted the film's battle scenes. "I think the notion that you are in the middle of this entire wizard fight is exciting so it feels very visceral. I did a wizard battle at the end of Order of the Phoenix and it was the first wizard battle between Dumbledore and Voldemort. What I really loved was the kinetic power of that exchange because the magic I had seen at that point had always been pretty and clean."
"I thought that if you had two really powerful wizards going at it that it would be extraordinarily powerful and frightening as well," David Yates continued. "So there are moments in this battle, which are very visceral and frightening and percussive I would say. Ultimately, the battle and the magical fighting is a counter point and that is where we differ from the book a little bit. I felt that in the book, and the earlier drafts of the scripts before we worked them out, there was an opportunity to be had counter pointing Harry's desperate race for the Horcrux with the Dark Lord's ever encroaching ability to kill everyone in the school, so there is this race against time. So we counter pointed these two strands. There is this battle there but I think the more interesting element of it is Harry's search and discovery that he himself is a Horcrux."
Finally, we asked the director if he has to get author J.K. Rowling's approval when he adds a scene to the film that is not in the original book. "We present something and obviously send her a script. There is a scene in Part I where Hermione wipes her parents memory. Now in the book J.K. alludes to that but she doesn't actually show it. I wanted to show it on film because I thought it would be a very interesting thing," Yates explained. "We've never seen Hermione's home or her parents and to just lift up a wand and do that when her parents are watching television would be weird, odd, interesting and surprising. J.K. loved that notion, but of course she came up with the original idea. The other things that we would put in, she's always been incredibly supportive of. She's always been really helpful, kind and she's not always involved in the inception of them but she's read them in the script and she's generally really sweet."
Last but not least, we spoke to Harry himself ... actor Daniel Radcliffe. We started off by asking the young actor if he could share his memories of reading the final book for the first time. "I obviously loved the seventh book kind of as much as everybody else did. I was reading it actually at a cricket match because it came out two days before my eighteenth birthday and I was going to a match for my birthday. So I was going around for two days without having read it where everybody else was reading it," he explained. "So it was a two-day-long struggle to beg not to be told the ending. I did actually manage to do that and then yeah, I remember finishing it on the plane and just becoming very emotional," admitted Daniel Radcliffe. "I found it to be a very moving book. The epilogue was something that I liked. I know not everybody did, but it was actually something I didn't have a problem with. It's tying together all those loose ends. Because the thing is, what people don't realize about the epilogue is I think that if Jo Rowling hadn't written that epilogue can you imagine being her for the rest of her life and having to cope with questions about what did Harry go on to do? She has to give something to just I think shut people up aside from everything else, you know, to give some conclusion."
"I mean the whole series for me is about loss of innocence and about Harry going from this kind of wide-eyed child and turning into this slightly grizzled young man by the end of it," continued Daniel Radcliffe. "Although as I was saying to people the other day, it is essential that he does not turn into a man necessarily in the film. What makes all that fight stuff at the end so powerful and so kind of horrible to watch is the fact that you're seeing a kid get beaten up by a very strong, very angry man." We followed up by asking Daniel Radcliffe to talk about filming the pivotal scene where Harry walks into the forest with Voldermort, knowing that he will probably die. "See that was interesting because that was like one of my favorite scenes. That and one other scene that is at the King's Cross in the afterlife, which is limbo with Dumbledore. Yeah those were the two things I was most looking forward to filming," he said.
"As with everything that you place great significance on, one tends to put so much pressure on yourself," Daniel Radcliffe continued. "I think pressure is a good thing and it's good to be able to feel it, use it and experience the feeling of it. Especially if you can get past it, but for some reason on that scene, on that day I so wanted it to be good. I was probably trying almost too much, too many different things. It was a really good scene and its lovely having Gary Oldman back because there was some really, really nice moments in it but it was hard. It was really, really hard work but I suppose simply because of the expectations I placed on myself." Finally, we followed up by asking Daniel Radcliffe if preparing for the death scene made him consider his own mortality. "I don't know? I'm possibly a very morbid person but I think about death a lot," he confessed. "I mean I don't know. I don't know if it's maybe from being on these films, often playing Harry, or I just think it's a natural thing that I have, I guess. It's something that I think about just because it's fascinating in a very alien kind of way because I've never...I had one relative who passed away but fortunately none others. So my sort of experience of it is quite limited, thankfully. But yeah, in that scene yes, absolutely because when you're faced with death presumably that's all you can think about I suppose."