French magazine “ONE” set visit report
Feb 04, 2004
French magazine “ONE” has just published a new set report of POA. Thanks to our good friend Winky, of PotterWorldOnline, we have the scans of the magazine article. Included in the translation below of the article are descriptions of the Honeydukes shop and scenes being filmed for the movie.
Please note: As with any translation, sometimes exact words or phrases do not come across. Our thanks as always to Winky for her good work!
An hour’s drive from London, in the middle of the British countryside, is the best secured cinema studio in the world. It’s name: Leavesden. It’s in this mythical studio that many legendary movies have been made, like “Star Wars” episodes 1 & 2, the “Matrix” trilogy, and the last “James Bond”. It is also here that the biggest part of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher/Sorcerer’s Stone” and “The Chamber of Secrets” were made, and, since February 2003, the filming location for one of the most awaited film of the year, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”.
The first thing we can say is that the gate to the studio is very protected. At the entry, we have to show the badges given to us by the production company, and we have to leave our cameras and cellphones with the security agents. Nobody except the official photographers of the movie have the right to take pictures of the set or the actors. However, a lot of people have tried – indeed, there’s not a day at Leavesden without a paparazzi attempting to enter the studios to take exclusive pics of “The Prisoner of Azkaban” – some of them have even attempted to infiltrate the studio by landing with an helicopter on the roof! That’s why there are many guards on the set, to watch the actions of the visitors.
The first set we are going to visit is the one that was some times ago Diagon Alley, the huge commercial street where Harry buy all his school stuff in “The Philosopher/Sorcerer’s Stone”. But the set has been totally remade, and now, the film crew has built Hogsmeade. The set is covered with fake snow (in fact, it’s polystyrene flakes and big salt grains!) and is really realistic. Amazed, we’re walking in front of different shops with strange names like “Dervish and Bangs”, “The Three Broomsticks” and “Honeydukes”. This last shop is very famous to Harry Potter fans. Indeed, it’s a shop where you can find all the candies imaginable – blood-flavoured lollipops, Bertie Botts every flavour beans, Pepper Imps. We open the door of Honeydukes, and there is a spectacle that every child dreams of: the shop is full of candies of every colour and size.. A real paradise for every greedy person! After having tested a delicious chocolate frog, we inspect every detail of the room and notice that it looks very familiar: in fact, one of the technical team member working on the set told us this set was once the Ollivander shop, the magic wands seller from “The Philosopher/Sorcerer’s Stone”.
After having visited Diagon Alley, we go to a totally different set. It’s a big empty room, and at the end is a big green screen. This is where the Quidditch scenes are about to be filmed! About ten minutes later, two young actors in Quidditch robes take to their brooms, in the air, hanging with cables, and Alfonso Cuaron, the director, sits down in front of his control monitor. In this scene, one of the Quidditch players (who is not one of the main characters) has his broom struck by lightening, and he crashed to the floor. In more than an hour, many shots of this scene are filmed, then all the team goes to another set, where we hope to finally see Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson.
Hogwart’s Great Hall
We go to another set, the one with the moving staircases the portrait-covered walls of old School headmasters. In fact, the teachers in the portraits are part of the technical crew, people who wanted to enter into the legend of the magical school! Not so far away is the set of Dumbledore’s office, [which is?] now the Astronomy class. On of the staff member tells us that’s in this classroom that Professor Lupin teach to Harry the Patronus curse.
After a long walk, we arrive to the biggest set of the film: Hogwarts Great Hall. Inspired by the Oxford University Hall, it’s really spectacular. Its floors are covered with marble and its height is dizzying. For a few moments, we really feel like we’re at Hogwarts, ready to meet the venerable Dumbledore. Speaking of Dumbledore, we’re go to his chair and we sit down… very comfortable! But there’s no more time to play the tourists. A scene is ready to be filmed. While the operator chief and his assistants are lighting the set, three recognizable silhouettes appear. There, at a small distance in front of us, are two boys and a girl having a conversation with another person. The three of them are wearing the Hogwarts uniform. No doubt, it’s the three movie’s stars, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson. When their conversation is finished, the three young people turn and go to the middle of the set. They are now in front of us. But when we look closely, there’s a problem. Something is not right. It’s not Daniel, Rupert and Emma, but their stand-ins! They look really like them, it’s amazing. In fact, this young people have to take the place of the real actors before the filming of each scene. Their part is to help the operator chief to with the lighting; they never call the real actors to do this tedious task. A few minutes later, the real actors arrive. Daniel enter in first, followed by Emma and Rupert. This is their first scene of the day and they look impatient to do this scene where Harry receives his new broom, send by Sirius Black, the famous Prisoner of Azkaban. Alfonso Cuaron talks to the actors in private and give them some explanations, while a lot of extras take their places. Even if he’s not talking loudly, we can hear the director saying to Daniel not to exaggerate his reaction of surprise when he will discover his new broom. Daniel takes this remark into consideration and the scene is quickly filmed. After four shots, the director is satisfied and goes to Daniel to shake his hand, laughing. The actor will confirm this later: “Alfonso is a very hearty guy. I’ve never met such an energetic director like him. The scenes we have already filmed are full of emotion and more intense than in the two previous films.”
One thing is sure – “The Prisoner of Azkaban” will be very different from the two previous “Harry Potter” films. Alfonso Cuaron wanted to take some liberties with the J.K.Rowling book. For example, in many scenes, the Hogwarts students are not wearing their uniforms but modern clothes, like jeans or pullovers with hoods. A little revolution in the “Harry Potter” universe! The other change is in the visual aspect of the film. Indeed, Alfonso Cuaron prefers general shots to close-up shots. They were very little used in the previous “Harry Potter”. “His style is very surprising”, Daniel [tells us]. “Alfonso doesn’t like when the camera is too far from the actors, he [gives us more liberty in] moving.”
We have a break so we are visit the accessories department, a huge place where we find a lot of items and creatures used for the three movies. There’s the giant spider and the mandrakes of “The Chamber of Secret”, a [gigantic suit of] armour, some magicial books and, the most surprising, a wax statue of Tom Felton, aka Malfoy, who, with eyes closed, is apparently sleeping. In fact, this statue was used in a scene of the new film, where Hagrid carries Malfoy, who has been petrified. But it’s impossible to know more…
We return to the Great Hall for the rest of the day, with some dinner scenes. It’s now 7:00 PM and everybody goes home. Indeed, most of the actors are children, and British law doesn’t allow them to work late at night. The next day, all the team goes to another studio where a frozen lake set has been built. It’s there that one of the most important scene of the movie will be filmed…
“Expecto Patronum!”. Near the lake, artificially recreated in the Shepperton Studios, Daniel Radcliffe casts a spell with his wand on an invisible creature, which will be added later by computer. Twenty shots of this scene have already been filmed, but Alfonso Cuaron is still not satisfied with Daniel’s performance. For him, Daniel’s invocation misses conviction and determination. We have to say that this scene is very important. Harry is with Hermione, after having goneback in the time, and he sees a Dementor (an evil creature who “suck” his victims’ souls) on the lake and casts a spell, the Patronus, to destroy him. There again, the filming of this scene is very hard. At every shot, a little detail messes up everything, like a vague camera movement or a projector that has to be put back in its place. Finally, after 40 shots (a record), the director is satisfied: “Cut, it’s the good one!”, he shouts to all the team. Evrybody applauds and Daniel Radcliffe can now breathe a sigh of relief. When we asked him if he’s not too tired after this 40 takes, Daniel is really surprised: “No. Not at the moment. When you are concentrating, you don’t feel tired. It’s only at the end of the day that you feel really tired. But you really need a lot of energy to [deal with] the stress of [filming a movie like this one].” “We are at the end of filming, so we are all a little tired, obviously, Rupert says. “But sincerely, I enjoy doing this more than going to school!”.”
Not so far away [is someone not] unknown to us; he’s having a conversation, smiling, with members of the team. It’s Gary Oldman (“The Fifth Element” and “Dracula”). The famous actor will be Sirius Black on big screen, the Prisoner of Azkaban. His aim is apparently to kill Harry Potter. In the film, there’s a lot of tattoos everywhere on his body; it gives him a scary look. “It’s an idea of Alfonso’s”, Gary Oldman tells us. Then, apparently in a good mood, he agrees to tell us a little more on his character’s performance: “Sirius Black represents a big danger for Harry. I tried to make this character as threatening as I could I wanted the spectators to be absolutely terrified when see him.” After seeing Gary Oldman’s performance, we have no doubt the spectators will be really scared when they meet this character. To be sure of this, go to your cinema on 2nd June…. (PS: In France and Switzerland, the movie [premiere] will be on this date).