Fiona Shaw Talks About Filming “Harry Potter”

In a recent interview with the A.V. Club, Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley) shared stories from her time filming the Harry Potter series.

Shaw spoke about the way the scenes with the Dursleys were quite separate from all the Hogwarts scenes.

Sometimes we would do a scene in the morning, and there would be a big scene in the school in the afternoon and you’d see a thousand children arriving and a thousand parents and a thousand minders—that’s 3,000 people for lunch. And we the Dursleys would have had a little lunch, over ourselves in a tiny corner. We tended to be filmed at the beginning of the shoot, and we tended to be absolutely isolated. It was a great privilege to shoot with Richard Griffiths, who was always so witty and funny and delightful to be around—and obviously Daniel [Radcliffe] and Harry Melling, who played my son Dudley Dursley. So we were quite a team. We were our own group.

Shaw also discussed being recognized as Petunia.

People don’t exactly recoil when they see me, if that’s what you’re hoping! I think what’s astonishing about that phenomenon [for readers] is that people that they met in books suddenly became made flesh by having a screen life. I don’t know whether we corresponded to the books enough or whether people began to read the books with the people who play the parts in the films as the prototype. We became synonymous with the roles, and what you’re doing is you’re walking into people’s imaginations.

She also shared that her father got in on the Harry Potter excitement.

I remember an astonishing, lateral fact: [After the films were released] my father would notice sometimes that cars were going slowly past his gate, and children would be stopping their parents saying “Harry Potter’s grandfather lives in there.” That is amazing. I didn’t work that out. If I’m Harry Potter’s aunt, his mother and my mother shared parents, who by then the audience decided lived in Ireland where my dad lived.

Despite the fact that Harry Potter was a global phenomenon, it didn’t necessarily feel that way on set.

But when you’re filming, filming is filming. You have no idea of the consequences of the public success of those things when you’re doing them. You know they’re going to be successful, but you don’t have that global feeling when you’re filming.

Read the rest of the interview here, in which Shaw talks about Harry Potter as well as select roles from some of her other projects.