Norman Stuart Craig OBE was born on April 14, 1942. Little is known about his early years, but he has been designing and creating theater and movie magic for the last 40 years.
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Like many in the Harry Potter series, Stuart has been a part of the conceptualization of J.K. Rowling’s magical world from the start. Actors influence costume makers, directors push actors to new depths for their roles, and all the while, Stuart, with his amazing partner Stephenie McMillan, brought the Potter universe to life for millions of Harry Potter fans around the world. His first meeting with Rowling produced her hand-drawn sketch, mapping out the world she had created in only a few minutes.
Everything grew out of that one sketch, and I’ve kept a copy of it pinned on my office wall throughout the making of the films.
As the Production Designer for the entire series, Stuart’s responsibilities have not been taken lightly. He constantly, with J.K. Rowling’s input, perfected the look of Harry’s world, adding more depth, more character, and more magic to each film.
Harry Potter has been a unique experience because Jo was still writing the books as we were filming much of the series, so there were some things about Hogwarts that we only learned after we’d built our version. Because of this, we’ve had to make a lot of changes over the years, adding things to the castle that were introduced later, such as the Owlery and the Astronomy Tower. As a result, we’ve always been able to give audiences a Hogwarts that is new and surprising as well as old and familiar.
Originally, all artwork for the series was done in pencil sketches. Fast forward ten years, and the artwork becomes digital, with illustrators building digital models of Stuart’s drawings.
Digital technology is seductive. The scope of our dreams, our visions, especially our set design visions, is much wider these days. The capabilities are endless.
While the film series has come to an end, like many cast and crew, Stuart looks back at his time in the wizarding world with amazement and pride.
It just speaks to the great popularity of the books… I am extremely surprised. Really. Eight films, 10 years. The fact that it’s still getting attention, being nominated, is phenomenal, really. It’s very, very extraordinary.
Honors & Awards
Honors & Awards
He has been nominated for an Academy Award eight times and has won three times: in 1983 for Gandhi, in 1989 for Dangerous Liaisons, and in 1996 for The English Patient. He has also designed the sets, together with his frequent collaborator, set decorator Stephanie McMillan, on all of the Harry Potter films. He has been nominated for a BAFTA award fourteen times, including for the first six and last Potter films, and has won twice: in 1980 for The Elephant Man and in 2005 for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 from the Art Directors Guild, and was nominated for an Art Directors Guild award and won for both The English Patient and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.
Did you know…?
- Stuart started as a fine artist and wanted to be a painter.
- Not only did he design the sets for the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling also requested that he design the theme park for Universal Orlando’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
- When designing a set for any production, Stuart starts by thinking of the room or set as a sculpture, which he can then make interesting based on the shape.
- He reveals a lot about how he designed each set for each movie in the book Harry Potter: Film Wizardry, including how he wanted to make an impact on the audience when they see the Grand Staircase in Hogwarts – he took J.K. Rowling’s idea about the magical portraits and ran with it, lining the staircase with the portraits. Stuart personally took on overseeing the creation of each portrait with the help of only six artists!