Mark Williams Looks Back on “Harry Potter”: “It Was Good to Be a Part of the Franchise”
On a particularly snowy winter day, Mark Williams and his Harry Potter castmates struggled to get into Leavesden Studios. To their surprise, their second assistant director informed them that director David Yates wasn’t on set that day, so they could all go home. “We thought he was joking!” Williams reminisced, laughing. “No, seriously, David is ill,” he confirmed. The cast was elated, and Dame Julie Walters (Molly Weasley) broke out in dance.
Although the last Harry Potter film was released a decade ago, the memories of portraying the endearing and ever-curious Arthur Weasley haven’t left Mark Williams yet. In a Q&A session hosted by the University of Worcester, Williams fondly recalled his iconic journey in the Wizarding World, starting with the first call from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets director Chris Columbus:
Chris Columbus wanted me because I’m sure he wanted Mr. Weasley to be amusing in the sense that he wanted him to be likable and not to stand on his dignity. It’s slightly different from the character of the book, [who’s] sort of small and bold, […] but I wanted him to be more enthusiastic and more jolly hockey sticks.
Since then, Williams, who described himself as a “loyal servant of the franchise,” has been an integral part of Harry Potter. Since Mr. Weasley wore many hats throughout the second to eighth films – father of the Weasley family, department head at the Ministry of Magic, and active member of the Order of the Phoenix during the Second Wizarding War – Williams saw lots of intense action and emotional scenes. Among them, however, his favorite film to shoot was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
We got to go to the Quidditch World Cup, and there were lots of different sets. When we went through [with] the Portkey, we had a really elaborate sequence to do. Because it was a big film, we were on Kirby wires, which is old technology where you’re suspended. We had great big gangs of stuntmen, [and it looked like something] out of the Napoleonic navy.
When so much of the franchise involves otherworldly elements like magic, flying, and fantastical creatures, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed by all the cinematic technology required to bring them to life. But the acting veteran explained that it wasn’t an issue at all. The only exception was during the filming of Mr. Weasley’s vicious attack by Nagini, which was a cameraman with a moving camera.
I don’t really think about it; it’s not a good idea to put yourself outside of the situation that you’re in. If you have to wear a tutu, then wear a tutu and get on with it. It’s not really your job to self-edit […]. That’s what the director is there for. Flapping around worrying about what the CGI looks like isn’t really the point.
Off-set, Williams and his costars had just as much fun talking to one another. “[Each film] was very, very big logistically, so it was often exhausting where you wait days on set,” Williams said. While he admits that the downtime in between takes could get frustrating at times, he also revealed that all the “hanging around” led to some very special tales.
People coming in were old friends of lots of people, and so [there was] a lot of sitting behind the set telling anecdotes […]. Julie Walters was on ‘Mamma Mia!,’ and she was talking about Meryl Streep learning the piano and Chinese. […] There’s a lot of hanging around. The bigger the film, the more hanging around.
As much as the Potter film years were an exciting time for us fans, so too was it an unforgettable experience for Mark Williams. Looking back on his journey, he admitted that the longevity of the Harry Potter phenomenon was unexpected even for the cast and crew.
We were doing an interview in New York, and I asked David Heyman if he thought he was going to do eight films, and he said no. Even the presiding genius didn’t know.
“It was important to a lot of us,” Williams said to round off his time as a wizard. “Most of us had only known British cinema in decline since the ’50s and early ’60s, so for us, it was joyful to be part of a big thing.”