Harry Potter’s last hurrah
It’s rubble, rubble, toil and trouble as the world’s best-known wizard prepares to face his demons for the final time, writes Neala Johnson
IN its glory days, Hogwarts’ Great Hall was filled with the chatter of 350 students. Today, it lies in ruins.
Rubble is strewn around the entrance. Step inside and higher mounds of rubble fill the hall. Now, rather than a place to feed kids, it has become a triage centre for the casualties of the last great battle between good ( Harry Potter and his fellow students) and evil ( Voldemort and his growing army of baddies).
Someone moviegoers have loved for the past decade will die in this room.
Once the centre of the Potter universe, the Great Hall lay dormant for a year while Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was filming.
When Part 2 began rolling, it was destroyed and filled with fake rubble.
Then, because of actor availability, the crew had to rebuild it. Then they trashed it again.
There are sights like this all over Leavesden – the studio an hour’s drive from London that the franchise has called home for more than 10 years.
Last time eguide was here, we had a sticky-beak inside Harry and Ron’s Gryffindor dorm room. The dorm is no longer, replaced by a dragon arena. Just across the way was Dumbledore’s office, filled with portraits, books and potions. All that remains now is his ‘‘ pensieve’’ – that bird bath-looking keeper of memories.
Turn a corner and step through a magical portrait of Dumbledore’s sister and there is another sign of trauma. The Room of Requirement has become a hideout – this is where the kids of Hogwarts locked themselves away while Harry, Ron and Hermione went road-tripping in The Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
There are swags on the floor, hammocks hung from the ceiling, a blackboard filled with plans and everything from a recorder to hair brushes and shoes littered around the room.
If you didn’t know the tale of Harry Potter was coming to an end before, one look at Leavesden in this state makes it crystal clear.
Following the noise, we trudge through the mud to find the Astronomy Courtyard – burnt out and partly destroyed. This will be a centrepiece of what will be the final Potter film. It is here that the battle begins.
On one side, Maggie Smith ( Professor McGonagall) is backed by a sea of kids; on the other is Voldemort’s motley crew.
The cast – Emma Watson, Bonnie Wright, Matt Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Warwick Davis – file in to join the 35 adult extras, 102 young people and 20 stand-ins already on set.
One of the stand-ins mimes an absent Ralph Fiennes’ lines as Voldemort, goading the side of good. ‘‘ Harry Potter is no hero,’’ he bellows. ‘‘ From this day forth you put your faith in me!’’
Voldemort calls for Draco Malfoy ( played by Tom Felton) to cross over to his side.
Not needed on set, Harry ducks out of the rain and sidles up to eguide. Turning his back on the action, Daniel Radcliffe grins and says: ‘‘ I know all this, I don’t need to see it again.’’
The scene has been stuttering along all day, the crew grabbing shots between bouts of rain. But Radcliffe has been living with it a lot longer.
‘‘ This scene is cursed or something,’’ he says, shaking his head. ‘‘ We’ve been filming this scene now over eight months on and off, coming back and back and back to it in all states of weather – snow, rain, sun.
‘‘ Every time we come to it there’s always a hitch somewhere along the line. But it will be an amazing scene.’’
What is Radcliffe feeling right now, only a few weeks out from leaving Leavesden and Potter behind for good?
‘‘ It’s all a bit of a whirlwind at the moment. A bit hectic and all over the place would be how I would describe my state of mind at the moment. I can’t believe it’s coming to an end, it’s bizarre,’’ he says.
At this point, director David Yates calls cast and crew back into action. Radcliffe lowers his voice and whispers, like David Attenborough spying on a pride of lions: ‘‘ Let’s all watch.’’
When Yates calls cut, Radcliffe, ever considerate, explains what’s going on.
‘‘ This particular bit, Voldemort gives a call to arms and offers a bit of an amnesty. He says ’ Anybody who wants to swap sides, now is your time’. So it’s a call to everybody on that side of the court,’’ he gestures off to the left, ‘‘ who’s fighting for Hogwarts, to join him.’’
It’s good to see Radcliffe up close and, er, breathing – earlier in the day, in another nook of Leavesden, we’d stumbled across him . . . in a body bag. It may have been a Harry dummy made of silicon skin but it was spookily realistic. Radcliffe nods in grave agreement. ‘‘ It’s the fact they keep it in that bag that makes it so much worse. I saw it and I was like, ’ Oh, wow, I look quite good, that’s fine’. It is slightly odd I s’pose, but it’s one of those things you become more and more accustomed to seeing and less surprised by.’’
By this time, Yates has moved along to the second part of the scene – here Matt Lewis, as nerdy Neville Longbottom steps forward and defends Harry’s honour. He sparks a chain of events that lead to what Radcliffe describes as ‘‘ a 20-minute battle . . . well, about that’’.
The students turn and run back into Hogwarts, possibly for the last time. Is this the end of Harry Potter as Radcliffe imagined it?
‘‘ Pretty much as I imagined from the script, certainly,’’ he says, sticking with matter-of-fact over wistfulness.
‘‘ Once the script is out, I don’t go back to the books too much. But, yeah, . . . it’s as epic and as frightening and dark as it needs to be.’’
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 2 Midnight screenings at Village Cinemas statewide on July 13