« You’re a Wizard, Harry. »
Ten years ago, those four words signified the beginning of the extraordinary cinematic journey of a boy whose name became synonymous with magic: Harry Potter. Over the next decade, the film franchise that bears his name changed movie history while also changing the lives of its multi-generational ensemble cast and the filmmakers who devoted themselves to bringing J.K. Rowling’s seven-volume literary masterpiece to the screen.
Commencing with 2001’s « Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone » and culminating with the two-part adaptation of the final title, « Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, » the films have become the top-grossing franchise of all time, capturing the imagination of audiences around the world. Additionally, both the books and the movies have been woven into our culture, adding words like Muggle, Quidditch, Hogwarts and even Expelliarmus! to the global lexicon.
David Heyman, who, in 1997, discovered the as-yet-unpublished Harry Potter manuscript and has produced all of the movies, acknowledges, « I could never have imagined when we embarked on the first film the level of response from audiences through the years. It’s been beyond my wildest dreams, so I look back on it with great pride and with gratitude, for the fans and especially for Jo Rowling. »
Collectively, the Harry Potter movies were an unprecedented undertaking for all involved—no other motion picture series had ever followed a linear story surrounding the same characters over the course of eight full-length features.
Producer David Barron notes, « It really has been unique, but it was entirely dependent on having rich enough source material, and that, of course, began with the books. »
Creatively, states author and producer J.K Rowling, the single thread of the story was very much by design. « I had a very, very clear idea of where Harry was going to go. This was just one story that I wanted to tell. For me, that was key if the books were ever going to be made into films; it had to be done that way. When I met David Heyman, he completely understood. »
Rowling found another invaluable collaborator in screenwriter Steve Kloves, who has adapted six of the seven books. « Steve really got the books, » she says, adding, « I was always accepting of the fact that changes must occur in the process of moving from the page to the screen. But even the scenes that were different were always very true to the spirit of the books. »
Kloves remarks, « We had one cohesive, bracing tale that literally had no end when we began, since only the first three books had been published. Although that sometimes made for challenging circumstances, my instincts were pretty true. But in those instances when I was in need of assistance, I had an ally whose counsel I felt was reasonably sound: Jo, » he deadpans. « While she was never explicit, she was always available and highly adept at gently nudging me in the right direction. In the end, one principle proved pretty reliable: follow the characters. »
Director David Yates says, « In following the characters, many of the values that Jo celebrates in the books come to the fore in the films—the value of loyalty and love and friendship and understanding versus intolerance and evil. »
« The power of love is a huge theme throughout the books and the films, as well, » Rowling adds. « There are lots of different kinds of love expressed over the course of the story, but friendship is probably the strongest form of love that you see in the movies. »
The love between friends is embodied most in the characters of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. They were portrayed by three young actors who literally grew up on the screen: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
Radcliffe relates, « I couldn’t even attempt to sum up what the role of Harry Potter has meant to me, but I can say that I never took the opportunity to play him lightly. It may have been the same character, but like anyone else, Harry changed a lot over the years so, as an actor, I looked at each film as an opportunity to do something fresh and to develop another set of skills. »
« I feel very privileged to have played Hermione, » says Watson. « I think she’s someone young girls can look up to because she’s always true to herself. She’s very smart and an incredibly courageous and loyal friend who keeps a cool head in extremely difficult situations. It was wonderful to be able to bring across those elements of her personality throughout the films. »
« I know I’ll miss playing Ron because there was a time when I was him more than I wasn’t him, » Grint laughs. « And I really liked the development of his character. He started out as a kid who was quite easily scared and it was nice to see him grow up to be brave and resourceful, particularly in this last movie where they are in such an unpredictable and dangerous place. »
Heyman notes, « Over the course of these films, we’ve truly had the who’s who of British acting royalty on our stages, which was tremendous. But watching our young cast grow into fine actors and fine people has been one of the great joys of working on the Harry Potter films. We’re incredibly proud of them. »
Audiences have also watched all of the young characters in Harry Potter go from childhood to adulthood and, as they have matured, so have the stories. « It’s about engaging the imagination because those are ‘muscles’ that also need to be developed as a child grows up, » says Alan Rickman, who has played the enigmatic Professor Severus Snape in all of the movies. « In order for that to happen properly, there have to be some big themes to think about. What’s right and what’s wrong? Who do I trust and who don’t I? What does it mean to be brave…and what does loyalty mean? It’s all in there. »
With each successive title, the stakes were raised and the dangers amplified as Lord Voldemort returned and now reigns.
In « Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, » the young wizards are now on the front lines of a world at war. Heyman declares, « This is the final battle for Hogwarts, the final battle for the wizarding world and—something we’ve been building towards throughout this series—the final conflict between Harry and Voldemort. »
Yates says, « It was important to end the series with an epic finale, so we have battles and dragons, spiders and giants…but at heart, this is a story about the characters. Spectacle is important, but caring about the people in the middle of it is what pulls the audience into the journey with them. »
« There’s a lot more action, but the emotional core of the story has always been what these movies are about, and we would never want to overshadow that, » Barron says.
Heyman agrees. « The all-out war between good and evil is thrilling, but there is still an emotional underpinning. And because we’ve been invested in these characters for so long, it feels there is much more at stake. »
The climactic conclusion of the story reveals some surprising new facets of several beloved characters. Yates affirms, « One of the most interesting things about the way this story unfolds is that the line separating the forces of darkness and light is blurred and we see that certain people are more complex than they first appeared. »
« All of the characters—Harry included—are flawed, » Rowling adds. « We don’t have one wholly good or wholly bad person…with the exception of Voldemort. He is wholly evil. There are no redeeming qualities there, » she smiles.
The final film brings the characters back to some familiar places, including the now-iconic Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which was not seen at all in « Part 1, » marking a first for the series. Conceived by Rowling and realized by production designer Stuart Craig, Hogwarts has been a home, a headquarters and a haven to its students and faculty.
But it is about to become a battlefield.
ATTENTION, SPOILERS !!!
« If it’s true what you say, that he has the Elder Wand,
I’m afraid you really don’t stand a chance. »
« Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 » begins where « Part 1 » ended: with a theft that will have lasting repercussions. The stone crypt of Albus Dumbledore is desecrated and a distinctively shaped wand is taken from the late headmaster’s hands. With triumphant malice, the thief—Lord Voldemort himself—raises the Elder Wand high into the air, sending lightning bolts into the swirling dark clouds above.
As legend has it, the Elder Wand is one of the titular Deathly Hallows—along with the Resurrection Stone and the Invisibility Cloak—which together provide one with mastery over Death. Each has valuable properties of its own, with the Elder Wand said to be the most powerful wand in existence.
Ralph Fiennes, who once again portrays the Dark Lord, offers, « Voldemort is under the belief that whoever possesses the Elder Wand would have supremacy, but it’s more complicated than that, much to his frustration. »
Voldemort had learned of the Elder Wand from Mr. Ollivander, whom he tortured into revealing its location. The expert wand maker warns Harry that if Voldemort does have the Elder Wand, Harry has no chance against him. But the added threat won’t deter Harry Potter from his mission—to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes, items in which the Dark Lord has embedded pieces of his soul in his quest for immortality. Three have been destroyed, four remain, but as long as even one survives, the Dark Lord cannot be defeated.
Yates comments, « At the beginning of ‘Part 2,’ Harry is a man rather than a boy and is ruthlessly sure of his task. He needs to kill Voldemort. He knows he must be the one to finish it and he is determined to see it through. »
« Even amongst goblins, you’re famous, Harry Potter. »
A clue as to the whereabouts of another Horcrux comes from someone else Harry first met on Diagon Alley all those years ago: a goblin named Griphook, who works at Gringotts Bank.
Warwick Davis, who had actually provided the voice of Griphook in « Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, » returns to portray the character in the final film. Davis is also known to audiences as Hogwarts’ Professor Filius Flitwick and says that playing both roles « really allowed me to stretch my acting muscles because the two characters are poles apart. Flitwick is a wizard and quite a warm character, whereas Griphook is a goblin who thinks wizards are untrustworthy. Then again, it’s Griphook who tries to manipulate the situation to his own advantage. If you encounter a goblin, beware, » he grins. « They’re very selfish and will do anything to get their way. »
Griphook tells Harry that there is a duplicate of the sword of Gryffindor in Bellatrix Lestrange’s vault at Gringotts Bank, although, unbeknownst to her it is a counterfeit and Harry is in possession of the real one. The goblin divulges that it is only one of many objects in Madam Lestrange’s vault and Harry suspects that the vault of a trusted Death Eater might be the perfect place to hide a Horcrux.
« Basically, they have to pull off a bank heist, » Yates says. « They need to break in to see if there’s a Horcrux in Bellatrix’s vault. If they find it and destroy it, they are one step closer to killing Voldemort. But robbing Gringotts is not going to be easy, to say the least. There are a number of obstacles in their way. »
Griphook agrees to help them get into Gringotts for a steep price: the sword of Gryffindor. Gaining entry to Bellatrix’s vault is another matter. With the aid of some Polyjuice Potion, they will be accompanied by Madam Lestrange herself—or rather Hermione Granger in the guise of Bellatrix.
Since her introduction in « Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, » one of the hallmarks of Bellatrix Lestrange has been how utterly mad she is, and Helena Bonham Carter had always reveled in the boundless nature of her character. Portraying Hermione pretending to be Bellatrix, however, required a few definite boundaries. Bonham Carter attests, « It’s not actually Bellatrix; it’s Hermione’s version of Bellatrix. They are total opposites so it was good fun because it gave me another texture to play. »
Capturing the dichotomy involved the collaboration of Bonham Carter, Yates and the person who knows Hermione better than anyone: Emma Watson.
Yates recalls, « We had a big rehearsal session where Emma basically did the scene, demonstrating how she would walk and how she would say her lines and we videotaped it so Helena could incorporate that into her performance. »
Bonham Carter adds, « Emma and I discussed the scene at length and she gave me terrific bullet points, which became my Hermione guidebook. »
« One of the things I really wanted Helena to get across is how awkward the whole experience is for Hermione, » Watson observes. « She is very uncomfortable because, for one thing, Hermione is somewhat prudish and Bellatrix is wild and goes around in a leather corset. And Bellatrix is evil and arrogant while Hermione is a good person, so being mean and demanding to everyone doesn’t come naturally to her at all. »
With Ron disguised as a Death Eater, and Harry and Griphook hidden beneath the Invisibility Cloak, the group makes their way into Gringotts, where rows of goblin bank tellers barely look up from their ledgers.
For the Gringotts sequence, Davis did double duty, not only acting but casting. He explains, « I represent actors under five feet tall, so the filmmakers came to me and asked me to help them find more than 60 people to play goblins, who could also handle the extensive prosthetics. We had actors come in from all over Europe, so it was like the United Nations of goblins. »
Turning dozens of actors into goblins also entailed a multilateral effort from special make-up effects designer Nick Dudman and his team. They began by sculpting the goblin faces, with the caveat that no two could be identical. Dudman confirms, « We had to carefully monitor the designs so they wouldn’t look alike because we wanted to make them each individual. We then mass produced all the prosthetic pieces, but every one had to be hand-painted and the hairs of the eyebrows had to be placed one-by-one into the silicone. It’s incredibly labor intensive. »
An assembly line of approximately 170 make-up artists was recruited to apply the goblins’ make-up, which took as long as four hours per goblin. In order to ensure that each one was done according to Dudman’s specifications, he ran a three-day workshop, training a multi-national team to apply the make-up over and over again until he felt they were accurate. Nevertheless, Dudman emphasizes, « Nobody left that room without me checking them. »
Since the goblins were bankers, costume designer Jany Temime and her department dressed them all very conservatively in three-piece pinstripe suits, each of which was specially made.
The Gringotts scene in « Sorcerer’s Stone » was actually shot on location, with the Australian Embassy doubling for the wizard bank. That location was not an option for « Deathly Hallows – Part 2, » as the action would result in a considerable amount of destruction. The Gringotts Bank set was instead constructed in the flight shed at Leavesden Studios.
Stuart Craig, who has served as the production designer on all of the Harry Potter films, saw it as an opportunity to improve on the bank design, making it bolder while staying true to the spirit of the original. « This is a magical bank, so we wanted it to look very traditional but to exaggerate it. There is more polished marble than you could ever imagine—marble floors, marble walls, marble columns, marble counters. It’s all faux, but it looks amazing. And we had fun with the goblins being imperiously perched on their very high stools at their very high desks looking down on their customers. We also made three enormous chandeliers because it was impossible to find any that were big enough for our needs. »
Through an amalgam of subterfuge and magic, Harry, Hermione and Ron trick their way down to the Gringotts vaults, which are located in a vast cavern beneath the building. It can only be accessed via a cart that careens along a spiraling track akin to that of a roller coaster…and at similar speeds, albeit without the safety restraints. Special effects supervisor John Richardson recounts, « We built the cart from the ground up based on Stuart Craig’s designs. Unlike most vehicles, where we had multiple versions, there was only one cart, so it had to be able to be attached to different rigs as well as be mounted on the track, enabling it to move up and down and tilt side to side. »
At the cavern’s deepest level, Harry, Ron and Hermione are faced with the bank’s maximum security system—a giant, fire-breathing dragon that is as much a prisoner as it is a guard. The fearsome winged dragon was the latest creature rendered through CGI by the visual effects team, headed by Tim Burke.
With Griphook disclosing the dragon’s vulnerability, the group manages to evade it and get to Bellatrix’s vault. The door opens to reveal an inestimable fortune in gold coins and various artifacts. But Bellatrix has instituted one final security measure: a Gemino curse, which causes every object they touch to sprout unlimited multiples of itself. Sensing the presence of a Horcrux—Helga Hufflepuff’s cup—Harry has seconds to get it and get out before they are all crushed under the mounting treasure trove.
Working within the limited space constraints, Richardson’s team crafted a series of scissor lifts that rose up to give the illusion of the treasure mounting. The props department, led by property master Barry Wilkinson and supervising modeler Pierre Bohanna, molded more than 200,000 golden coins and thousands of other items to fill the vault. Visual effects were then utilized to reproduce each item, exactly and exponentially.
Once Harry, Ron and Hermione have the Horcrux in hand, it will take a combination of ingenuity and compassion to escape Gringotts. But greater perils await the trio, who find themselves alone again with no turning back.
« Ultimately, » states Radcliffe, « they all know the reason they are on this journey, and it’s bigger than any one of them, or all three of them, or even their friends and families. For these 17 year olds to have the maturity and courage to recognize that what’s at stake is more important than any of their individual lives is quite impressive, and I also think it’s what makes it a very moving story. »
« The boy has discovered our secret, Nagini. »
Harry Potter’s singular connection with Lord Voldemort has caused the young wizard fear and pain, but it has also provided him with a unique insight into the mind of the Dark Lord. Now it is showing him that Voldemort knows what they have been up to. Worse, instead of weakening him, the destruction of each Horcrux has made him like a wounded animal…desperate and even more dangerous.
Yates offers, « When Voldemort discovers that Harry has been hunting Horcruxes, he realizes for the first time that he might be vulnerable and we see him start to fragment, not physically as much as internally. »
« Something essential is ripped out of Voldemort every time a Horcrux is destroyed and David encouraged me to play those scenes as if he’s imploding, » Fiennes recalls. « David was fantastic; there wasn’t one shot—even those that would only be seen for a fraction of a second—where he didn’t try to mine every aspect of what’s going on within Voldemort, and I really valued that. »
The director says, « Ralph and I both wanted to explore Voldemort’s fear, his anger—all the things that make him the monster he is. »
Speaking from an effects standpoint, Tim Burke shares that they wanted the eradication of each Horcrux to have a physical manifestation. « We needed to represent the evil of Voldemort with dark and disturbing images that really tap into people’s subconscious fears. »
From the time Voldemort was resurrected onscreen in « Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, » visual effects were employed to complete his serpentine visage. Burke details, « We used a process called digital prosthetics, where we took away a few of Ralph’s features and added the snakelike qualities like the slits for his nostrils. All of the nuances of his expressions had to be tracked in every single frame where Voldemort appears, and that’s no small feat. »
In a more literal sense, the visual effects team also brought to life the actual snake, Nagini, who is never far from Voldemort’s side. Fiennes says, « He is very tender with her. It is quite possibly the most intimate relationship he’s ever had, like a fellow spirit. »
« You’re Aberforth. Dumbledore’s brother. »
Through Voldemort’s eyes, Harry also gleans that another Horcrux lies within Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Rowling says, « It makes complete sense that Voldemort would have hidden a Horcrux at Hogwarts since he mostly hid them in locations that were significant to him, and Hogwarts was once his home. That’s a major thing he and Harry have in common—for both of them, Hogwarts had been a place of refuge. »
However, the place that had once been a safe haven for Harry is now enemy territory, with Death Eaters in control of the school and Dementors patrolling the perimeter. Returning to Hogwarts will put him and everyone there at tremendous risk, but it is a risk he must take.
Harry, Ron and Hermione will have to sneak in through a secret passage in Hogsmeade. But the instant they apparate into view, alarms start to blare. The trio are about to be cornered when a door opens and a seemingly familiar figure ushers them inside. For an instant, they almost believe it is the late Professor Albus Dumbledore, but their rescuer is soon revealed to be his estranged brother, Aberforth.
Joining the Harry Potter ensemble, Ciarán Hinds was cast as Aberforth Dumbledore, whose lingering resentment towards his brother stems back to events in their youth. Hinds elaborates, « There was a friction between them because of choices Albus made to the detriment of their little sister, Ariana. And it would appear from the way Aberforth speaks of him that he just wasn’t ever able to move on from that. »
Although the filmmakers did not want Hinds’ Aberforth to look identical to Michael Gambon’s Albus, Dudman and make-up designer Amanda Knight collaborated to give the brothers a strong family resemblance.
However, as Jany Temime points out, « He dresses completely different from Albus because Aberforth owns a pub and Albus was a professor. The Dumbledores are Scottish, so the kilt was essential. »
Despite having helped Harry, Aberforth’s bitterness spills over as he tries to dissuade him from jeopardizing his life to accomplish a mission given to him by Albus. But regardless of all the negative allegations that have come to light about Professor Dumbledore, Harry has made his choice. « One of the big themes in these last films is faith, » Radcliffe asserts. « How long can Harry keep faith in this man whose character has been increasingly questioned? »
Barron answers, « Harry decides to trust the Dumbledore he knew, the man he believed in and who never let him down. Dumbledore gave him a crucial task to complete, no matter what it takes, and now he just needs to get on with it. »
« Snape knows. He knows that Harry was spotted… »
Harry’s steadfastness proves more potent than Aberforth’s rancor. He relents and sends for help, which comes in the form of an old friend: Neville Longbottom, played again by Matthew Lewis. Though they are thrilled to be reunited with their Gryffindor housemate, Harry, Ron and Hermione are stunned by the obvious abuse to which Neville has been subjected. It is their first indication of just how much things have changed at their school, which also has a new headmaster, Severus Snape.
« Hogwarts is a shadow of its former self, » Heyman relates. « The Death Eaters have taken charge and any infraction of their rules is met with considerable brutality. »
« It’s become a pretty grim place, more like a prison than a school of magic, » says Yates, who adds that he and cinematographer Eduardo Serra applied a distinct shooting style in order to set the tone. « We incorporated a specific palette of colors: blues and cooler tones that were muted. These developed into warmer and more operatic yellows and reds—the color of fire, the color of blood… There are sections of Part 2 that I wanted to feel like a war movie on an epic scale. »
Guided by Neville through a hidden tunnel, Harry, Hermione and Ron arrive at Hogwarts, where they are met with an eruption of joy and relief by many of their old friends, including Luna Lovegood (Evanna Lynch), Cho Chang (Katie Leung), Seamus Finnigan (Devon Murray) and Dean Thomas (Alfie Enoch). There is also a sense of hope that Harry’s homecoming signals the start of a new rebellion for Dumbledore’s Army. « His very presence inspires them, » Barron states. « It gives them confidence that they are not alone. »
For the time being, Harry needs their help to piece together the clues to the whereabouts of a Horcrux, which he knows has something to do with Rowena Ravenclaw. Luna and Cho, both Ravenclaws, surmise that it could be Rowena’s lost diadem, which they define as a kind of tiara…and which no one alive has ever seen. Before Harry can act on the information, Ginny Weasley rushes in and, checking her own elation at seeing Harry, tells them that Harry has been spotted…and Snape knows.
Bonnie Wright reprises the role of Ginny, whose relationship with Harry Potter has grown from a schoolgirl crush to a full-fledged romance. « In that instant they are reunited and the bond between them is obvious, but there is no time for them to connect because everything is moving so fast, » she notes. « And Ginny understands he has greater responsibilities, which is part of what drew Harry to her. She doesn’t see him as ‘the Chosen One’; she sees him as Harry. I loved taking Ginny from a very shy little girl to this confident young woman. »
Snape has summoned everyone to the Great Hall, which is now cold and gray, in stark contrast to the welcoming warmth of years past. Gone are the long tables filled with sumptuous foods, and the glowing light from suspended candles. Instead of the boisterous gathering of classmates, the students march silently in tight rows, grouped according to their houses. In this instance, however, the close formation provides the perfect camouflage for a bespectacled young man with a telltale scar.
As the inscrutable Professor Snape, Alan Rickman, with his trademark deliberate delivery, warns the assembled students that anyone caught helping Harry Potter would be dealt with…severely. Yates remarks, « The way Alan not only uses words but the space between words is completely delicious. I’ve never worked with an actor who’s delivered lines as slowly as Alan, » the director quips, « but he makes you hang on every word, every pause, every breath because you can’t wait to hear what’s coming next. »
« Some of it is just handing yourself over to the material, » says Rickman. « Jo laid out such a sure road map. We see what Snape’s hair is like and what he wears: he’s got only one set of clothes, clearly, » he laughs. « We know he lives a solitary existence. We’re told he never really raises his voice. It’s about an explosive energy…but a contained one. »
Snape’s words have barely left his mouth when Harry steps out to confront the man he saw kill Professor Dumbledore and then had the audacity to take his place. Harry’s daring mobilizes both his friends and his teachers, including Professors McGonagall and Flitwick. And in the doorway stands Remus Lupin (David Thewlis) and Kingsley Shacklebolt (George Harris), as well as members of the Weasley clan: parents Molly (Julie Walters) and Arthur (Mark Williams), twins Fred and George (James and Oliver Phelps), and newlyweds Bill and Fleur (Domhnall Gleeson and Cleménce Poésy). On the heels of the Chosen One’s return, the surviving members of the Order of the Phoenix have risen to make their stand against the forces of the Dark Lord.
Maggie Smith reprises the part of Minerva McGonagall, who steps between Snape and Harry and engages in a fiery wand duel with her former colleague. « Maggie is a world-class actress, who makes the most of every line and every scene she’s in. I loved getting to work with her again, » says Yates.
Snape retreats in dramatic fashion, but the celebration is short-lived as Lord Voldemort makes his omnipresence known. With war looming on the horizon, McGonagall casts a spell that summons all of Hogwarts’ forces to defend the castle, magically bringing to life the stone sentries that have stood silent watch for years. The once-inanimate soldiers were designed and sculpted by Stuart Craig’s art department, and then animated via visual effects.
Tim Burke’s VFX team was also responsible for creating the wand-generated force field, which he says was inspired by jellyfish. « Jellyfish have amazing structures, yet appear translucent and often emit phosphorescent light. We used this inspiration for our wand effect, which helped give it an organic feel. »
The wizards know the force field won’t hold off the combined onslaught of the Death Eaters for long, but it will buy them enough time for Neville, Seamus and Ginny to rig a booming reception for the invaders. And it will give Harry time to continue his mission. « Because, » as Heyman asserts, « if he doesn’t find the remaining Horcruxes, there is no hope of victory. »
« If we die for them, I’m gonna kill you, Harry! »
As the battle escalates, Harry, Hermione and Ron split up—with Harry searching for the Horcrux, and Hermione and Ron going after the means to annihilate it. The sword of Gryffindor, which they used to destroy Salazar Slytherin’s locket in « Part 1, » was lost to them at Gringotts, but Ron has a revelation. Rupert Grint clarifies, « He has the idea to use a Basilisk fang to destroy the Horcruxes, they way Harry did with Tom Riddle’s diary in the Chamber of Secrets. »
The Basilisk was killed, but his skeleton—with fangs intact—remains. Ron and Hermione make their way down to the Chamber, the design of which was unchanged from the series’ second film, with one addition: the skeleton of the long-dead Basilisk, which was specially sculpted by Nick Dudman’s department.
Pulling out one of the fangs, Ron hands it to Hermione, who, with a bit of bolstering, stabs it into the cup, which spews a torrent of anger and terror that leaves them drenched and breathless. Without a word, they fall into each other’s arms for the kiss that fans have been awaiting.
It was a moment Grint and Watson had also been anticipating, albeit for different reasons. « Because I’ve known Emma since we were little kids, I thought it would feel weird, » Grint admits. « No disrespect to Emma, who is obviously lovely, but I just couldn’t imagine it. I got quite nervous about it the more I built it up in my head. »
As it turns out, Watson shared his anxiety. « The fact that Rupert and I have such a strong friendship is actually what made it a bit uncomfortable, » she confides. « If you’ve grown up with someone who is literally like a sibling to you and are then put in a situation where you have to kiss them, in a romantic sense, it’s really awkward. »
Understanding their concerns, David Yates did not tell them when they would be filming the kiss until the evening before and then gave each a bit of directorly advice. « I told them just to forget Rupert and Emma and let Ron and Hermione take over. They totally committed to it, and it was charming…absolutely smashing. »
Meanwhile, Harry is rushing to the Ravenclaw Common Room when he is stopped in his tracks by Luna Lovegood, who shows a rare forceful side of her personality. Evanna Lynch says, « Harry is thinking he doesn’t have time for any of Luna’s crazy theories, but she has something imperative to tell him. When he won’t listen, she gets frustrated and yells at him, which he doesn’t expect from Luna. »
Reminding him that no one alive has seen Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem, Luna sends Harry to see the one person, or rather ghost, who might be able to help him. Kelly Macdonald appears as Ravenclaw Tower’s legendary Gray Lady, who is actually the ghost of Rowena’s daughter, Helena. Unwilling to tell Harry outright where the diadem is, she presents him with a riddle, the answer to which sends him running to the Room of Requirement, where the Horcrux is hidden amongst what looks like centuries’ worth of discarded furniture, books, and myriad other random artifacts.
Craig describes, « The Room of Requirement occupied one of our biggest spaces—some 200 feet by 300 feet—and was filled from floor to ceiling with furniture and all sorts of objects of every shape and size. Set dresser Stephenie McMillan and her people were buying used furniture for months and months prior to filming—just an amazing amount of things. »
Green screens bordered the set, which would allow the visual effects team to expand the space and add to the sheer volume of items, in keeping with David Yates’ edict to make the room feel « like a mountain range of stuff. » The director affirms, « It needed to feel like it stretched on forever, beyond the horizon. »
Mixed in amongst the piles are specific articles that eagle-eyed Harry Potter film fans might recognize. McMillan says, « We recycled many props from the previous films: old desks, all the tables and benches from the Great Hall, brooms, the professors’ stools, chess pieces, the set dressing from Professor Slughorn’s party… »
« There were pieces from all the films…a lot of history, » Heyman says. « That’s what made it one of my favorite sets. »
One stack of furniture had to be rigged to permit the actors to climb it safely—first when Harry goes after the Horcrux and then when Draco Malfoy goes after Harry. Draco tracked Harry down to demand back his wand, which Harry took from him at Malfoy Manor in « Part 1. » It was there that Draco had curiously saved Harry’s life by not revealing Harry’s identity to his Aunt Bellatrix.
Returning in the role of Draco, Tom Felton observes, « It’s never really explained why Draco chose to do that; it’s nice that Jo left it to our interpretation. As for me, I believe he reached a point where he wants to be good, but evil is in his DNA. It’s a difficult struggle for Draco but a lot of fun for me to play it. »
« Draco evolved from a fairly two-dimensional bully to a very complex character, » Rowling attests. « Tom blew us away with what he did with the role as Draco began to crack and show a range of emotion you would never have expected from the early films. »
Accompanied by Blaise and Goyle, two of his Slytherin lackeys, Draco corners Harry in the Room of Requirement. But the confrontation turns deadly when Goyle’s wand literally backfires, engulfing the entire room in a living Fiendfyre. Although most of the flames would be added in post-production, Richardson’s special effects team strategically placed flambeaus around the room. « We certainly felt the heat, » Felton says, « so it’s a mixture of visualizing what’s going to be there and seeing what’s right in front of you. »
With the fire cutting off every avenue of escape, Harry—along with Hermione and Ron, who returned just in time—grab brooms and fly. Now they must choose whether to leave Draco behind or risk their own lives saving their longtime nemesis. Ron makes his opinion on the rescue clear, but for Harry, there is no choice. Grint declares, « That was a cool scene. It was great to be back on the brooms, especially since we knew it would be for the last time. »
Over the course of the films, the broom rigs have constantly evolved, enabling the filmmakers to achieve more intricate flying sequences and to accommodate the young cast as they grew up. Richardson says, « We ended up with a gimbal-mounted broom with a seat that was molded to the rider who was securely strapped on, so even if the broomstick turned upside down, they’d stay with it. Then the gimbal sat on a six-axis motion base. Between the two, we could get a completely fluid flying movement that could be as erratic or as sweeping as we wanted. »
Nevertheless, the final film required another upgrade, as the rescue sequence involved tandem flying. « For that, » Richardson adds, « we had to build a different type of broomstick rig, which was mounted on a track so we could fly it at high speeds past a table on a hydraulic ramp that tilted and collapsed at the precise right time. The flier on the broom had to link arms with the guy on the table and swing him onto the back of the broom, cowboy style. That was tricky to work out, but I think it came out great. »
Executing the challenging rescue was a group effort by members of the cast as well as the stunt team, led by stunt coordinator Greg Powell. Powell also collaborated closely with Richardson and second unit director Stephen Woolfenden on the explosion of the footbridge, which is one of Hogwarts’ last lines of defense.
Woolfenden’s unit captured aerials of the bridge high above Fort William in Scotland. « It looks down onto the beautiful loch, and the backdrop is stunning, » he says.
The actual demolition was accomplished using a hydraulic bridge located at Pinewood Studios. Powell says, « It’s all on hydraulics, but when it goes, it freefalls down, so it left the stuntmen in midair for that one beat, which looked really good. »
At the bridge, Neville squares off with legions of Death Eaters, which proves, says Matthew Lewis, « There’s a bit more to Neville than meets the eye. » Having played the role throughout the franchise, the actor was happy to see his character realize the heroic potential he always knew was there. « Neville never seemed to be a lionhearted person, not someone who deserved to be in the proud house of Gryffindor. But Harry always believed in him and that made Neville start to believe in himself, and all the strength and valor that was bubbling just beneath the surface finally comes out. Now he’s become this brave freedom fighter, which is really cool and very rewarding. »
Yates says, « By the end of the battle, Neville has been battered and bloodied, but he refuses to give up the fight, which is wonderfully moving. »
« Harry Potter. The boy who lived. Come to die. »
The battle for Hogwarts is raging around them, but Harry, Hermione and Ron are still waging another war…for the entire wizarding world. The trail of the next, and possibly most dangerous, Horcrux leads them to the school’s Boathouse, where the trio witnesses a pivotal encounter between Snape and Voldemort.
Heyman says, « One of the most intriguing things about Jo’s books is that the characters inhabit a gray area between light and darkness, good and evil, as we all do. Snape’s history, for one, is much more complicated than we ever imagined, and I think audiences will really enjoy seeing his full story revealed. »
« You always knew he had an agenda, » notes Rickman. « It was a question of what that agenda would turn out to be… The risks grew as he stepped into muddier and muddier waters. Eventually, it became about redemption and loyalty and, in Snape’s case—without giving anything away—a certain kind of courage of conviction. »
In the book, the critical exchange between the Dark Lord and Severus Snape was set in the Shrieking Shack, but David Yates got permission from Rowling herself to reset the scene for « Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. »
Constructed in the Flight Shed at Leavesden, the Boathouse sits on the edge of the water below the Hogwarts castle. Craig designed the building with Tudor-style glass walls, so, he says, « You’re always aware of the fighting in the background, because the fires are reflected in the glass and in the water. »
Water also reflects memories in the Pensieve in Dumbledore’s office, where Harry realizes what he must do. Daniel Radcliffe recounts, « In ‘Order of the Phoenix,’ Harry learned of the prophecy that said ‘Neither can live while the other survives.’ Since then, at every step of his journey, he’s known it would come to a head at some point, and he’s absolutely aware that this is it. »
« Harry knows that his and Voldemort’s destinies are intertwined, » Heyman says. « Confronted with the choice to go out and face the Dark Lord or allow everyone else to die, Harry is prepared to meet his fate. And Dan was amazing. He conveyed a wisdom and a maturity in those scenes that was way beyond his years. He really considered the emotions and the reasons behind each of Harry’s actions and brought a real truth to his performance. »
Yates adds, « One of my favorite scenes is when Harry takes that long walk alone to save everybody else. There’s something really beautiful and haunting in his resolve. »
« Come on, Tom. Let’s finish this the way we started it…
The long-awaited showdown between Harry and Voldemort « brings them back to the place where they each became who they were, » Rowling states. « It had to end at Hogwarts. »
Their battle plays out through the school’s once-hallowed halls. Yates staged the sequence so it was not just two wizards in a wand duel, but two sworn enemies locked in mortal combat that can only end when one…or both…are dead.
The director elaborates, « We have them racing through the halls hurling spells at each other, but it also gets very physical. There’s a point where they have each other by the throat and fall off a high balustrade, and they’re twisting and turning, until you’re not sure where one ends and the other begins. I was very keen to explore that because, thematically, that connection is what we’d been developing throughout the films. »
Craig and his team crafted the set to provide a multi-leveled arena. The production designer says, « Our principal objective was to introduce another element to the battlefield that would provide for more interesting blocking, so David (Yates) was involved in the design plan from the start. We created a series of staircases so that either Harry or Voldemort could be in the ascendancy and the other below, but it could switch very easily. »
« I must have climbed more stairs for that scene than I have in my entire life, » Radcliffe laughs. « But it was incredible. »
Merging practical design and virtual design has always been integral to establishing the worlds of the Harry Potter movies, but that amalgamation was particularly vital in staging the battle at Hogwarts in « Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. » For the first time, the wide exterior shots of Hogwarts Castle were not captured with practical models, but were instead rendered though the use of CGI.
Yates says, « We constructed a good part of it, as always, but we also built a digital Hogwarts, which gave us the freedom to take the action in and around the school, anywhere we wanted. »
But Harry and Voldemort are not the only ones fighting to the death. All around them the good and evil forces of the wizarding world—including creatures great and small—are engaged in a climactic all-out war, which bring brings back many familiar faces on both sides.
David Barron states, « We were fantastically lucky because virtually the entire cast wanted to be part of the finale. Some of them are only briefly seen, but it was important to them, and to us, that they be there. There are even a few characters who came to an untimely end in the previous films who make their presence felt in surprising ways, like Gary Oldman as Sirius Black and Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. »
The returning cast also included Robbie Coltrane as Rubeus Hagrid, Emma Thompson as Professor Sybil Trelawney, Jim Broadbent as Professor Horace Slughorn, Miriam Margolyes as Professor Pomona Sprout, Gemma Jones as Madam Pomfrey, David Bradley as Argus Filch, Jason Isaacs and Helen McCrory as Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, Natalia Tena as Nymphadora Tonks, and Dave Legeno as Fenrir Greyback.
The war against the Death Eaters takes a terrible toll on a number of favorite characters. Beloved wizards have fallen and Bellatrix Lestrange is poised to kill another—Ginny Weasley—when Molly Weasley steps into the fray.
Playing the Weasley family matriarch, Julie Walters offers, « Of course, Bellatrix is thinking, ‘Come on, Granny,’ but she has no idea what she’s up against when she takes on the fierce, protective love of a mother. »
The power of a mother’s love has been an inherent theme throughout the Harry Potter stories, beginning with Lily Potter, whose supreme sacrifice for her son allowed him to be « the boy who lived. » Rowling relates, « I lost my own mother six months into writing Harry Potter and then I became a mother shortly after. Motherhood, in every way, had a huge influence on my own life as I was writing the series, so it naturally seeped into the story in a relevant way. »
Faced with a decision that could spell life or death for Harry, Narcissa Malfoy proves that the strength of a mother’s love is not confined to any one side. « Narcissa may be a Lestrange by birth and a Malfoy by marriage, but it is the passionate loyalty to her son that defines her. Risking her own life, she protects Draco—first and foremost, she is a mother. »
On the other hand, « Voldemort sees no necessity for love or friendship or compassion, » Radcliffe observes. « He thinks of them as quite contemptible, a weakness, but that is his own weakness. »
The casualties of the war extend beyond people to the stately Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which is left in utter ruin. Though the resulting devastation appears to be haphazard, Craig counters that it was all by design. « It wasn’t just a question of knocking some walls down; the silhouette was as significant as a piece of sculpture. The Great Hall, for example, was the spine of Hogwarts, so in demolishing that, we knew it had to be an image that would leave a lasting impression. »
« There is the sense that this is what war does; it decimates your places of safety and security, » Rowling says. « Yes, they may only be physical places. But when it’s home, that’s everything. »
The Great Hall had been one of the earliest and largest sets ever erected and it was a constant at Leavesden throughout the entire series. The sight of the production’s longest-standing set reduced to rubble had a tremendous impact on the filmmakers, cast and crew.
Radcliffe recalls, « It was hard to watch something that had always been so vast and so solid suddenly be knocked down. »
« It was quite shocking, » Grint nods. « We grew up on those sets, so it was difficult for all of us to see. »
« The idea of everything being taken down permanently felt a bit tragic, » Watson says. « I guess I imagined they would always be there, » she smiles.
Heyman, who had, years ago, witnessed the Hogwarts sets being built, offers, « To see the grandeur of Hogwarts destroyed was very emotional. In a very graphic way, it really brought home the fact that we were rapidly moving toward the end of the journey. »
Emotions were high for everyone involved in the production as each day marked the « last time » for some aspect of filming until it was, in fact, a wrap.
At the end of their decade-long journey, the cast and filmmakers all share a sense of gratitude and pride as they bring the historic film series to a close.
David Barron recalls, « I thought I was prepared because we knew the day was coming for so long, but it was surprisingly moving for all of us. Everybody put so much of themselves into these movies, and on this one we all shared the added goal of making it a fitting finale to the series. »
« Part of one’s job is to say goodbye, » Alan Rickman says. « There comes that time when it is right and proper to let it go; otherwise you can’t move on. And so the best thing one can say is that it all ended the right way. »
Rupert Grint offers, « The Harry Potter experience was an amazing time of my life, and something I’ll never forget. I’m so proud to have been a part of it. »
« How do I put into words what all of this has meant to me? » Emma Watson muses. « I don’t consider it over because it will always be a part of who I am, and I feel so blessed to have shared in it. »
Daniel Radcliffe reflects, « I know I’ll never see a frame of these films that I don’t connect immediately to a memory of a place or a time or a person. Even now I can’t fully express how important it’s been to me, but I can say it was a great time and it’s something I will never be able to recreate. »
David Yates agrees. « It’s really hard to contextualize it, except to say it’s been enormous fun—intense and very challenging at times, but never not fun. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and I’m proud and happy to have seen it through to the end. »
« This was a wonderful collaboration, » J.K. Rowling shares. « I was proud to work and form lasting friendships with some immensely talented people. So the overall experience of the films for me has been truly outstanding. »
« I count myself extremely fortunate to have been part of Harry Potter, but none of us would have had this opportunity were it not for Jo Rowling and the world she so brilliantly created, » David Heyman concludes. « One of the things I love about the books is that the stories are timeless…and hopefully we’ve achieved that with the movies. »