There was just one more book to go. But it was a fi­nale so epic, it had to be­come two films. Em­pire vis­ited the set sev­eral times over 16 months to see how it was go­ing


The fi­nal book would be split into two films. This was our set re­port from both (they were filmed to­gether).

BE­ING DANIEL RAD­CLIFFE must be bizarre. On the one hand, he’s a star known the world over. A young man who’s fi­nan­cially set for life even if he chooses never to work again. On the other, he seems ab­so­lutely with­out ego, an ex­u­ber­ant and end­lessly en­thu­si­as­tic fig­ure con­stantly in dan­ger of be­ing out­paced by his own thoughts. Still slight and boy­ish in ap­pear­ance, the now 21-year-old is a world away from the superheroes, space­men and spies we ex­pect to see head­ing up the big­gest movie se­ries of all time. He doesn’t act like a star, ei­ther. His dress­ing room is lit­tered with books but empty of toad­ies.

Rad­cliffe’s en­ergy and buoy­ancy is cer­tainly present when Em­pire joins him dur­ing our third visit to the set of Harry Pot­ter And The Deathly Hal­lows, in March 2010 — al­most a year to the day af­ter our first trip to Watford’s Leaves­den Stu­dios for this two-part movie, and 13 months af­ter the start of shoot­ing. But even Rad­cliffe ad­mits this two-part be­he­moth has been an en­durance test.

“We’re sneak­ing up on Eyes Wide Shut as the record holder for the long­est shoot — al­though I sup­pose this is two films, so how they stretched that into an 18-month shoot I’ll never quite know. It’s great, it’s still good, but it doesn’t seem like it’s ever go­ing to end. There al­ways seems to be so much still left to do. Ev­ery time you fin­ish a big scene, sud­denly some­body says, ‘Oh, we’re in the Great Hall next week,’ and those are al­ways mas­sive scenes...”

As the tit­u­lar boy wiz­ard, Rad­cliffe nat­u­rally worked most days on all six pre­vi­ous films (“about 150 days each”), but on this the first unit clocked up some­thing like 280 by the time the film wrapped, and Rad­cliffe was there for al­most all of them. “The first two or three months was all lo­ca­tion stuff, but then af­ter that, back at the stu­dios, you get into a rhythm very, very quickly. And then you barely no­tice the time pass, to be hon­est.”

But aside from the sheer stamina re­quired, Parts I and II of The Deathly Hal­lows present fresh chal­lenges for the thor­oughly tried-and-tested cast and crew. Part I takes place al­most en­tirely out­side of Hog­warts, with the trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron on the run from Volde­mort and col­lab­o­ra­tors in a Fugi­tive-like thriller; Part II sees the school in rub­ble as the bat­tle with Volde­mort comes to a fi­nal, fa­tal head. With so much to cover, even short scenes can pose huge chal­lenges.

Dur­ing our Au­gust 2009 visit to Leaves­den, Em­pire watched one par­tic­u­larly com­plex scene un­furl, a se­quence from early in the book where Harry’s friends come to take him from his home and six of them take Polyjuice Po­tion to morph them­selves into Harry dop­pel­gängers. The plan is that they’ll all leave Privet Drive head­ing in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, the bet­ter to bam­boo­zle the forces of dark­ness wait­ing out­side. But the im­me­di­ate re­sult is that there should be seven iden­ti­cal Pot­ters stand­ing to­gether in the room, which re­quires mul­ti­ple takes of ex­actly the same ac­tion, with each cast mem­ber in turn be­ing re­placed by Rad­cliffe.

“I am so glad you saw that!” he cries. “Some peo­ple don’t re­alise the tech­ni­cal stuff that goes into it, and that was a per­fect ex­am­ple. We did 95 takes on that one shot; it counts as the same shot be­cause the cam­era is pro­grammed to do ex­actly the same thing each time. We were bet­ting on how many takes we’d end up do­ing. No-one won be­cause no-one had guessed that high. But at the end of the day they showed us a prim­i­tive ver­sion of the scene and it’s bril­liant. “Nor­mally when you see split-screen stuff, you’re very aware that they’re not gonna sud­denly touch each other, whereas in this scene it’s all over­lap­ping and ev­ery­body’s cross­ing over. It’s a re­ally good opener. Al­though here’s my ques­tion: why doesn’t Harry change into some­body else rather than ev­ery­one turn­ing into him? We were all won­der­ing; we couldn’t work it out on set.”

Plot holes aside, this film — Part II in par­tic­u­lar — presents Rad­cliffe with a cou­ple of near-im­pos­si­ble scenes: a walk to­wards cer­tain death, and a strange en­counter in an af­ter­life that looks like King’s Cross. “I had been build­ing my­self up for those two scenes for the whole film. These are the two I have to get right. I don’t think I prob­a­bly did ei­ther of them bril­liantly in the end, be­cause I al­ways do that thing of put­ting loads of pres­sure on my­self, which is very stupid,” he says with char­ac­ter­is­tic self-dep­re­ca­tion. “We filmed it on a white stage, but they’re go­ing to in­sert a ghostly King’s Cross af­ter­wards. Health & Safety were there, telling peo­ple they had to wear sun­glasses be­cause it was so bright white.”

Pot­ter’s fi­nale, in other words, goes to places we haven’t been be­fore. And if Part I is an episodic jour­ney (“Jo Rowl­ing


wrote me a note as she was writ­ing the sev­enth book, and said it’s a bizarre road movie, which is ab­so­lutely ac­cu­rate”), Part II is go­ing to be much big­ger in scale; di­rec­tor David Yates calls it op­er­atic. Rad­cliffe looks be­mused. “Op­er­atic? David said that? He’s not told me about that. I guess it’s op­er­atic in that I take about 20 min­utes to die and then ul­ti­mately refuse to, so I have an opera death. The sec­ond half is just this un­re­lent­ing chase that turns into a bat­tle and doesn’t stop; you barely have a chance to catch your breath. The bat­tle of Hog­warts ba­si­cally is the sec­ond half of the last film, and it’s in­cred­i­ble! In the court­yard there’s this huge pile of rub­ble; you al­most want Panzer tanks coming over it. It looked like the per­fect Sec­ond World War film. What’s good about Pot­ter is that we’ve al­ways man­aged to keep the story and the char­ac­ters as the fo­cus even when the ac­tion is around them, so I’m hop­ing we’ll be able to stay true to that. I’m sure we will.”

So this is Harry all grown up? “Some­one said to me the other day, ‘Is there one point where Harry be­comes a man?’, and the thing is, I don’t think he does in this film, be­cause the point is, he’s still 17. I mean, Volde­mort does ab­so­lutely kick six bells out of me, and that’s what makes it ef­fec­tive, the fact that Harry’s a kid hav­ing the crap beaten out of him. If it’s Volde­mort killing an adult — well, he does that loads in the films. To see him bru­tal­is­ing and des­per­ately try­ing to kill a 17 year-old boy is hope­fully go­ing to shake some peo­ple up.”

RAD­CLIFFE’S NOT THE only one fac­ing high drama. Ru­pert Grint’s Ron Weasley, for six films the comic re­lief of the se­ries, has a very dif­fer­ent role this time around. Di­rec­tor David Yates says, “When you see Part I, it’s re­ally in­trigu­ing be­cause Ru­pert, who al­ways gets the funny stuff, is play­ing a re­ally straight emo­tional line.”

Grint, speak­ing with Em­pire shortly af­ter the end of film­ing, agrees: “It’s hard for Ron, I think, be­cause if he wants to be a loyal friend, that means he has to sac­ri­fice see­ing his fam­ily, and that’s some­thing he’s wor­ried about. You be­gin to see his para­noia as he sees Hermione and Harry get­ting closer and he’s not quite fully trust­ing of Harry’s abil­ity. Things be­gin to get a lit­tle bit heated. But then the fact that they’re ar­gu­ing makes them feel a bit more hu­man.” The steady tri­umvi­rate of six films, in other words, is wob­bling.

Next to his ver­bose co-stars; the more muted Grint can seem tac­i­turn to the point of gruff­ness. But get him go­ing and it’s ob­vi­ous he shares much of Ron’s good na­ture and cares deeply about Pot­ter. So much that he greeted the pub­li­ca­tion of The Deathly Hal­lows with some dread.

“I think I was the last one to read it. I don’t know why I didn’t, be­cause I’m a big fan of the books; I’ve read all of them. But I was ner­vous be­cause I’d been hear­ing so much about char­ac­ters dy­ing and not mak­ing it to the end. And I wanted Ron to sur­vive!”

Given the pre-pub­li­ca­tion spec­u­la­tion about Ron’s fate, Grint’s cau­tion was prob­a­bly war­ranted. Af­ter all, if Rowl­ing were to kill off one of the trio, he al­ways seemed the most vul­ner­a­ble. But he’s not the only char­ac­ter who had cause for alarm as the se­ries ap­proached its bloody cli­max. “It turns into a bit of a war film. The cas­tle is on fire with rub­ble and bod­ies lit­tered ev­ery­where — and they’re all kids as well! It’s quite mov­ing. Re­ally in­tense.”

And with shoot­ing fi­nally over, he is — like all the cast and crew — ex­pe­ri­enc­ing con­flict­ing emo­tions. “Part of me doesn’t re­ally want it to end, be­cause I’ve loved it and it’s been a huge part of my life. But in the same way, it’s been ten years of solid film­mak­ing, so it’s nice to have a bit of free­dom. Yeah, just be free.”

BUT FREE­DOM ISN’T al­ways eas­ily won. Emma Wat­son’s Hermione es­capes the fam­ily wor­ries that plague her friend Ron in the film — but she does so at huge cost. “The film opens with Hermione wip­ing her par­ents’ mem­o­ries [of her] and leav­ing their house. You don’t read that in the book; you just know she does it. That’s a scene that Steve [Kloves] and Dave [Yates] wrote for the film, which I was happy about be­cause you


see the sac­ri­fice that Hermione and Ron make to be Harry’s friend. You see Ron’s home and Harry’s. But you never re­ally get a sense of Hermione’s life out­side Hog­warts, out­side that friend­ship, and it’s im­por­tant. She’s not just go­ing off to school for an­other year. You’re choos­ing be­tween fam­ily and friends; it’s pretty bru­tal. They of­fer her a cup of tea, com­pletely un­aware that any­thing’s about to hap­pen, and then I cast a spell that wipes their mem­ory of me. There are pho­tos all around the room, ac­tual child­hood pic­tures of me, and they just dis­solve. It’s hor­ri­ble. And then I have to shut the door and walk out alone.”

De­spite show­ing no more in­cli­na­tion for the lime­light than her male co-stars, Wat­son is most of­ten hounded by the tabloids. So fa­mous that her hair­cuts are front-page news, she seems al­most re­lieved to be in the odd bub­ble of Leaves­den Stu­dios, and has cho­sen to go to univer­sity in the US, at the rel­a­tively quiet Brown (“Brown is a small cam­pus so ev­ery­one is used to see­ing me around. No-one takes a sec­ond glance any­more, which is won­der­ful”). For Wat­son, it wasn’t the length of the shoot or the prospect of fin­ish­ing that was most drain­ing, but the sheer scale and con­tent of this film.

“The emo­tional stuff is much harder. These last two films have been on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent level in terms of what they’ve de­manded from me phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally. I did a scene where Ron’s had half of his body splinched [the re­sult of an un­suc­cess­ful dis­ap­pa­ra­tion], and he’s drenched in blood and my hands are cov­ered in blood and my friend’s in a huge amount of pain in my arms. I’m try­ing to save him. And then phys­i­cally... There were huge amounts of phys­i­cal ex­er­tion for, like, days on end, you know, work­ing with ex­plo­sives be­cause there are so many fight­ing scenes. When the spells go off, they have tons of py­rotech­nics and it’s scary. No act­ing re­quired; it’s ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fy­ing. So yeah, it was a very, very de­mand­ing shoot.”

Not that any­one wants to ask her about that. Wat­son has found on this film that jour­nal­ists are only in­ter­ested in one thing: what it was like kiss­ing Ron. “I sup­pose I un­der­stand. This kiss be­tween Hermione and Ron is highly an­tic­i­pated, it’s been build­ing up for eight films now. And Harry Pot­ter, it’s not Twi­light, you know; we’re not sell­ing sex. So, when­ever there is any hint of that, ev­ery­body gets ter­ri­bly ex­cited. In fact, it was hor­ri­bly awk­ward; we couldn’t stop laugh­ing. The nicest thing about it was, be­fore we did it, we turned to each other and were like, ‘God, this is go­ing to be aw­ful, isn’t it?’ But hope­fully it will look good.”

De­spite the dashes full-tilt through forests and glens (“It was quite com­pet­i­tive; the cam­era was on a zip wire and we were sort of rac­ing each other”) and the stunt­work (“When they set up these py­rotech­nics there’s a huge pres­sure to get it right”), Wat­son’s big­gest dis­as­ter on set oc­curred when she tried to doc­u­ment this last in­stal­ment of the fran­chise.

“I wan­dered into a sec­ond-hand cam­era shop, and this very nice gen­tle­man per­suaded me I needed an old black-and-white film cam­era. I re­alised I hadn’t taken any pho­tos of the last ten years, so this time I’ve been bug­ging ev­ery­one. Takes me about ten min­utes to take one be­cause I have to work out the aper­ture, the shut­ter speed, the fo­cus and ev­ery­thing. But the girl who was help­ing me de­velop the film ac­ci­den­tally turned on the lights in the dark room and wiped ev­ery­thing. I couldn’t talk for about three days. I was dev­as­tated. Forget the arty cool ef­fect of us­ing old film cam­eras. It’s ab­so­lute bol­locks. Dig­i­tal cam­eras and Pho­to­shop is the way to go.”

AF­TER TEN YEARS and eight films, there are just frag­ments of Pot­ter work left for Rad­cliffe, Grint and Wat­son — some dub­bing, then the whirl­wind world pro­mo­tional tour for the two parts of Deathly Hal­lows. Then they’ll go their sep­a­rate ways: Rad­cliffe to Broad­way for How To Suc­ceed In Busi­ness With­out Re­ally Try­ing, and a star­ring role in Ham­mer’s The Woman In Black; Grint to a biopic of Ed­die ‘The Ea­gle’ Ed­wards; and Wat­son to col­lege. At the mo­ment, though, it’s hard to imag­ine an end to Pot­ter, how­ever welcome the com­ple­tion of the marathon shoot may have been. As Rad­cliffe says, “I will be sad to fin­ish the se­ries, but I will feel a great sense of achieve­ment when I fin­ish this film ’cause it will be the long­est shoot I will prob­a­bly ever do in my ca­reer. And hope­fully we’ll all stay in touch. We’ll prob­a­bly all play teach­ers in the re­makes in 30 years.”


Clock­wise from right: Harry rides shot­gun with Ha­grid; Volde­mort is on the rise; Harry and Hermione grap­ple with Rita Skeeter’s Dum­ble­dore tome.

Clock­wise from left: Mem­bers of the Or­der Of The Phoenix morph into Harry for the Bat­tle Of The Seven Pot­ters; Lu­cius Mal­foy (Ja­son Isaacs), Nar­cissa Mal­foy (He­len Mc­crory) and Bel­la­trix Les­trange (He­lena Bon­ham Carter); Panic on the streets of London.

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