Filming Harry Potter
By Alfonso Daniels for Wikén, 23rd March 2008
Translated by Daniela for DR.com
HARRY DOES EXIST
He is not just a literary character or a booming fashion. Wikén can exclusively attest that he exists here and now, in the Leavesden studios where “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” is being filmed. We embarked in this adventure as we entered the sets and then, suddenly, caught a glimpse of the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Severus Snape (Alan Rickman), in a car’s back seat. Over there, the cafeteria is crowded by extras, children and adults alike, who impersonate wizards and teachers, queuing with their trays during lunch time. So far, filming has taken three months with three more to go, but everything seems to be going smoothly. This new installment is slated for premiering in Chile on November 21st. “I’ll be so sad when this is over,” says Harry Potter through the actor who plays him, Daniel Radcliffe, commenting on the moment when they will have to film the seventh and final installment of this saga, slated for next year. “I’ll miss playing Harry, but especially the people who work here”, he adds.
Against all expectations, the sixth installment of the saga will not be as dark as the previous one. In spite of the tragic end of Harry’s mentor, Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), the movie actually revolves around the awkward and comical romance between Harry and Ginny Weasley, sister of Harry’s best friend Ron (played by Bonnie Wright, who made her debut in the second installment).
Here is what Radcliffe had to say on this topic: “It’s a complex story, it isn’t a simple romance because Harry is such a close friend of Ron’s, and Ginny is his sister, and Harry feels as if he’s walking on eggshells”. According to director David Yates, “the fifth [film] was pretty intense, but this one has more comedy in it (…) There are many subtleties in the relationship, and a lot of sexual and emotional tension.” The movie also promises a lot of action and magic galore, and it will count with at least one scene that is not in the book.
Entering Leavesden studios, located 40 km north from London and where more than 1,500 people work every day, is stepping into a new world, where optimism is king. Nothing seems impossible here. In this place, almost everything is created, from animals and monsters that participate in the movie ―while we were there, they were creating a cat, literally, hair by hair― to actors’ costumes and sophisticated scenarios. “Wow!” is the only expression that one can possibly utter when the Great Hall comes into view. Going upstairs, visitors can see the beds where Hogwarts students sleep, with small posters and books beside night tables, although all these exquisite details will never be seen in the movie. Filming takes place in a hangar where Roll Royce motors for war aircraft were manufactured during World War II. Close to a main road, green fields surround the hangar and on one side – Oh, surprise! – a row of fake facades stands out, among which Sirius Black’s house can be seen. Unlike other studios, here just one movie is filmed: Harry Potter. Therefore, its days are likely numbered. All this coming and going of people stops when a bell is rung. “There we go! Camera, action!” says the director and filming begins.
AN EXTENDED ENDING
Wikén witnessed a scene during a filming day. In it, the new Potions Master of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Horace Slughorn (played by the British actor Jim Broadbent, known by supporting roles in classic movies such as “Brazil and “Richard the Third”), celebrates a Christmas party in his room for a selected group of students. Slughorn walks from one group to another chatting with his guests, trying to gain his favourite students’ favour.
After a second take, the filming team watches the repetition of this scene through some monitors. As the director David Yates leaves the place, he gives some additional instructions. A few meters away, actors and actresses of other scenes wait very focused, seated in white plastic chairs outside the set where scenes are being filmed.
Once again the bell rings, and action continues.
This is how filming is developed every day, with a high degree of patience. This is a seven-year journey which will be extended a little bit, because HP producers decided to split the last book into two installments.
“The only problem is that people could think we want to use this last chance to make more money, but the great advantage to do it so is that we won’t be fighting the battle of condensing the whole book in a couple of hours that we have fought so far,” comments producer David Barron, and points out that both films will be self-standing entities. And, while producers make their minds up as to the best way to do it, and who will be helming the last chapter of the saga, filming of the sixth movie goes on within Harry’s magic world.