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, a chat with the Brothers Phelps, who portray the Weasley twins.
(SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU DIDN’T READ THE “HALLOWS” BOOK, THIS STORY WILL REVEAL MAJOR PLOT POINTS)
Fans may have lamented the loss of Fred Weasley’s life and George Weasley’s ear when they read “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” but James and Oliver Phelps, who play the mischievous Weasley twins in the “Potter” movies, were excited for the gore. “To be honest with you, I think ever since we started these movies, not specifically this character, but I’ve always wanted to die on screen,” James said. “So I guess that was something ticked off the box.”
Though he was anxious to portray the “shocking” moment as readers had imagined it, he said, dying wasn’t all that difficult. “I just had to lie there,” he said. “I guess that was quite easy.” Losing an ear also proved pain-free for Oliver. “It was amazing how comfortable it was, losing an ear,” he said. “I’ve always wanted a bit of a gory effect, really, in any of the films, so to get to do something like this was really cool.” Less exciting for Oliver was having to play the part of a brother who survives his twin.
“I had to get myself into that mindset of what it would be like and try to make it feel as real as possible,” Oliver said. “There’s a scene where he’s laid out in the Great Hall, and to look at that, that was really surreal, actually, because they pale him up and everything. For me, it was really quite an odd scene to film, especially because I was supposed to be crying my eyes out, and to do it with the whole Great Hall full of people, as well. It was a different day of filming from anything we’d done before.”
The first film in the two-part “Harry Potter” finale marks the beginning of the end for the 10-year, eight-film franchise that showcased the brightest of British talent.
For the Phelps twins, now 24 years old, it’s the end of their first — and in all probability, their biggest — acting gig, though both plan to continue in acting.
“Robbie Coltrane told us on our first movie [“Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone”], ‘This is like having a Rolls Royce for your first car, because you’ll be very lucky if you ever get anything better than this,’” James said. “It’s been as good as you’d expect and better, because they are genuinely really nice people. You go on set with all these legends, and I suppose you’d assume them to be big egos, but not at all. they’re all just really down-to-earth and really approachable.”
Oliver said that he and James often turned to Julie Walters, who plays Molly Weasley, for her advice on working specific scenes. And when the brothers were going to perform a reading with the Hallé orchestra, Michael Gambon read through the lines with them, showing them how he’d perform it. “I think we’ve almost been spoiled, really. It is almost like leaving a university-type place where we’ve had these great lecturers we’ve been able to always go to to advice,” Oliver said. “We’ve been at Hogwarts for longer than most people have been at high school.” Oliver speculates that George Weasley’s character has rubbed off on his “subconscious state” after a decade playing the prankster on screen.
“We have been (pranksters) the past. Whether that’s the character rubbing off on myself, or whether I would have been like that my whole life, I’m not too sure,” Oliver said. “At school, I was always, not the class clown or anything, but I’d always have a bit of a joke with my friends and that. And just being able to do it for 10 years, especially in that stage when you’re growing up and learning who you are and such, I’m sure it has taken root somewhat.”
It works both ways. James and Oliver Phelps have also rubbed off on Fred and George Weasley in the films. The Phelps twins occasionally find themselves finishing each other’s sentences, Oliver said, which is how the Weasley twins began speaking in unison on the big screen.
“That’s how it all came into the film really,” Oliver said. “On the third film, we were having a meeting with Alfonso [Cuarón], and either James cut me off or I cut James off, and you just saw a smile appear on Alfonso’s face, and he said, ‘Oh, I like that, I like that. Lets work that into it.’”
But James is quick to point out that twins aren’t identical in every way, even when they’re as closely knit as the Weasleys. “We may be completely wrong, but to us it kind of seems that Fred’s a bit more of the leader, and George kind of just goes with it, which is completely different to Oliver and I, because we’re both trying to boss each other around,” James said. “When people aren’t twins or haven’t got twins in the family, they kind of relate them as just one group.”
Oliver said he and James support rival soccer teams. James dresses more casually. “And I’m definitely the tidiest of the two of us,” Oliver said. “Definitely. We live together, and it always seems to be me putting the dishes away.”
They said they enjoyed being among “older kids” in the cast, growing up alongside their characters.
“While everyone else is learning math and science and that, we’re playing darts and wasting the day, as it were,” Oliver joked.
The Weasley twins left their school days in a blaze of glory near the end of the fifth film and opened their own joke shop, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, in the sixth, selling tricks and novelties, like “Pimp-Your-Broomstick” kits, shoes that walk on walls, and spot-removal glamours. But in the final two films, the brothers focus less on childish pranks and more on the resistance movement.
“It was really cool, actually, because in the other films we’ve always been like the comic relief characters,” Oliver said. “We’ve always been able to turn up on set and just keep smiling while the camera’s rolling. It was really good being able to show a different side of the character, and being able to show that Fred and George are quite aggressive, as well. They see the danger, and they want to go at things full on.”
That’s not to say their methods don’t still have the Weasley flair for a good gag. In one scene called “Seven Harry scene,” six cast members all become Harry to help him in an escape plot, in the tradition of “The Thomas Crown Affair” – a typical Weasley twin stunt, James said.
“That kind of shows that they’re kind of growing up, and they’re men as well,” he said. “So although they like to joke, it shows the adult and serious side of Fred and George. Obviously, they’re ready to fight, and that isn’t really a laughing matter.”
In the end, James and Oliver said, the Weasleys are true Gryffindors. “Fred and George are pranksters, and Ron’s clumsy, and whatnot; I think deep down, all the Weasleys have got a good heart on them. They may not have a lot, but they like to share it,” James said. “It’s about being courageous, never-say-die, always keep going,” Oliver said. “They show that later on, certainly in the ‘Deathly Hallows,’ when they’re prepared give it their all, give up everything they have for the greater good.”
— Noelene Clark
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