THE FINAL BATTLE
For the final entry in the eight-film saga, all eyes were on the climactic battle. As the film was about to hit cinemas, Empire gathered the cast and crew together to ask: “How on earth did you pull it off?”
With the last film just weeks away, we gathered together the cast and crew to tell the story of how they filmed the climactic Battle Of Hogwarts.
AFTER SEVEN FILMS building up to it, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows — Part 2 finally shows us the ultimate showdown between the forces of good and those of evil in The Battle Of Hogwarts, an hour-long action set-piece. It was something of a major undertaking. Here, all the main players reveal how they did it.
THE CHALLENGE Steve Kloves, screenwriter:
The hard thing for me initially was that I went from having two-and-a-half hours [for the adaptation of the final book] to five hours. I initially thought, “This is going to be great,” but be careful what you wish for because what you find is that the easy cuts are no longer there. When you had a two-and-a-half-hour canvas you knew that things would drop out immediately, but it didn’t happen on this. So it took me a little while to get going.
Stuart Craig, production designer:
Every film in the series has its own story demands and therefore set and location demands. So you do whatever’s expedient to get that film made. That meant that when we got to Part 2, things weren’t exactly as required. There wasn’t really an arena, a battlefield. The courtyard that encloses the main entrance wasn’t there at all until the fourth
film. But it was hopelessly inadequate for the battle, so the challenge was to reinvent the landscape around the Death Eaters’ principal point of attack. John Richardson, special effects
supervisor: It was a long process getting the information about exactly what was wanted because some things were in, some things were out, then they were back in. That side of it took longer than normal, which ultimately made our job a little bit more difficult because it cut down the time that we had to prepare. But as always with movies, you get there somehow.
Kloves: The battle, as a battle, didn’t particularly interest me. I knew [director] David Yates and his team would come up with the scale and the spectacle, but David and I talked, and agreed we wanted to tie character and emotion to everything that happened. So it wasn’t just, “Look at that blow up!” We wanted Neville involved, or Seamus. That was the hardest thing. I literally spent about three months working on the battle sequence, going back and forth with David Yates, putting dialogue in and giving the battle a rhythm.
Craig: We’ve all seen battle scenes where you don’t understand who you’re with, where they are, and it becomes a mêlée. We were determined that you’d be clear where everyone was, so we established a rocky hillside opposite the entrance to the school where Voldemort was, with the focus of his attack on the main entrance into the Great Hall. Also the courtyard where the defenders would assemble wasn’t big enough, so at David Yates’ request I made that much, much bigger.
Greg Powell, stunt coodinator: David Yates had his vision of what the battle was and spoke to us quite a lot about our feelings on it. We had dozens of meetings over time. We’d go off and rehearse something and show it to him and he’d feed back, “Oh I like this,’’ or, “Change this.” We were doing that over months, so whilst they were shooting something else, we’d be preparing another thing.
Craig: We did have to create some sets from scratch. The novel and Steve Kloves’ script talked about the battlements, so we had to decide what those were, where they were, and what they looked down on. We found a place within the existing geography which overlooked the courtyard, and you could see Dumbledore’s tower. Then we invented a huge interior and exterior space, an attic with the battlements alongside. It served the narrative; it was a place for one of the confrontations between Voldemort and Harry. They’re locked in this life and death struggle and apparate together into the courtyard, and their personal battle continues there. Being interior and exterior made it more interesting and was more fun — which was often our reason for doing things.
Richardson: Nick Dudman does the creature stuff. I do everything physical and Tim [Burke] does all the visual stuff, and then at the end the CGI guys come up with a list of all the elements they need. For instance, for one scene in the Room Of Requirement in Part 2 I spent two weeks out on the backlot making piles of burning furniture collapse, playing with flamethrowers and explosions. So we shot all of that and then turned it over to the CGI guys to add into the scene. Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter: The Battle Of Hogwarts is basically the second half of the film. The collective cavalry of seven films’ worth of characters comes back. You see everybody you know: Jim Broadbent’s [Horace Slughorn] there nursing David Bradley [Argus Filch]. It’s great, but it’s moving because the whole of the world you’ve grown to know is in one place. Matthew Lewis, Neville Longbottom: The book’s focused very heavily on Harry Potter, but the film keeps coming back to the students and the teachers. David refused to shy away from it and it
shows people are dying out there. Neville’s this leader amongst it all. He didn’t want to be, quite frankly, but Harry was absent and somebody had to take over. There was a bit of light humour at the beginning, a French Resistance bit. But then the war kicks off and there’s people dying around us.
Powell: Well, it was huge. We had hundreds of people and loads of stunt guys fighting each other, and we were doing sword routines 20, 30 feet apart. You pair people off in the battles. They’d start close together doing a sword fight, take five steps back and do the same fight — but the moves became bigger the further you went back. There were hundreds there doing that. We had to train up the actors: Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, the whole lot. They all had routines. Everyone played a part at that last epic battle, it was huge. It was all over Hogwarts.
Robbie Coltrane, Hagrid: I remember we had 238 extras and 45 make-up people. They had a greenscreen about half-a-mile long and they brought a train down to the set. That’s like MGM in the ’40s! A rea1 85ton, 1930s steam locomotive. They laid track! It was steamed up. Happy days.
Powell: Shooting the battle went on for probably months. We were rehearsing it for ages, and talking about it for a year. We did a couple of fire jobs, set a couple of Death Eaters alight, but I don’t know whether they’ll keep those ones in because of the rating. David Heyman, producer: We’re not going to push the rating. It’s not graphic. It’s not Reservoir Dogs. David Barron, producer: We like to push the envelope, but not that much. Clémence Poésy, Fleur Delacour: I don’t really know how long we were there for because there was a problem with the sets and then snow, and then it would start pouring for days. We were there forever.
Heyman: Because of the nature of shooting, sometimes Emma [Watson], for example, was at uni so we shot part of it before she went away and we had to shoot another part later. We built it, destroyed it, then had to build and destroy it again.
Barron: We were going backwards and forwards quicker than you could keep up with sometimes.
Lewis: We don’t rehearse that often. You know, we do blocking, but David [Yates] likes to just go for it and get it as fresh as possible. Invariably, the first couple of takes are the ones he uses.
Bonnie Wright, Ginny Weasley:
I remember spending many a frosty morning on that battle. And the tension, with Ralph Fiennes doing his massive speech when he thinks he’s conquered everything, is chilling.
Kloves: I played with Voldemort’s speech but the essence is Jo’s. I also tailored it to Ralph, in a sense. The way that Ralph plays Voldemort is so brave because there’s a slightly preening quality to him and Ralph just knows how to strike those notes. There’s a self-indulgence which is his downfall in a lot of ways. So I played it out that he luxuriates in the moment a tad too much. But Ralph is unnerving because he strikes notes that are unexpected.
Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Weasley:
There were all these kids on set and he was scaring the living daylights out of them. It was brilliant.
Oliver Phelps, George Weasley: I was there myself, but luckily I had Rupert in front of me so I was pushing him further forward.
Richardson: We were jumping from explosions in a corridor to explosions in a courtyard, to fire scenes in the Room Of Requirement, to the treasure multiplying in Gringott’s Bank. There was a whole mixture of everything going on at the same time. Bearing in mind that there are two units shooting, it was a constant to-and-fro to manage it.
Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy: A big part of my battle takes place in the Room Of Requirement, where it’s all ablaze, and it all goes a bit tits up. Crabbe comes to his demise, which is very unemotional for
“IT TURNS INTO A BIT OF A WAR FILM. THE CASTLE IS ON FIRE WITH RUBBLE AND BONES LITTERED EVERYWHERE, IT’S SHOCKING. AND THEY’RE ALL KIDS!” RUPERT GRINT
Draco, to be honest. We climbed up mountains of chairs and old tables in there, trying to shelter from the inferno. It was pretty warm up there, to say the least! We had an under-suit, then a harness, then Draco’s full black suit. I don’t quite know why he would wear all that to battle. It seems like an odd thing to be wearing into war, but he looks sharp, I guess.
Lewis: Because Neville is the leader he’s always on the front lines. There’s this one scene, and I really hope it stays in, where a boy’s been killed and Neville’s carrying him back into the Great Hall. It’s this tiny little kid; a lad came in to play the body. I’ve no idea what that’s like, I’ve never seen a dead body in my life, you know, let alone carried one in a battle situation. But I really hope they keep it in ’cause it really shows Neville at his best. There is the flipside of the coin, as well, some fun stuff — I get to wield the Sword Of Gryffindor!
Rupert Grint, Ron Weasley: It turned into a bit of a war film. We all formed this army; the castle is on fire with rubble and bodies littered everywhere. It’s shocking, really, and they’re all kids as well! Evanna Lynch, Luna Lovegood: There was a set of extras walking around called the Dead Children. Just people made up to look dead. It was really strange.
Coltrane: When you’re as young and fit as I am, battle scenes are all in a day’s work, of course. Let’s just say I had a lot of very busy stuntmen.
Richardson: My single favourite day was blowing up the courtyard. I took David Yates out there and said, “Where do you want the cameras? What do you want to happen? And I’ll tell you what I can do in and around it.” That involved me doing lots of tests to show David what I was planning. For us it was probably three or four weeks’ work, at least, in preparing it, wiring it, and getting it all set for the big fight.
Richardson: It was just one take. We’re blowing huge holes in the wall, we’re blowing the roofs off the cloisters, and we’ve got fireballs. We had probably half a ton of balsa wood going up in the air. It’s one take, but it’s not the pressure that gets me. You’ve got kids and people all around — you’ve got to make sure they’re safe. If you sit back and relax, that’s when it all goes pear-shaped.
Emma Watson, Hermione Granger: They put plugs in our ears to protect our eardrums, but you can still hear because you’re so close to the bangs. There’s this one scene where they detonated all of these bombs, like, right next to us. I was absolutely, genuinely terrified.
Mark Williams, Arthur Weasley: When the courtyard gets destroyed, it’s an actual-size set. You’re looking at people way in the distance, surrounded by masses of rubble, in which are things like giants’ feet, the odd enormous spider, and it’s monumental.
Julie Walters, Molly Weasley: Deathly Hallows — Part 2 is Mrs Weasley’s big moment. She’s right in the middle of the Battle Of Hogwarts. The battle is huge, painful and heroic for her. Before we’ve seen her as a very sweet mum, and this earthy sort of presence even though she’s a wizard. But you see another side to her. It’s a very physical role this time out. And she has one of the most famous lines in the books. Everyone wrote to me and said, “I hope they’re not going to take that out, are they?!”
Radcliffe: I’ve always been very against any swearing in these films and I don’t know why because I swear much more than I should in real life. But if the, “Not my daughter, you bitch!” line is in the book, then that’s fine. I mean, Bellatrix is about to kill her daughter, absolutely. Helena Bonham Carter, Bellatrix Lestrange: You should warm up before wand-fighting; that’s what Julie Walters and I discovered when we were duelling each other. We were crippled after that scene. Duelling going backwards on a table is tricky, without falling off. Which, of course, I did! I did say, “Can someone stand there and keep an eye out?” But there were people standing all around and not one of them warned me.
Williams: They could’ve sold tickets for filming that scene. And of course [Julie and Helena] get on really well so it was really funny. They were chatting one minute and cutting each other to bits the next. It was brilliant! I think it’s a tribute to Helena, really, for her lack of restraint. By the time she gets it you really have had enough of her.
Radcliffe: There’s something about the courtyard, ’cause there is this huge pile of rubble and it’s all grey and Gothic. We all just wanted Panzer tanks to be coming over the piles of rubble. It looked like the perfect Second World War film, a bit Saving Private Ryan.
Williams: I’ve got a lot of respect for the Weasleys. I mean, it’s never discussed that they’re going to throw their entire brood into a battle to the death. And they make the ultimate sacrifice of losing one of their children which, as a parent, just doesn’t bear thinking about. That was a bit tricky for me and Julie. We had a couple of days of weeping over a loved one’s body, and it wasn’t the nicest of things to have to reproduce.
David Yates, director: I’m really happy that we get to kind of see what happens to Voldemort and we get to see what happens to Harry and his friends. It feels very rounded and conclusive. And we’ve got a coda at the end, which I really enjoy. There’s something really moving about it. So it feels, it feels to me like, you know, it’s got everything... It’s got action and spectacle, but it’s quite moving and it finishes! And there’s something profoundly satisfying about that.
Heyman: It’s slightly operatic, really, the way David Yates described it and the feel he was trying to achieve. It’s funny seeing it in ruins. Parts of the school which we’ve grown to know and love get treated quite brutally. It’s cathartic and traumatic. Though I’ve never really wanted to destroy Hogwarts. I feel nothing but affection for those buildings and those sets.
Barron: It’s a combination of very magical action but really grounded and classic storytelling. When we were destroying the world of Hogwarts there were parts of me that were very, very sad, but I was excited, just because it was the end.
THE HARRY POTTER 8-FILM COLLECTION IS AVAILABLE NOW ON 4K, BLU-RAY AND DVD
Clockwise from main: As the series reaches its climax, Harry faces a potentially fatal threat; Voldemort will stop at nothing in his deadly quest; Harry needs his powers to be on full beam.
Left, top to bottom: The three friends, united in battle; Post Piertotem Locomotor, a Hogwarts suit of armour comes to life; All hands and wands on deck as the Battle Of Hogwarts looms. Facing page: The former glorious Hogwarts, decimated.