‘Harry Potter’: Helen McCrory says Narcissa Malfoy is a ‘wonderful mother’

July 06, 2011 | 4:14 p.m.
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Helen McCrory plays Death Eater Narcissa Malfoy in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2." (Warner Bros. Pictures)

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: Hero Complex contributor Nardine Saad chats about filming the concluding installment and how the franchises lead trio matured on and off the set with Helen McCrory, the actress who plays Narcissa Malfoy, the mother of Tom Felton‘s Draco Malfoy. McCrory will appear next in the Martin Scorsese mystery “Hugo” with Chloe Moretz, Jude Law and Sacha Baron Cohen.

NS: What’s it like to see the films come to a close?

HM: I just enjoyed being part of it. It’s an incredible phenomenon of British film and fantastic to be a part of it, so it’ll be great fun to go down the red carpet. They’re shutting the whole of Trafalgar Square. It’ll be quite extraordinary to be dropped off in a car and look down Pall Mall and see Big Ben and finish it in such a grand and truly British way. It’ll be good fun.

NS: Since Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and so many others grew up with and on these films, what do you expect for their future?

HM: I saw Dan in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” on Broadway. It’s very interesting because the American, New York audience is very different than the London audience.  We’re completely unused to people being clapped for just because they manage to walk on stage. That’s sort of frowned upon in Britain. So he came down and the whole place erupted with “YAY!” and you think, “OK, fine.” Then after two minutes I’d completely forgotten that he had ever played Harry Potter, which is a great testament to somebody’s talent because he is iconic. His face is iconic with a film and I was so impressed, I was blown away by his performance. I thought he was excellent so I think he’s going to obviously enjoy maybe a stage career, maybe with film as well, depending which country he stays in. Emma, she’s back in film. She again is a highly talented, intelligent young woman. I mean, God knows where they’re going to end up. I barely know them but all I can say is that in the brief time I worked with them they conducted themselves with such grace and elegance. They’re really interesting, modest young people. When they continue to act or do anything else, I think it’s a great testament to their strength of character and to their parents and to the people in “Harry Potter” who made sure they didn’t become spoiled in the way that children can be when they grow up in the world of film — it’s a very odd world. They’re not. They had a childhood.

narcissa Harry Potter: Helen McCrory says Narcissa Malfoy is a wonderful mother

The Death Eaters in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 1." Narcissa (Helen McCrory) sits between her husband, Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs), and Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter). (Warner Bros. Pictures)

NS: Were you a fan of the books beforehand?

HM: Yes, I knew of the books because a lot of actors in Britain, we’d sort of been looked at for different parts. I had friends who had kids who you’d take them along to see it or read the books. I was vaguely aware of them. I could not tell you all the different houses of Hogwarts or tell you the rules of Quidditch, it must be said, but I was aware of the phenomenon that had begun to be Harry Potter.

NS: Did you read the books to better understand Narcissa?

HM: I read them all. I read them and thought, Why wasn’t she in them before?! That’s the nightmare that producers and directors have with all the actors that read the books — they’re like “where have all those scenes gone!” Alas, unfortunately it’s about three kids.

NS: Did you do anything quirky or unusual to prepare for the role?

HM: Did I run around bush fires lighting flames at midnight? No, no. No sacrificing rabbits. No, this is Britain. You learn the script, you turn up and you imagine.

NS: How do you feel about playing a villain-turned-good?

HM: I think that it is very complex in the book and unfortunately we don’t have time to do that in the film, so there isn’t as much complexity. Although we film a lot, what gets into the film and what doesn’t, I don’t know. In the last film we filmed a lot of stuff in Malfoy Manor that wasn’t used. This always happens in all the Potter films to everybody. So it’s not news. But I don’t know how much they’re going to show. I’ve told a whole story but what they show I don’t know. Even though it is a fairy tale and even though these people are archetyped and she is the archetyped wicked stepmother character from fairy tales, eventually, her redeeming feature is that she is a wonderful mother and she protects her son Draco and she is changed through her son.

Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) makes an Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa in front of Bellatrix to watch over and protect Draco in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) makes an Unbreakable Vow to Narcissa Malfoy to watch over and protect her son Draco in front of Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter) in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." (Warner Bros. Pictures)

NS: Do you have a particularly vivid memory from the set that’s likely to stick with you?

HM: Going into the Forbidden Forest for the first time was absolutely extraordinary. They put redwood trees up on a whole stage and they’re quite overwhelming, aren’t they? Dwarfing. They had built those trees in the studio — not the whole height of them but the width of them — and the whole floor was actual moss. It was undulating before us and we came in and all the Death Eaters came on —  Helena Bonham Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange, Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort — and started to move through the forest. Someone came out to give out the wands and everyone was chatting. That was quite extraordinary just standing with those actors, about 120 of you in the silence, in the dark and hearing those footsteps from a long, long way away and knowing that Daniel Radcliffe — that this last film, this final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort was so epic for those children who are young men and women now.

NS: Did you have any other scenes that were particularly enjoyable to film?

HM: Definitely it has to be the last battle scene at Hogwarts. They actually built three courtyards: one before the battle, one during the battle and one after the battle so we could film and we would never have to wait. And it was to scale. The filming of the last day of the film when the final battle is taking place and everyone has been on set — we’d been picked up at 2 a.m. and Ralph had been in makeup for four to five hours to get  his prosthetics done. Everybody’s standing there, the goodies on one side, the baddies on the other, and 150 extras behind them on either side.  You have the pyrotechnic guys saying “in the next shot there will be flames,” you have all the animatronic guys starting to start up these huge creatures that are actually moving. You have the stunt guys speaking and telling people how to get ready. Then you have the actors concentrating because you’re about to shoot and [director] David Yates shouting “in two minutes you’ve got to clear the set” and it’s 5, 6 o’clock in the morning on a cold, cold  day in November in Britain. Ralph Fiennes is pacing and muttering his lines, and two minutes to clear the set and everybody starts running off and then that’s it: fires are lit and somebody calls “Action” and Ralph starts speaking and he will speak for two, three, four minutes and the battle starts. To have the privilege of filming something like that for real is extraordinary. Most people will cut it down, they’ll be filming tiny bits and you’ll just have the cameras running around you. This was electric. It was electric to do because nobody was having to act with green screen. Nobody was having to break the scene up. Nobody was having to go away and come back four days later. We spent weeks on the scenes but there was a continuity and a flow about it, and an epic quality about it that I’m sure will come across on screen. So that was a very, very memorable day.

NS: Are you planning on taking on any other fantasy roles after this?

HM: I’d love to because it’s quite strange! You learn all about the rules and you learn all about the alternate universes that the fans and the whole world of “Harry Potter” believe in and understand and it’s very,very complex. I’ve always found it quite interesting that some of my most intelligent friends are fascinated with sci-fi. They’ve explained to me that often medical or scientific progresses comes out of what has been written in fiction. The idea has been brilliant and we’ve made it happen, we’ve made it physically possible. It’s a whole interesting world that I’ve never really known about that I’m learning about now. And, yeah, it would be great to be part of again.

— Nardine Saad


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8 Responses to ‘Harry Potter’: Helen McCrory says Narcissa Malfoy is a ‘wonderful mother’

  1. Gabby says:

    I would never call Narcissa a wonderful mother, but no one can deny that she cares deeply for her son and loves him with all her heart. She would do anything for Draco, which is probably why he was spoiled rotten.

    I love what she said about the young actors in Potter. I completely agree.

  2. AshleyMagill says:

    Dear Tom Felton, Helena Mccrory,JasonIssac, I will come see you forever I will stay with you to be Death
    Eaters my name is Ashley Magill I am 29yearsold can I be with you Together I love your family so much
    In future I will go to England Capital of London with you guys.

  3. Lauren says:

    JK Rowling has made it PERFECTLY clear that Narcissa Malfoy is NOT a Death Eater!

  4. Bev says:

    I have a soft side for Narcissa especially since Helen looked so different and pretty in Deathly Hallows…it was the bangs haha…so I agree with Helen's comment and think Narcissa is a great mother. But she still is a mean wiotch when it comes to her beliefs

  5. buggaboo says:

    Meh. I think Narcissa was an interesting character, but Helen seems kind of stuck on herself. I realize they do things differently in Britain but there's no need to be snotty about it. Different is just different, not superior or inferior.

  6. Seth says:

    A charming interview! Ah, if only we could collect all the bits that were cut, and put 'em together in an "out-takes" DVD … oh well! Narcissa was rather lovely, in her own dark way, I thought.

  7. Cordelia says:

    Ummm I wasnt happy with this casting she looked more like Lucius's mother then his wife. Narcissa was known for her long blonde hair and being stylish while Helen's look had a reverse skunk thing going and her clothing looked like it was made out of tapestry material. I couldnt get pas how she did NOT look the part.

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