‘Harry Potter’ stars say final scene was a challenge for the ages

Aug. 05, 2011 | 2:44 p.m.
harry potter epilogue Harry Potter stars say final scene was a challenge for the ages

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" (Warner Bros Pictures)

No other scene in the eight “Harry Potter” films created more angst for filmmakers than the epilogue of the final movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2,” a movie that last week crossed the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office.

There were no chained dragons, hairy hippogriffs or crackling magic energies in the sequence — it’s a few minutes of quiet dialogue between parents and their children in a train station — but the anxiety of it all was so smothering that the franchise’s star, Daniel Radcliffe, at one point wanted to sit out the scene.

gallery hallows Harry Potter stars say final scene was a challenge for the ages

PHOTOS: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2"

“I think they should do it with older actors and just leave us out of the scene,” Radcliffe said two years ago during a quiet moment on the stone-floor movie set where he has spent half of his working life and half of his life working. “If that’s what’s going to look best that’s what we should so. It’s too important that the ending is done right.”
(Needless to say, this is an article you shouldn’t read if you haven’t seen the film and want to remain in the dark as you walk into theaters.)

The sticky issue for Radcliffe, director David Yates and the rest of the “Potter” team was the fact that the epilogue takes place 19 years after the story’s climax at the smoldering Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In it, Harry and his now-adult friends, Hermione and Ron, are sending off their own children to study at Hogwarts. The plan was to “age up” Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and other young stars of the Warner Bros. franchise so they could convincingly play their elder selves.

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Arthur Bowen as Albus Severus Potter and Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter (Warner Bros)

On the set in 2009, Radcliffe, still shy of 20, was leery of the plan to wear rubber fixtures on his jaw and a false hairline to age to 37. “I worry it will be a distraction,” Radcliffe said. “I don’t want people staring at our faces and getting distracted from that moment.

“If they giggle,” he added, “we’re dead.” For Radcliffe, the answer was to find adult actors to play the older roles.

gallery hermione Harry Potter stars say final scene was a challenge for the ages

PHOTOS: A decade of Emma Watson

It would be difficult for any moment in any popcorn film to bear all the weight coming down on the “Deathly Hallows” epilogue.

For all the billions of dollars the movies and books have piled up, the filmmakers also had to account for the emotional connection of, say, a 20-year-old moviegoer who has literally grown up with this vivid tale of loyalty, courage and loss.

“Potter” producer David Heyman was thinking of that when he told Radcliffe that there was no way that three “strangers” could deliver the final lines of the three main characters right before the final fade to black.

“After all we have been through with these characters, the way that a generation has grown up with them, they need to be the ones on screen when it’s time to bring it to a close,” said Heyman, who was a key decision-maker back when Radcliffe and his costars were first cast in their roles back in 2000. “There’s an expectation — even if it is not articulated — that they need to be on the screen when it’s coming to an end.”

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Helena Barlow as Rose Weasley, Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Ryan Turner as Hugo Weasley (Warner Bros)

The scene was finally filmed last May at King’s Cross Station in London. A few weeks later, Radcliffe was happy to say that he believed the challenge had truly been met. The relief in his voice was clear even in the trans-Atlantic phone call from London.

“The thing we didn’t want was for it to be distracting and I think we figured it out,” Radcliffe said. “We did it with prosthetics, in the end, and I’m sure there will be little bits of visual effects for retouching on those moments when we do a close-up… when you have the prosthetic on for a long time, it’s hard to maintain it, that illusion, and with close-ups you need to fix it up. It’s also a challenge to make someone who is 19 or 20 — an age where their face is still changing — and make them a fully grown adult. I think they looked fantastic though and, if I do say so, particularly mine. Mine looked pretty dead on. That’s me in the future I think.”

gallery hogwarts Harry Potter stars say final scene was a challenge for the ages

PHOTOS: Hogwarts professors through the years

Not everyone agreed.

Some images of the made-up trio leaked to the Web and some fans thought Radcliffe’s visage had gone too far into Old Man Potter territory and he looked more like a 48-year-old Harry S Truman than a wizard still shy of middle age. Many thought that Watson didn’t look especially different as Hermione of the future, others couldn’t stop staring at Grint’s aged-up Ron and his considerable expanse of forehead.

“The images of me still haunt me,” Grint told MTV later. “It was like this monster Donald Trump kind of mixture. It was scary.”

This week, reached in Italy on vacation, Heyman moaned when asked about that day at King’s Cross.

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"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2"

“Rupert looked like he was about 75 years old with the triple chin and the belly, he looked like he had really lived as a lush,” Heyman said. “We knew we needed to rework the makeup.  There was another problem, too, shooting at the train station proved quite challenging for some of the younger kids who played the children of Harry, Ron and Hermione. It was really noisy every few minutes a train from Liverpool would pull in on one of the other tracks. We only had our one track closed.”

Yates went back to footage afterward but no clever edit or CG tune-up was going to elevate it enough. So, in December, long after the movie had wrapped, Yates and the producers summoned their young stars back to Leavesden Studios for a second, salvaging effort.

gallery harry Harry Potter stars say final scene was a challenge for the ages

PHOTOS: A decade of Dan Radcliffe

With New Year’s Eve approaching, time was running out. If the “Potter” team needed an ominous reminder of what could go wrong all they had to do was look at Disney’s big holiday-season release, “Tron: Legacy,” with its dead-faced, digital “de-aging” of Jeff Bridges. The “Potter” team decided to go with less tech and more of a classic makeup approach, but Rick Baker, the seven-time Oscar winner in the field, says that approach is hardly perfect.

“There’s nothing harder than the human face because we all spend so much time looking at them,” said Baker, who has admired the “Potter” franchise from a distance. “You can create creatures and aliens and all of those things but people judge human faces in a different way. Especially if it’s a human face they recognize because it’s already famous.”

“Post-graduate work,” was the director’s playful reference to bringing the Hogwarts alumni back to the soundstages. The epilogue was re-shot and director Yates, reflecting on it during a Los Angeles visit last month, said it was “the right thing to do at that point” despite the expense, inconvenience and murmurs of negativity in the press.

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A scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2." (Warner Bros. Pictures)

The makeup team for “Deathly Hallows” was led by Nick Dudman and, to Heyman, the second shot on the “age-up” work was a home run.

“It made all the difference in the world,” Heyman said. “We got what we were looking for. There was a challenge in the performance for the young actors. I know Emma talked about her approach was to think of her young siblings — her father has remarried and she has a new family — and how being with them was her way to get into the head of a parent going off to school. It wasn’t easy for them.”

gallery ron Harry Potter stars say final scene was a challenge for the ages

Photos: Rupert Grint as Ron

Heyman has said the hushed control of the Leavesden soundstages provided “the place to get the needed intimacy” but the timing also created the unexpected benefit of making the epilogue the “true” last scene made by the young stars. Film scenes are rarely shot in the same order they are shown on-screen but in this instance the farewell feeling brought an evocative gravity to the day.

“We should have thought to film it last in the first place,” Heyman said Wednesday. “It created a reality of sorts to the feelings in the scene and in the air. And I think now we’ve heard from the rest of the world that it worked. In the end, we used some shots from King’s Cross, too, to make a hybrid. There was a little bit of CG as well. The combination is subtle, which it needed to be.”

gallery kids Harry Potter stars say final scene was a challenge for the ages

Photos: Past 'Potter' premieres

So just as the saga ends not with a bang but with a steam train’s whisper, the epilogue isn’t the most visually dynamic achievement in “Potter” history but it was one of the most hard-won. And for Heyman, looking on the faces of his young stars and seeing so much artificial age added, it was a surreal send-off to a decade of wonder.

“It was something very strange and affecting,” the producer said. “I was really pleased because I thought there was a real tenderness about the last scene, a feeling of closure and the cycles of life. There’s a new beginning and there’s an ending. There are different sorts of adventures for these actors and for all of us. But we made it to the train station together.”

– Geoff Boucher

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Comments


38 Responses to ‘Harry Potter’ stars say final scene was a challenge for the ages

  1. Jacki says:

    Well, at least they look like thirties to forties instead of sixties! I and a lot of my friends didn't look much different from 25-35. (that's when the changes get noticable)

  2. Smithy says:

    I thought the make up during the epilogue was done well in the final version. I really don't understand why some fans complained about it. The trio were supposed to be around 36 years old during that scene, and I think they look as if they really were in their thirties. The trio were already 21 or 22 years old when they filmed it, so the makeup artists basically had to make them only 14 to 15 years older. That's why the makeup should be subtle. I have a sister who is now 35, but she really hasn't changed much from when she was in her early twenties. I really don't understand what people were expecting.

  3. Jeyna Grace says:

    The entire cinema i was in during the film laughed when the final scene appeared. LOL. So i guess they should have found older actors to play them.

    • Eireen says:

      Lol. My theater laughed too. But I don't think it was because they looked ridiculous, I just think it was because everyone was excited to see how they aged. I agree it's supposed to be a touching moment, but after all of the drama and suspense of the entire film, it's really nice to have a little bit of a laugh at the end. I think they made the right decision in keeping the same actors because having older actors would lose the sense of continuity we had throughout the rest of the films.

  4. Juthika Saharia says:

    I totally agree with Smithy. In only 15 – 16 years people don’t change much. Yea, as soon as a person reach 40 then only some changes starts to come but not in a go. Hope people understands that part a bit.

  5. Steve-O says:

    Harry Potter was an Awsome Movie. Tell the Potter Team that i saw them when there first movie came out. i hope they make another movie and if you do i have an idea for you see if u like it. "Harry Potter and the Next Generation" Hows that. If u like it message me.

    Thanks.

  6. QAREENA says:

    wow! Daniel looks awesome and handsome, if he grows like this to his thirties than its amazing because of his decent looks. But there is one thing which I didn’t feel good about the end, that harry got married and is living the normal life like middleclass man which is not fair, also that he got married to Ginny ugh! Not good. He should have died with voldermort and than people would remember him that harry a boy who lived and died with voldy. He should be called a hero who killed himself to kill voldy and harry might be his last horcrux. That would be mind blowing end. How’s that? Anyway love the way Dan has worked and he is the one we can’t forget for the whole life.

    • Norm says:

      no one is asking whqat you thought about the ending-JK Rowling did a fine job-stick to topic-make up in the movie..

  7. QAREENA says:

    Daniel looks awesome and handsome, if he grows like this to his thirties than its amazing because of his decent looks. But there is one thing which I didn’t feel good about the end is that harry got married and is living the normal life like middleclass man which is not fair, also that he got married to Ginny ugh! Not good. He should have died with voldermort and than people would remember him that harry a boy who lived and died with voldy. it should be like harry would have killed himself to kill voldy because harry would be his last horcrux, how's that? anyways Daniel worked spectacularly which we can’t forget for the whole life, love you Dan and god bless you.

  8. QAREENA says:

    Daniel looks awesome and handsome, if he grows like this to his thirties than its amazing because of his decent looks. But there is one thing which I didn’t feel good about the end is that harry got married and is living the normal life like middleclass man which is not fair, also that he got married to Ginny ugh! Not good. He should have died with voldermort and than people would remember him that harry killed himself to kill voldy because he was is last horcrux, how’s that?. Anyways Daniel worked spectacularly which we can’t forget for the whole life, love you Dan and god bless you.

  9. sina naijimi says:

    very good!

  10. ajay says:

    I thought the make up during the epilogue was done well in the final version. I really don't understand why some fans complained about it. The trio were supposed to be around 36 years old during that scene, and I think they look as if they really were in their thirties. The trio were already 21 or 22 years old when they filmed it, so the makeup artists basically had to make them only 14 to 15 years older. That's why the makeup should be subtle. I have a sister who is now 35, but she really hasn't changed much from when she was in her early twenties. I really don't understand what people were expecting.

  11. Nicole Lane says:

    This really makes me sad… all the actors and actresses will probably move on their separate ways. The games that made Harry Potter fun, YouTube videos of interviews, millions of pictures within this saga, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone starting everything, and everybody joining hands on something extraordinary! I’m gonna reminisce after 10 years because this is my childhood. I’ve grown up with fairy tales, drama at school, advice, getting beat down, and even book reading. I’d read all of those 7 Harry Potter books, they were so different than the movies that I can tell you! Overall, I’m gonna miss not going to movie theater and seeing another Harry Potter movie.

  12. matt says:

    I think something that could be really neat is if they reshot the last scene in 15-20 years and released some sort of special edition with that footage instead.
    Not too unlikely when you think of it.

  13. brandon says:

    The ending was done well–it was beautiful–a word I think I've only used a couple times to describe film. A fitting culmination to an enchanting series.

  14. zsuzsanna says:

    If we speak of masks, we have to mention Ralph Fiennes who excelled not only playing fantastically (Oscar worthy performance, either in lead- or in supporting role) , but beside the frightening soul he had a terrible mask too with his dead-white face,no nose,ometimes no lips, long fingers on hands and feet with cyanotic blue nails. And his stuffed figure before explosing…goosebumping!

  15. zsuzsanna says:

    if you find lingual mistakes, please, correct it – my English is poor.

  16. trajan says:

    the movie should have ended with Harry, Ron and Hermione standing outside Hogwarts after destroying the Elder Wand. This ending was absolutely atrocious.

    • Yahzee Skellington says:

      you're absolutely right… I don't care if it's on the book, it doesn't work in the film. And every time I see the movie, people in the theater laugh… they look silly by the way, although Daniel not so much..

  17. Jeffsd says:

    What I found funny is that apparently after all that wizard schooling, Harry Potter grew up to be an accountant.

  18. John Brady says:

    I thought the movie itself was boring however the last scene was sweet.

  19. John Brady says:

    By the way if anybody wants to see an exciting, scary, cerebral flick rent "Event Horizon".

  20. jfx says:

    The "19 years later" heading made no sense, they should have said "12 years", making the aged make-up that much easier. Implausible that all the characters would wait 7 extra years before having children.

    • lcox0705 says:

      It's in the book that way…
      They were only 17 at the end of the episode. Most people I know don't have kids until they're 25, at least..

    • Ha Ni says:

      Actually, it makes all the sense in the world to wait till you're in your mid twenties to have children

  21. stasiuwong says:

    I've never read the books and avoided all spoilers regarding the movie, so the epilogue was an enjoyable surprise. It's really fortunate the film makers learned from the mistakes and went for a second attempt; the finished product is beautiful and well worth their efforts.

  22. mee says:

    As funny as they looked, they did look grown up. The only complaint I had was that Hermione still looked the same age. It looked like all they did was put grown up clothes on her. But they did a great job with everyone else and the new child actors were great too.

  23. meg says:

    Balderdash! I think they have done a amazing job making the trio+rest of them up,they look really convincing and i loved it. The first time i saw part two,i was crying to hard to really take in that moment that everyone else had..that 'gasp' at seeing them aged like that,but i must admit,even if i had'nt been having a emotinal breakdown;)..i wouldnt have been that shocked,becuase i was one of the people, and i deeply regret it,that saw the photos before the film..one click,and i ruined it all-me and my sister was like 'daaammm'!

  24. Bill D. says:

    I think the ending should have left out the scene 19 yeas later. It did not add anything to the story nor anything about Harry and the others two still being wizards. That should have been left to one's imagination. What was the point of them looking like adult with kids. Were they still involved with wizardry or not? This is an unnecessary epilogue.

  25. Jimmy says:

    When I watched the film and the older versions of the characters appeared, nobody giggled. Everybody laughed.

  26. New Indian says:

    You are great Anna Hazare. I am very proud of u atleast one person has taken a step to make India clean.I respect you as Real Hero who can change Indian History.you are the idol to the youth. I give my full support to your campaign.I hope that Lokpal Bill gets passed with the required changes….he is real HERO of india and next gandhi ji.

  27. cosby says:

    i think they should make a harry potter movie withe all there kids

  28. Ginnyfan101 says:

    they NEED an 8th book!
    THEY NEED IT

  29. LlumaJ says:

    I think they looked too conservative – they could've been more modern and eccentric – they were going to be aurors weren't they? And why were they so somber? They should've been joyful! They had true love, friendship, family, success, peace…. Getting old's not so bad if you have all that! And these guys will still be gorgeous in their mid thirties anyway – Ron's paunch and receding hairline was definitely going too far!

  30. Mandy says:

    I am very glad they shot the end scene. It wasn’t so much the looks but what was said that was so powerful and touched me so.

    When Harry first went to the school he had no one. He was a lost little boy trying to find his way. And during his trip through the series he kept losing every family member he had.

    His son however as loving and serious about Hogwarts as his daddy, had his father. Harry standing side by side with his son and saying “Together” as they went through to the train station was what hit me the most. It hit me hard, I did not laugh, I cried. It just showed that all Harry went through he finally had what he always wanted in the first place. The most valuable thing to him. A family and oh did he adore them. He made sure that his son did not feel as he did on his first day.

    ALSO! It reminded us that Snape was finally understood by Harry and he cared for him so much he named his son after him and said he was one of the most wonderful wizards to live.

    Again these are very POWERFUL things and made the ending that much more beautiful. I LOVED the epilogue and feel the series gained so much more ending it this way.

    NO, I do not believe they should make anymore. All that could be done as been done. If you want more, just go back and watch again. A decade to make a masterpiece came out perfect and we do not need anymore. It has to end sometime, it couldn’t have ended any better.

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