At Hogwarts with Harry
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix comes out on DVD this week in the UK and on December 11th everywhere else – very cool special features. I even cried during the 43 minute behind the scenes documentary when they talk about how love saves Harry. Sob.
To promote the DVD release, journalists were invited to interview members of the cast – who are now working on the Half Blood Prince – on the set of the new film. Several key locations were used as junket rooms and they were every bit as spectacular as they seem on screen. All footage will be aired on eTalk etalk.ctv.ca beginning Monday November 12th.
First … the kids. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint were all available, as were Matt Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Katie Leung (Cho Chang), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), and Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley).
While all were roaming around at one point or another, in the interest of time, I only spoke with the principle cast members, Imelda Staunton (Umbridge), and the director David Yates.
The others however were surprisingly exactly as you’d expect them…only not wielding wands. Am serious, not projecting. Matt Lewis is tall and much more confident than Neville. Like a boy who is finally growing out of his awkward, gangly looks and finding relief in the fact that he’s really just a regular dude and not destined to be a dweeb forever. Katie Leung is tiny and meek. Darts her eyes around furtively and giggles shyly for no apparent reason. Disappointingly a total Hello Kitty. And by all accounts, not terribly articulate. Evanna Lynch is, like Luna, a space case. Wearing long white extensions down to her ass, pulled in a low pony to one side under a red beret, a black sweater, shorts, black tights, and cool yellow chucks, she is wide eyed and dreamy and speaks in a soft, lilting voice that isn’t so much soothing as it is a little annoying because it’s one thing to go around on film asking about nargles and entirely another to actually BE that person in real life. Finally, Bonnie is adorable. A fresh face, appropriately dressed in a white polo shirt tucked into skinny jeans and flats, hair a mousy brown, is polite and unassuming, walks with the gait of a girl still growing into her body, without the insolent boredom of an adolescent or the desperate need to impress of a young adult. If she wants it, I hope she becomes a big, big star.
Of course Daniel Radcliffe (Dan) is already a big big star. Everyone calls him Dan, he introduces himself as Dan. This is the 2nd time in 5 months I’ve met him and he was much sturdier this time, still wiry as hell but healthier somehow – no discernible dark shadows under his eyes, loud and energetic as ever but not peaking from Red Bull overdose this time.
I always expect the “leads” to be big letdowns. To have less charisma than you would expect simply because their characters are literally larger than life. Dan Radcliffe doesn’t disappoint that way. He absolutely lives up the star moniker. Not in a conceited way, mind you, but with the self-assurance that indicates he’s accepted his fame and has learned to handle it responsibility, understanding that he above all others has a duty to promote his work and the project so closely attached to him, and in turn delivering on his obligation without a sense of resentment or the over-eagerness that would imply an inner famewhore. Rather Dan Radcliffe is impressively professional without being nauseatingly mature…unlike Dakota Fanning who is a 50 year old trapped in a 13 year old’s body.
Dan is a hardcore cricket fan. Told me about a match on Thursday, couldn’t wait to pile into his buddy’s car and drive all night to get there. I had to stop myself from asking if he was allowed. Because here’s the thing – many of you have shared your embarrassing secret, have developed a pervy crush, stemming perhaps from the bare-chested publicity photos of him from Equus, the stage production for which he stripped naked and for which he will do so again reportedly on Broadway next year. You were attracted to the taut, cut physique and the tantalising trail of fuzz beginning at his abs and leading somewhere naughty. You gasped at the prospect of a cute lad becoming a sexy man … and I’m going to stop you right there.
In person, he is very much still a child. He is small, he is my height. I am 5 ft 3 and ¾...on a good day. To me, that’s wee. More than that though, he still has the mannerisms of a boy. He holds himself as a boy, he speaks like a boy – rushed sentences when he’s enthusiastic, every other answer is a lame joke (when I asked him why he hasn’t turned out like Britney Spears, he told me it was because he refused the offer of breast implants - knee slapper!), big round eyes when describing even the most insignificant details …he is your best friend’s son or your BFF’s younger brother. I’m telling you – unless you are under 17, he is absolutely NOT for your quiver.
He is however delightful. He does his job without making you feel he’s doing his job. He has a firm handshake, he replies to every question (even though he’s already been asked a million times) with a response that is just as interested, just as engaging, just as present as it was the first time around. Joaquin Phoenix could stand to learn a lesson from Dan Radcliffe.
Above all, he is well mannered. So polite. Says please and thank you and what I will remember most: at one point, one of his handlers asked him if he needed a break. He said: “Yes, that would be great, if that’s alright with everyone?”
It’s obviously nothing extraordinary and even almost ludicrous that by simply reacting the way he “should” be reacting that he deserves applause. But you’d be amazed how few of them behave this way. Hope he doesn’t change.
I interviewed Dan in a room at 12 Grimmauld Place – the room in the movie where Sirius shows Harry his family tree, where certain sections of the tapestry have been burned out by Sirius’s crazy mother. I found Sirius’s name and Bellatrix’s close to it and then had to restrain from running my fingers across the scrawl. It is exactly as yellow and old and authentic as you want it to be. And just as wide too, which was the surprising part. Film sets are always smaller than they appear. Harry Potter productions however are almost always true to life.
Everyone loves Ron Weasley - an irresistible character portrayed irresistibly true by Rupert Grint. In person however I’m sorry to have to say – and it’s a sentiment that was universally expressed by almost every journalist on the junket – that the real life Rupert Grint is highly underwhelming. Like a total dud. Most interviews are a few minutes long and you always run out of time. With Rupert, the publicists hold up the 3 minute signal and you panic not about getting more questions out but because you honestly don’t know how to fill up the excruciatingly interminable remaining 180 seconds.
Every answer to every question is: It’s cool. Sometimes he throws in a few “yeah yeahs”. When speaking specifically about a person, he might change it up a bit and give you a dramatically different: oh yeah, he’s cool. She’s cool. If he’s particularly excited about something, Rupe will totally shock you with an added adverb before his favourite word:
Yeah yeah. That was so cool.
Needless to say, dripping sarcasm, having a conversation with the boy is completely riveting. And don’t get me wrong – he’s not insouciant nor is he rude. There just really isn’t much there…which is why, without looking back at the tape, I can’t honestly remember what the hell it was that he said but that may have been because I was interviewing him in the Gryffindor Common Room.
SO F&CKING COOL!!!
The set is actually raised on a small staircase and even though the fat lady portrait wasn’t hanging from the entrance, walking up a few steps, then pushing open a wooden door, and ducking through the opening felt as real as ever, especially when the Gryffindor colours immediately greet your arrival. The lounge couches were there, as was the fireplace, couldn’t see the chess set but a few books were strewn about, and I also thought I saw a broom, a robe or two, and definitely a staircase leading presumably up to a dormitory, though not sure if it was identified as the boys’ or the girls’.
The Common Room looked cozy. It was designed as a place to “hang” and indeed it is. You feel comfortable as soon as you step foot inside, even though you know it’s a movie set. I almost refused to leave.
Next it was off to Emma Watson who happened to be stationed in … Dumbledore’s Office! As it was the last time I met her, she was delightful. Rumoured to be rather prickly at times, on both occasions she’s been in fine form – super friendly, super chatty, very girly, and not Emmy Rossum. Nor in any danger of turning into one. Yet.
Last time she wanted to know about my nail polish, this time I went in right after my colleague Danielle McGimsie who was wearing a grey tunic over black tights and black suede boots. I was wearing a black and grey striped tunic, black tights, and grey boots. Emma commented that “Canadians are always so smartly dressed”. I will love her forever.
She herself had just had her hair blown out, in jeans and flats under a black cotton blouse, well accessorised as she was before. She told me she’s been super busy with the new movie and catching up with her “homework”. Hee.
I asked her how she was going to avoid turning in to Britney Spears. She told me she doesn’t hang out on the scene, said England, even with its sometimes pervasive paparazzi presence, can shelter young celebrities better than her American counterparts. I also asked her how it was on set in the 6th movie with all the hook ups and the making out. She laughed, seemed to be relieved that she had little to do with “all the kissing”.
As for Dumbledore’s Office – every bit as imposing and mysterious as you think it should be. And just as large as it looked in the movie, an ante chamber shaped like a globe leading into an inner sanctum, with portraits of the former headmasters hanging on the walls that you could have spent the entire day analysing, a little cluttered in some places, and curious objects dotting the shelves here and there begging you to touch them and consequently getting thrown out on your ass. Three steps led up to the inner chamber but unfortunately the entrance was blocked and I was too chicken sh-t to ask the lady guarding it to allow me in for a peek. Having said that, everything seemed to be preserved just as it was on film, except I looked and I looked for so long that I was nudged off the set, but still I couldn’t find the Sorting Hat.
Other locations – Umbridge’s office, or at least a wall of it. The set had already been torn down – happily they didn’t need it anymore. For the purposes of the junket however they did preserve one side of the room – the one with all the cat plates nailed to it. Not sure if it was deliberate or if it was because they all had been in storage but it looked old and faded, like you’d expect it to look inside that old lady’s house at the end of the block, indeed the lady with the cats who never comes out but to yell and scold. And though I’m sure it was just my imagination, it smelled a little dank in there too. Or that could have just been me. I was terrified of Imelda Staunton – nothing to do with the character but because she’s not the warmest person that ever lived. The woman is a master actor and she doesn’t have time to trifle with irritating little people asking irritating little questions. Not that she’s rude, far from. Ms Staunton is in fact impeccably mannered and exceptionally well versed at the English skill of making you feel small by simply being alive. As a shameless Anglophile, I sincerely believe it is their greatest gift. Imelda Staunton is a goddess.
Next – the Ministry of Magic. Not the entire facility but a key feature: the fireplace from where Dumbledore emerges during the final battle of the Order of the Phoenix. Amazing how they’ve spared no detail, even the tiling the perfect: black with green tint framing a massive opening. I spread my arms out wide and couldn’t touch either side. The fireplace was flanked by two gold flames with the appearance of genuine weathered metal.
But perhaps the most exciting part of the tour was the Great Hall. It’s massive! And exactly the same (except for the magical ceiling of course and the two massive entrance doors) as in the films. Long solid wood benches where the students sit and eat by house, a raised stage on which the head table faces the student body, the podium where Dumbledore gives his student address, the fantastic sculpted things with wings coming down from the eaves, and the uneven stone floors lining the entire room – of course they re-created every last detail. Even without the magic of filmmaking, the construction was perfect. Totally perfect.
Again, the Order of the Phoenix DVD will be released this week in the UK and on December 11th, in time for stocking stuffing, everywhere else. Tonks actually takes you on a guided tour of the entire set, including much more than described above - one of the best features, along with the little Harry head that pops up here and there providing random facts.
Will be giving DVDs away here in a couple of weeks – stay tuned!