THE LAST SPELL: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” closes out a decade of Hogwarts in Hollywood. Hero Complex is counting down to the release of the final film in the magical franchise with exclusive interviews and photos. Today: Production designer Stuart Craig on how he ravaged Hogwarts, why he changed the location of a crucial death scene and what he’ll hold onto from the series.
For every Harry Potter film, production designer Stuart Craig has referenced real-world structures to help bring J.K. Rowling’s elaborate vision of wizarding life to the screen. In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,“ Craig faced a new challenge — how to destroy the castle-like buildings of Hogwarts for the film’s climactic battle scenes.
“We looked at ruins from World War II — Coventry, Dresden,” Craig said. “I looked at the profiles that were left of burning buildings. Ruined masonry has a very distinct pattern to it. We were very concerned to get it right.”
Demolishing the existing Hogwarts would have been impractical for a number of reasons, Craig said — many sets are being preserved for Warner Bros.’ London studio tour, set to open in 2012, and the temporary nature of the buildings would be exposed if they were destroyed.
“You couldn’t just take the sets that existed and punch holes in them,” he said. “All you would do is reveal that they were made of thin sheets of plywood covered with a skin of plaster to give a stone texture. You had to re-conceive them as a huge new set or several sets and design ruins from the ground up that appeared solid and three-dimensional. Walls, where before they could be just a skin, now needed thickness and solidity —big stones on the outside filled with rubble in the middle. “
Craig said he took some creative license with a key death scene in the book.
“In the book [the character] dies in the Shrieking Shack. I specifically asked J.K. Rowling if she would mind if we transposed that to a boathouse. I felt it would make a very interesting, very theatrical set. There was a lot of glass in the design for the boathouse. Through the glass, you’re aware of Hogwarts in flames and the water inside the boathouse reflects the flames and you get a great sense of the height and the drama. It’s rather cathedral-like in a small way, a rather ephemeral structure. I think [the actor] was happy to die there and I was very happy to see [the actor] die there.”
Craig has won Oscars for his production design on the films “Gandhi,” “Dangerous Liaisons” and “The English Patient,” but this is the first time his creations will endure long after the film has wrapped, for the Warner Bros. tour.
“Often my sets are bulldozed, wrecked, taken to the fire and disposed of very quickly,” Craig said. “The fact that these have stood there for 10 years is remarkable enough. That they will continue to stand there for several more years — or until people tire of Harry Potter, which they don’t seem to be doing — gives this one a sense of permanence which none other of my films has had.”
With everything he has built for Harry Potter, Craig said he is not keeping any chunks of the set for himself.
“Ultimately what I have is the series of DVDs of all the films,” he said. “I’ve gotten used to the fact that all of this is very temporary and what remains is the movies.”
– Rebecca Keegan
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