A MONTH OF MAGIC: Hero Complex is counting down to the Nov. 19 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1” — the penultimate film in the history-making “Potter” franchise — with exclusive interviews, photos, videos and reports from the set. Today’s post: Our visit to the set of “Hallows” outside London reveals a cast and crew eager to ramble beyond the Hogwarts campus.
There was a break in the action — the cast and crew of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” were milling about waiting for the next set-up on a summer day outside London in 2009 — and Daniel Radcliffe sat back in his seat and admired the life of a fugitive. “Everybody is after us,” the actor said of his on-screen persona, Harry Potter, and his partners in magic. “We’re to the point in the story where it’s a lot of action and we’re on the run. And that’s brilliant.”
When Part 1 of the two-part “Harry Potter” franchise finale reaches theaters Nov. 19, it will do so without one of its signature characters. But the missing star is not a wizard, Muggle, goblin or troll, it’s a place. The seventh “Potter” film is the first without any notable screen time spent inside the stone corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the castle that has become synonymous with the magical epic.
The absence of the ancient academy from the seventh movie, according to producer David Heyman, informs the texture and rhythm of the franchise’s penultimate installment. The film is very much a road-trip adventure with the three main characters — played by Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson — in fugitive mode and preparing for the final showdown with the evil Lord Voldemort, portrayed with reptilian rasp by Ralph Fiennes.
“It gives this film a very different feel to be away from Hogwarts,” Heyman said. “The main characters — Harry, Ron and Hermione — are on the run and, yes, they do go to some magical places, like the Ministry of Magic, but a lot of the film is set in a quite naturalistic setting, and that makes it feel very real and very human. There’s plenty of magic, of course, but it’s set against a very real context.
“We have them a bit in Whitehall, in central London, we have them on Shaftesbury Avenue in the cafes,” Heyman continued. “It feels real, gritty at times and beautiful at other times. But it is not at Hogwarts, and that gives us a fresh impetus.”
Screenwriter Steve Kloves said that there technically is one glimpse of Hogwarts in the film but he’d rather not elaborate. “This moment would fall in the category of flashback,” said the writer who finishes the franchise having written scripts for seven of the eight films. “Revealing it may ruin a rather lovely — albeit small — moment of the movie.”
Radcliffe said treading past the stony floors of the well-used Hogwarts movie set in Watford, England, energized the cast during the production of the seventh and eighth films, which were made together in a shoot that began in February 2009 and did not wrap until mid-June of this year. “I think getting out was a marvelous thing for the story and for the look of the film,” he said. “This movie just looks different than the other ones. We’ve spent so much time at Hogwarts that it makes it fresh to go somewhere new on screen.”
When last we left the orphaned wizard at the end of 2009’s “Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince,” he was mourning Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), who had been cut down by Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) — the dour faculty member who revealed himself to be the mysterious title character of the movie. The forces of Voldemort were ascending, and the gathering darkness was far removed from the tone and twinkle of the first films in a franchise that has pulled in more than $5.3 billion in worldwide box office.
The seventh film has dramatic showdowns with Voldemort’s cult, the Death Eaters, and the final movie next year features a startling supernatural heist job that includes a dragon as the untamed getaway vehicle. But Heyman said some of the most compelling sequences in the closing chapters of “Potter” are marked by emotional tension and smothering suspense.
“One thing I love about the films of [director] David Yates is that you really feel the human element,” Heyman said. “There’s a real truthfulness, and going out on the road with this seventh film, it makes it feel just that much more real.”
Hogwarts makes a return in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” in a manner of speaking. That final chapter of the franchise is built around a massive battle that destroys much of the school. That’s not much of a spoiler if you’ve been paying attention. The Warner Bros. poster promoting the two-film finale shows the ramparts of the academy in flames beneath a grim tagline: “It all ends here.”
The films taken together have the cast’s enthusiasm at an all-time high. “Without question, these two are going to blow all of the rest of them away,” says Tom Felton, who has brought memorable sneer to the role of Draco Malfoy. “The last two will not disappoint, that’s something you can rest assured about.”
— Geoff Boucher
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