MuggleNet's Deathly Hallows, Part 1 Set Report
By Andrew Sims
Note: We were on set while the cast and crew were shooting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, so a report detailing what we saw being filmed will come closer to July. This report focuses on the sets, scenes, and interviews related to Part 1.
“You know actually... I think we could make three films,” screenwriter Steve Kloves jokingly said to producer David Barron while adapting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. “Two and a half, really.”
While most fans wouldn’t oppose such an idea, they’re happy with what’s coming: for the first time in the Potter franchise’s history, one book is being turned into two films. And what better book than the last?
The majority of filming for the Harry Potter franchise has taken place at Leavesden Studios, which is located just an hour outside London. A 500,000 square foot complex, from the outside you would never guess it’s a place Harry Potter fans would call heaven if given the opportunity to look inside. Sets, props, scripts, costumes, cast and crew have all lived here for the past ten years. To see all of these things together in person is, yes, magical.
It’s a cool day in March, and walking in to the building gave me a rush of excitement. With each film, the crew puts together a room filled with photos, concept art, props, and plot details. This was the first place we were headed. It’s the first time I was getting a look at this material, as only two official stills had been released to the public at the time. Having a quick look around, one of the first things that strikes me is concept art of Umbridge’s team at the Ministry. Everyone is wearing pink. Her office is pink. Even her windows are tinted pink. It’s so good to see my favorite character return.
We’re here to cover both Parts 1 and 2, so my first question to Dan is about how each film will stand on its own.
“The first part is a very strange sort of road movie,” he tells us. “People will be seeing the kids outside of Hogwarts for the first time, which is a big deal actually because we started filming seven by the time we were doing the premieres for [Half-Blood Prince]. When I was going in to see Half-Blood Prince I was thinking, ‘my God, how very different the seventh film is going to be’. Because to see these characters outside what has become such a familiar environment is hopefully going to make people see them in a very different way. And also, the first film is about the gathering of information and getting all the information in place - all the things we need - to go towards the final battle.”
Director David Yates echos those sentiments: “These kids are on the road. They’re very small in this very big world. They’re away from Hogwarts - this very big, familiar comfort blanket that they’ve grown up with. They feel surprisingly vulnerable and fragile in this big, Muggle world. And I’ve shot it in a way that it’s not very measured. It has more raw-ness to it.”
He continues, “the style of Part 1 suits Part 1 because, you know, we always say these films are slightly about coming of age. But, when you take these iconic characters out of that framework of Hogwarts and you put them in this dangerous world. And they have to bury their first body, for example, or - there’s a moment in the film where Harry and Hermione dance for the first time. It’s full of proper sexual tension because they’re both teenagers and they’re at that stage where Ron’s left and there’s a sort of intimacy between them. So there are all sorts of corners that you turn because they’re young adults. And turning those corners in the real world is actually quite fun and interesting because the verity just seems to suit that.”
Despite Part 2 filming being underway while we were there, evidence of past Part 1 shooting was all over.
For example, there were many stills from the wedding in the press tent. Gorgeous shots of Fleur, Hermione, Bill, Hagrid, Madame Maxine in their finest wizard attire. “The idea was for the wedding to have French tones,” in honor of Fleur’s roots, we’re told by costume designer Jany Temime.
“A Weasley wedding would have been tragically bad. A French wedding allowed us to have style.”
Jany had some interesting things to say about what went in to designing Fleur’s dress.
“Fleur really believes in clothes and being beautiful. I wanted to design for her a real witch-princess dress. But I also wanted to find a very witchy thematic, so I thought of the phoenix. The phoenix being a bird. It represents birth and eternal love. The lace was handmade and cost a fortune. The lace is all broken because the dress has been in the family for generations. “
It took months to design and physically create Fleur’s dress. “It was a nightmare”, Jany tells us, “and then we had to create an exact copy.”
As fans know, shortly before the wedding is when the Seven Potters plan goes into action. Dan had a lot to stay about this scene, which he described as one of the most “daunting” they’ve ever shot.
“It was a highly technical visual effects scene,” he told us. How can he prove it?
“The one shot was 95 takes.” The press gasps.
“Yes, you may well recoil.” The press laughs.
Dan explained for us how the scene technically worked. It was a great description but wouldn’t make sense unless you saw him explaining it with his arm movements. In a nutshell, they used a computer-controlled camera that would film the “exact same shot at the exact same time” over and over again. They used this camera for each of the seven Harry’s in the room so they could make them all appear on screen at once. It took about ten takes for each Harry - hence the 95 takes for the one shot where you see them all standing together.
He enjoyed playing the other characters. “There was no middle ground,” he says while explaining his impersonations, “some are so subtle you’ll have no idea what character it’s supposed to be. Or, so caricatured and exaggerated that you can be in absolutely no doubt which character I’m playing. It’ll be very obvious which one is Mundungus.”
In the Harry Potter books, taking Polyjuice Potion will change the consumer’s voice to the person they are changing into. For the Seven Potters scene in the film, Dan explains, “I think they’re going with my voice [for all the Potters]. I think we established that Polyjuice maybe doesn’t change your voice, although it has in other films, but maybe this batch is weaker.”
He spoke fondly of his work on that scene. “I was delighted by how well I fit into Fleur’s costume.” We laugh and I ask a follow up question. He cuts in, “I’ve GOT to stop saying I look good in girl’s clothes. There are all these rumors already, Jesus.”
Towards the end of Part 1, Bellatrix and Hermione have a moment that was shot differently than most. David Yates revealed this when he was talking about being able to pull an audience into a theatrical experience: “There’s this torturing with Bellatrix. Emma was really keen to do this torturing scene. I said ‘it will be really great, and we have to be really careful of how we do it. And [Emma] completely gave herself to the process. What we did was we set up a couple of cameras and Helena got on top of Emma. Basically she was writing ‘mudblood’ on her arm. She was scoring it into her skin.”
“We just let the whole thing roll for about three or four minutes. In that three or four minutes there were some good bits, and some not so good minutes. And there were one or two really powerful bits where Emma was able to just let go a little bit and forget that she was acting. She’s still acting, but she lost herself in this process for a moment. And the screams were quite horrible to listen to. On the stage, everyone felt uncomfortable. Everyone just sort of stepped back a bit. It was a very odd energy in the room because she was kind of exploring... exercising demons really. And serving the scene in doing that. It was really interesting.”
After some interviews, we stretched our legs by visiting the creatures department. It’s one of my favorite areas. Every creature and fake body you’ve seen lives here. Fawkes, the troll in the dungeon, Aragog, Dobby, dead Dobby, dead Dumbledore, and Hagrid’s head (for stunt doubles) to name a few.
Our guide brings us to Charity Burbage, who you’ll see towards the start of Part 1. They made a mechanical double of the actress so she didn’t have to hang over the table in Malfoy Manor while they were shooting. “She’s quite indelicate,” our creature department guide tells us as the robot experiences movement difficulties. He presses a button to activate her twisting and turning moments. There’s a large “DO NOT TOUCH” sign on her, but the guide wastes no time telling us: “Feel free to come around. She’s quite fun to touch.”
Back in the press tent, set designer Stuart Craig - who can be credited for the finer visual details in the Potter films - had some interesting things to say about how Hogwarts’ look has changed over the years: “The attractive sort of honey color in the earlier movies.. we’ve gone and painted it out. Not completely, but we’ve made it significantly darker in the more recent films. When we started working on the films, there were only two novels so not everything was known. So we’ve had changes. Certain changes had been forced upon us. The Astronomy Tower had to pop up in the middle of the whole complex. The courtyard has had to get bigger and bigger - in particular at the end for the big battle. The viaduct that takes you from the courtyard into the main entrance and the Great Hall. That relationship has shifted around. And then there have been other improvements that we’ve made just because they look better.”
Any concerns I’ve had about the book being split into two have been swept away by the cast and crew’s passion for these final two films. They are working their hardest for this last shot at adapting the greatest book series of all time.
My Part 2 set report - to be released closer to July - will feature more great interviews with the cast and crew. You’ll learn what they were filming the day we visited (it was epic), and I’ll tell you about a major plot change that will upset some fans and please others.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 will be released November 19th, 2010.
Visit our Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows section
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