Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Set Report
By Melissa Anelli
Check out our full transcripts complete with audio! All transcripts done by our WONDERFUL transcription elves!
What has made Half-Blood Prince different than the other Harry Potter films before it so far? Is it the inevitable, palpable feeling of impending closure? Is it the continual evolution of the main stars from children into adult stars in their own right? Is it how the film is, yet again, "darker than the previous ones"? The maturing themes as Harry accepts his final quests? The blossoming of childish romance and longer-lasting love in the story?
It's likely a mixture of all of these things, but when we visited the set back in February of 2008, there were two big things on the tips of everyone's tongues: that this was the second-to-last film and it would soon come time to pack up the massive lot at Leavesden and move HP into legacy territory, and that the still-unannounced, but very strongly hinted at splitting of the two films meant that the ending wasn't quite as near as everyone had originally thought.
So, caught between the ending and a new beginning, the actors and crew of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had a lot to say about the culmination of the last decade of filming and the room that having two full films to cover one book will give them for Deathly Hallows.
"There's a case to be made for finally fulfilling that wish, and finally giving fans a bigger, more enriched experience taht kind of covers all the lovely corners that Jo turns," said David Yates on a quick break from filming, the Great Hall set for the scene that takes place the moment before Ron's Quidditch debut. Rupert Grint, looking terrified, gripped his broom as he walked down the main aisle, well-wishers clapping him on the back and Slytherins jeering. Oddly, the entire set was eerie quiet for the take: the background chatter is added in later.
The warehouse that holds the sets is still the same bumble and jumble that it always is: snake head here, broken tiles from the Ministry there, a piece of the Whomping Willow sticking out from a board that looks like it was once the Shrieking Shack. The Great Hall has not been moved, nor has the Gryffindor Common Room and the Boys' Dormitory (the latter two are all one set, and though they are structurally exactly where they have been since Leaky started visiting the sets in 2004, their ornamentation has changed; as the characters in the film become older and more mature the comic books seem to be replaced with more clothing and newspapers). It seems at least half of the random items at Leavesden, however, were packed like armchair stuffing into the set for the Burrow; an updated and expanded version this year, it's hard to find a clear floor or counter in the entire space. Bonnie Wright calls it "higgledy piggledy."
Yet not everything is light and full of odd magic trinkets: the set for the cave is the centerpiece of this year's haul, rising out of the floor in a crystalline structure that brings Superman's Fortress of Solitude to mind. Huge and edged in green, the bottom hill was surrounded by a green screen that looked like it could be wrapped around most people's homes. The eeriest set was beyond a doubt Tom's sliver of a cell at the orphanage; all cement blocks and water stains, even undressed the room was like a young child's version of Azkaban.
Inside the small tent where we conducted interviews, the room was lined with reminders of the rising darkness - and although this is the most overused word associated with Harry Potter films ever, it does nothing but ring true. As the danger turns from comical and looming to real and close, it's hard not to stop and stare through the props display shelf at the cracked obsidian ring that once held a Horcrux, or the crystal vials that held memories and the secrets to Harry's eventual victory. Just like in movie five, movie six has no easy out point - no winning for the hero - no conclusion to be had, no Dumbledore visiting Harry in the hospital wing to explain the remaining mysteries and lead him down to a feast.
"[Harry] starts to forumulate plans," says Radcliffe. "Basically he becomes Dumbledore's foot soldier."
As the characters have had to mature, so has the acting, and as usual the cast is full of praise for one another and their director - and vice versa. Matt Lewis says that he's finally comfortable walking up to the director and making a suggestion or asking his opinion, while David Yates commented on the growth of the cast.
"Emma's become much more confident," he said. "Her acting seems to become...is becoming more effortless. You know? And Dan's been off and done Equus and some television things, television, film, and he's grown a lot more confident and he's matured a wee bit. And they're all getting a wee bit older, you know? And the material allows them to take a few more turns again. So they're getting better as they should be, as they get older. You know, so it's encouraging and enjoyable."
With the growth of the characters has come romance, and everyone had something to say about it.
"He's a bit more confident in this one," says Rupert, and not just for himself. "He's really sort of protective of Ginny in this one, because she also goes out with Dean Thomas as well. She gets really flirty with him and so, Ron doesn't really like that. He sort of disapproves a little bit." Meanwhile, Ron has his own girlfriend, Lavender Brown, who, played by Jessie Cave, was so enthusiastic in filming that a tooth was a casualty.
"I actually did go a bit too energetically into him, and I already have a chipped tooth so my mum wouldn't have been very happy about that," Cave said.
Cave, new to a set, was also a bit surprised by the filming process.
"There is a lot of maneuvering of cameras involved," she said. "What's quite difficult is you have to be quite disciplined about doing every take and not losing attention inbetween takes."
Meanwhile, Evanna Lynch, who on five was the films' resident newbie, has started to take the whole process in a bit more stride; she has given up on one thing, though.
"At first, I tried to reply to all [my fan mail] individually, because I used to write to some of the cast. And I'd actually get annoyed when they'd send me back just a general letter. Like, you've put all that effort into a letter. But you can't - you definitely can't do it. I've tried."
The cast member who had the biggest change of routine, however, was Tom Felton, as his character, Draco Malfoy, rises to the forefront in HBP. Felton had a lot to say about Draco's character, and how he is excited to be a bit of the anti-chosen-one.
"I think he discovers he has a few internal questions that hae difficulty being answered within him," mentioning that Lucius being in Azkaban for the duration affects his character's mentality quite a bit. "He wants to step up and be the big shot but equally he knows deep down that he's not half the man that Harry is, I'm sure."
And while Felton takes his anti-hero turn, Matthew Lewis, who plays Neville, is waiting patiently for his moment in the seventh film. "Neville is the hero in that particular storyline and it's just going to be - I've never experienced anything like that before. So it's going to be great. I can't wait."
The actors and crew had a LOT more to say on HBP, so please click the links below for the full transcripts and audio of our interviews! We will be adding more to this page in the coming weeks, including video!
Matthew Lewis Bonnie Wright