Harry Potter: The Exhibition – Sydney, Australia

by Jenna Pres

From November 19, 2011, to April 9, 2012: Harry Potter: The Exhibition was hosted at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia. This was its first Oceanian stop and sixth stop overall.

We met Eddie Newquist, Robin Stapley, James Phelps, and Oliver Phelps. Eddie and Robin revealed that the exhibition would be continuing after Sydney but did not reveal where. We also discovered that, with the support of Warner Bros., it took the organizers 40 days to transport 23 shipping containers of original props from Los Angeles down to Australia. They used the Great Hall in Leavesden Studios to go through all the props they chose.

James and Oliver revealed that some of the other Harry Potter cast and crew walked through the exhibition and felt like they were back on the set of the films. We discovered that most of the brooms used for Quidditch were the same, except Harry’s Nimbus 2000 and Firebolt. Three different types of brooms were made: a hard one, a soft one, and a foam one depending on their use.

Did you know that, when you see the students doing Hogwarts work in the Great Hall, the actors were doing their schoolwork? We also found out that some of the sweets and food we see on set were originally real food for the actors to eat, but the food started to smell, or the hungry teenagers ate all of it! James broke three of the wands he used and was not even given a wand until Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. He did a perfect reenactment of sitting on his wand the first time.

James and Oliver had six weeks of auditioning, and at the first read-through, they still had no idea who was who! So they politely asked the casting director, “Who are we?” After the initial shock of two actors unaware of who they played, she went to executive producer David Heyman, director Chris Columbus, and J.K. Rowling. She came back after a chat and said, “Right, Oliver, you’re George; James, you’re Fred.” We also found out that James got so into his character during the rehearsal for Fred that he fell asleep. He thought he was having an out-of-body experience when he woke up to find everyone gone to lunch.

How has the exhibition changed since it first started in Chicago, Illinois, two years ago? All the Horcruxes have now been collected in one place, as well as the Deathly Hallows. However, the exhibition’s overall layout and content have not changed. Eddie and Robin escorted us into the exhibition following the interview, photographs, and a few autographs with the twins. But not before being Sorted into our Hogwarts Houses!

We saw posters and short video clips from all eight films and were greeted at the entrance by a woman with a lamp, a glimpse of the Hogwarts Express hidden behind a wall, and various moving portraits as soon as we stepped through. We saw the door to Gryffindor Tower and the original mold of the doorframe at the entrance to the Great Hall. On display are also a few schoolbooks, the four-poster beds, Ron’s and Harry’s trunks, Dolores Umbridge’s decrees, and an animatronic Buckbeak. The hippogriff has many wires and pipes within its body, ready to move as it did on set for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The phoenix in the exhibition is also the original animatronic Fawkes used on set.

There are costumes and props from the subjects offered at Hogwarts, such as Potions, Herbology, and Defense Against the Dark Arts. We saw the many portraits of Gilderoy Lockhart, including a massive one of Gilderoy drawing a painting of himself.

There is a fair share of interactive props: We could pull out a mandrake as the students did in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and attempt to throw a Quaffle through one of the three hoops before us. We could sit in Hagrid’s chair while admiring the inside of his hut. We saw some giant chess pieces, the statue to which Harry was bound in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and an Acromantula from Chamber of Secrets.

There are new costumes from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Parts 1 and 2, including that lovely red dress Hermione wore to Bill and Fleur’s wedding, as well as Ron’s, Harry’s, Luna’s, and Xenophilius’s outfits. The creators put Godric Gryffindor’s sword right next to the sweater Neville Longbottom wore when he killed Nagini since they “felt it was appropriate.” We took photographs of various Death Eater costumes and their wands. Another fascinating find was a Quidditch board game on display, made in incredible detail but eventually not used in the films.

Harry Potter gave us some incredible magic within our lives, uniting us in our love for the series at events like this one.



Full Transcript with Eddie Newquist, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps, and Robin Stapley, Thursday, November 17, 2011

Transcribed by Katie Hynes

Eddie Newquist: For each movie [Quidditch] got progressively cooler and the effects became a little bit better. Did you have specific Quidditch brooms that you utilized that were customized to each character? Or was it, “Here's the Gryffindor broom?” How did that work?

James Phelps: The brooms were pretty much the same for everyone. Harry's broom is different. I think they are maybe two or three different brooms that they put on, but they're coming from the same model. Oliver and I had the Bludger bats. There were three variations of that. There's a hard one, a soft one, and a form one just for the [different ways] they can shoot with it. It's quite cool. The one that's here, I actually dropped it. You can see the mark where I dropped it.

[Everyone laughs]

Eddie: Was there anything on set that you can remember that you had to be so overly cautious with because they could only make one, or you had to be so careful with it? Is there anything you were nervous about touching or handling or holding? For instance, I noticed all of the candy boxes and everything. There's so much detail in them. I wonder if they make enough boxes to get through a variety of scenes.

Oliver Phelps: Yeah, they made a lot of those. I think that’s the cool thing with the props; you were never too cautious about holding them because they'd always make a backup. I think if you were cautious, it would come over quite a lot on set. Even to the point where, say, the exercise books on the Great Hall set. We’d actually do our own schoolwork on set. That’s why it looks so authentic. They just put a cover over your exercise book.

Robin Stapley: Even the Great Hall table. There are people who’ve carved into the table. It’s incredible.

Eddie: Are your initials on the table in the Great Hall anywhere?

James: I think somewhere, yeah.

[Everyone laughs]

James: Through the sake of boredom and sitting in the same place, we learned early on... You’ll see it on the videos, in the Halloween scene, for example. All the ADs told us before we went on, “Just remember: Have a little bite and then go from there.” But of course, we’re 15, 16-year-old kids and they had loads of sweets in front of us. So they went straight down.

[Everyone laughs]

James: On take 30, it was [mimes eating very slowly and reluctantly]. I went a good year without having a [unintelligible]. It was a lot of chocolate to have in one go.

Eddie: Robin was the one who is really handling all the different specific artifacts and categorizing them with Warner Bros. archives and Warner Bros. consumer products, and we got a great helping of the Great Hall feast, and the different chocolate bunnies, and the ice creams. We noticed how real it looked, and then we heard this story that on the first film they were trying to actually cater the food for some of the sequences. [But] because you're shooting with kids and kids can be a little tough to the film, especially first-timers, it kept shooting longer and longer, and the food started smelling worse and worse.

Oliver: You could smell the Brussels sprouts.

Eddie: Is it true that after the first film you guys just switched to some of the plastic foods just so you didn't have to deal with the smell?

Oliver: Yeah, pretty much. A lot of the big turkeys and chickens were on the Great Hall table [recording cuts briefly] so it definitely saved the nostrils.

Eddie: Is it all right, Jesse, if we open it up for some questions?

Jesse: That’s what I was going to say. Are you going to talk all day or what?

[Everyone laughs]

Jesse: Just feel free to throw out some questions here if you have anything for anyone.

[Brief silence]

Eddie: Wow, come on, I can’t believe it. You guys were firing off all sorts of smart comments earlier.

Audience Member: How many wands have you broken between the both of you?

James: I've done three.

James: Yeah, the first one I learned my lesson very early on. I hadn’t had a wand until the fifth movie. So I got this thing and the handle was like a pine cone. I had it for about a month, and they would only give them to us when we were going on and coming off set. This is a good recreation: [mimes standing, putting the wand in his back pocket, and makes a cracking noise with his mouth when sitting]. Never put your wand in your back pocket. Another one was [when] we were doing a dueling scene and I was going for it [makes wand-swishing gesture] and it flew out and cracked. The third and final time I was actually doing a press shoot and I was trying to be a cool kid [using it] like a drum stick, and it just went and cracked.

Oliver: My wand was a lot thinner in the middle part; it was almost shaped like a broomstick. It would always be if I dropped it. Any impact [and it would snap]. When we were filming in the Room of Requirement there were squares with light underneath. I dropped it on that and the thing just went “snap.” I didn’t want to tell anyone, so I was trying to do the film that whole day with just the end bit.

Eddie: A very small wand.

Oliver: Yeah, exactly. There were other times I would drop it and it would do the same thing. To the point where there’s a part in part 2 of Deathly Hallows where George gets disarmed and his wand goes flying. Before we actually did that I said, “Can I have the little one? Because it’s going to break." So you learn your lesson.

Eddie: And Robin, [when you were] handling the artifacts did you break any wands?

Robin: No.

[Everyone laughs]

Audience Member: During casting, did you get to decide who was Fred and who was George? Or did they go, “No, he’s Fred and he’s George”?

James: Yeah, they told us. We had six weeks of auditioning, we got cast, had our hair dyed, [and everything was] all good. And before you shoot you do something called a readthrough. You sit in a huge room with a huge table, and the whole cast is there, and they read the script through. We got there and we still didn’t know who was Fred and who was George, we just knew that we were Fred and George. So Janet Hirshenson - she was the casting director - came over, and she said, “Are you looking forward to today?” “Yeah, quick question Janet. Who am I?”

[Everyone laughs]

James: She was like, “You’re joking right," thinking that we were cracking around. We were like, “No, really. Who’s Fred and who’s George?” She was like, “Ah.” So she went over and spoke to Chris Columbus, Dave Heyman, and J.K. Rowling. She came back about five minutes later and said, “Oliver, you’re George. James, you’re Fred.” I’d like to think that they said, "What, you did get the memo about the big board meeting that we had?" That’s how we found out.

Audience Member: So you didn’t have a, “He’s not Fred, I am” moment?

[Everyone laughs]

James: Not at that moment, no.

Audience Member: Following on from that question, were you ever tempted to switch on set?

Oliver: We attempted a few times. But it was one of those things where, at the end of the film, you see how long the credits are, [and] I really didn't want to be [the reason why they] had to come back at the end of the day when they didn't need to or work late. We did swap once on the first movie in between massive wide shots of the Great Hall where you’ve got 400 people in the same shot with the hats on and everything. So we didn't look that dissimilar to each other. But apart from that it [unintelligable].

Audience Member: Were there any crazy o- set stories in Deathly Hallows? I know in Goblet of Fire you cracked one of Mike Newell's ribs or something like that.

Oliver: Yeah. Yeah, that was a fun day.

[Everyone laughs]

Oliver: I didn’t even realize I’d done it until many months later. He was good though, Mike, he never let on. There is actually a still someone sent me of the moment I broke his ribs. I’ve got this big beard on at the time so it looks a bit silly. But as for Deathly Hallows, I can’t, really. I don’t think so.

James: Actually, during the rehearsals for Fred’s... When you see Fred as he ends up... Everyone’s seen it, right?

Audience: Yeah.

James: So he’s dead. I was so in my character that I was dead to the world. I fell asleep.

[Everyone laughs]

James: Everyone went to lunch and I woke up in the middle of the Great Hall all on my own. I was like, "Am I having an out-of-body experience?"

[Everyone laughs]

Audience Member: Some of the nastier Weasley twins' pranks were kept out of the film, like Dudley and the Ton-Tongue Toffee and Montague and the Vanishing Cabinet, and things like that. Are you happy that those are out and that they're nicer characters or would you have liked for them to have been a bit nastier?

Oliver: I would have liked it because you see that they are. They're selling Skiving Snackboxes with Puking Pastilles and selling [unintelligable]. They can cross the line a little bit. In the same sense, you probably wouldn't have made the characters as lovable as people see when they've read the books or seen the films. We'll never know what it would have been like if they had done.

James: When we were still filming, we still knew that that's what the characters were up to. So we still had that in the back of our mind almost like a little twinkle of the eye thing to get that characteristic out without blowing up a toilet seat.

Video Recorder: Question for Eddie and Robin. This started two years ago, this whole exhibit. How is it changed over the two years? Have you gotten feedback from fans and the general public? Has it changed since it first began?

Eddie: I’ll answer the first part, and Robin, you can answer the second part. The first part is, we really haven’t changed it dramatically. The sequence that you follow when you go through the exhibition is really quite similar. What we have done with all the exchanges we’ve made with all the prop masters and all the folks at Leavesden [is] we've been able to add things. Some things went away but they came back. So we've been able to add things. Robin, you can talk about some of the additions.

Robin: As films were being wrapped, we’ve been able to get some new props and costumes. For Sydney, we actually have some really neat stuff. We’ve collected all the Horcruxes.

Eddie: One to go.

[Voices overlapping]

[Everyone laughs]

Robin: And we have Ravenclaw’s diadem. We have some really nice stuff and we're really excited about that. We’ve had some of these, but this is the first time we’ve had them all together.

Eddie: Yeah, the Deathly Hallows are all together in a case, which we’ve never been able to before. It’s really hard to see the invisibility cloak for obvious reasons. No, it’s there. You’ll see it.

James: We never actually saw all those together even when we were filming, so that’s quite a first for us.

Oliver: I feel like the good thing about how it’s all set out is that no prop is made to look more important than another. So even though it is the main set [of props], there's no difference [between] the rest, or the Quidditch World Cup.

[Recording cuts]

Eddie: Did you guys have so much fun? All the packaging, everything was basically real. That was so much fun to see. And it looked like a really fun scene to shoot as well. What was that like

James: Yeah, it was. We had a good chat with the art department guys beforehand, going through concepts and, like, “How would you like a 15-foot version of you there outside, doing that? [mimes lifting hat]" I was like, "That'd be cool."

[Everyone laughs]

James: I think that's what you notice when you're there. The attention to detail on the props is out of this world. As you said, it all looked real. And I just want to say for the snack boxes and everything, they were 20 high and deep in the store, but you could literally pick them up and walk out with them. Not that I did. But you could easily imagine that it was a shop in real life. Even in the one scene, they have a kid walking up the walls with these boots on, and he was actually there walking up the wall.

Oliver: And also, there’s a Dolores Umbridge statue on a tricycle thing going across the middle. That was actually there. The guys had worked out a perfectly weighted thing that’s on this small trip-wire. Just little details like that you wouldn’t necessarily think of.

Robin: I think that’s what amazed us as well. You think a lot of it is CGI, especially [with] how a lot of those big set pieces are made. The Chamber of Secrets door, all the snakes and locks, those were all mechanical. That was incredible to see.

[Recording cuts]

Oliver: You see quite a lot of the cast members there. And the response is just insane. It's always busy. We walked around and it was just incredible. It was nice to see everyone again for the release of the Blu-ray. It was good fun

Audience Member: Oh, I have to ask: is the toothbrush here? And what was with that? The toothbrush in the ear, who came up with that?

Oliver: I don’t know really. It was just an idea. It wasn't my idea, necessarily. It was an odd concept.

Eddie: We don’t have it, so is it still somewhere? [looks in Oliver's ear]

Oliver: It might be lodged. I haven't got much between the two, so.

[Everyone laughs]

Oliver: I think the main point of that was just to totally interrupt his sister and Harry when they were about to have a huge moment. It was like, "Oh, what to do now? Well, stick it in the hole."

Eddie: Any other questions? Alright, I think we’ll wrap up and give you an opportunity…

Audience Member: Sorry. So what’s the next project now that Harry Potter is done? Are you going to continue pursuing music? Football?

Oliver: I wish.

[Everyone laughs]

Oliver: I’d love to be a football commentator, that’d be a good laugh. But no, we're definitely going to keep up with the acting. I’ve got some stuff coming up in the new year which is quite exciting. Some stuff together and two projects which are separate from each other, which will be quite good. It’s just one of those things where we’re going to keep ourselves busy, that sort of thing. Vacation.

James: This is a vacation since it’s on the company’s credit card.

[Everyone laughs]

James: But I’d actually just like to say the thing I’m really looking forward to seeing, and that I'm looking forward to the fans to see when they come here, is the dragon from Goblet of Fire. You [can] actually see the detail. It’s not chained up, it’s just the head. But you see the detail that goes into creating one. I want to say it took like six months or something? Some insane long time to put this thing together. And it’s put on really well in there. I got such a kick when I saw it, I think I saw it when we were in Toronto. So I’m really glad that still made the trip.

Oliver: And it’s cool, as well, when you hear Voldemort speaking. But you don’t hear it, [it's] all around that room.

Eddie: It’s a special effect where he’s literally whispering in your ears. So don't freak out.

[Everyone laughs]


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