Set Report: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Part IV: Flights and French Men
By Melissa Anelli
The Leaky Cauldron Staff
The Fat Lady is on the move, in more ways than one. In the film, as in the book, she scarpers around the castle seeking refuge from Sirius Black. What's new in the movie is where she does it: her portrait, set in its own hallway in the first movie, has been moved to the main hallway, where the staircases change. She's there now, we were told, because it was a more interesting shot with all of the other portraits reacting to the attempted break-in.
(There has been a screencap online of the trio on a staircase, looking shocked and endangered - this is most likely the scene in which the Fat Lady's slashing and the Fat Lady herself, in another portrait, are discovered.)
The only thing we saw of her, though, was her tattered portrait; it simply laid against a wall in one of the corridors, the canvas curled over itself, large gashes tearing all the way through the wood.
Her frame was missing from that many-portraited hall. As it's meant to go into infinity, the hall has no top; several staircases, set on moving machinery, criss-crossed over a set that looked to be about 20-30 feet high.
If you're a fan and you look closely at these portraits, you'll get some severe deja-vu. The artist - who made hundreds of these portraits in real and miniature size - took photographs of different crew, and used them for models. David Heyman graces one frame; Stuart Craig, production designer, graces another. You'd have to know what they looked like to find them, as they're recostumed in period garb. Almost all the pictures along those walls have a living counterpart on the Harry Potter set.
The other significant location change in Prisoner of Azkaban is the set that used to be Dumbledore's office. The three-level, rotund area was bare when we saw it, but in this film it is used as an Astronomy room, where Lupin teaches Harry to harness his Patronus.
The trinkets and bobs usually in that room, and large, glittering telescope you see on the Chamber of Secrets DVD, were made, we were told, with the intention of keeping them around for all seven movies. Since no one's lying when they say that only J.K. Rowling truly knows what will happen in the remaining books, no sets are discarded. They're shuffled, redecorated and repackaged, but everything's hanging around in storage somewhere.
One of the sets that's pretty much guaranteed use in each film is the boys' dormitory. A girls' dormitory has not been built yet - there's not much need, as we learned in Order of the Phoenix.
The Gryffindor common room, however, does actually lead up to the boys' dorm. While the common room was undressed the day we were there - it was only plain wood and stone, and a working fireplace, though that didn't stop me from standing in the middle of the room with my eyes closed to envision it all - the small staircase curls right around and leads to the dorm, which is tight and inconvenient for filming, but another nod to the crew's attempt to make things realistic.
If you've ever felt bad for Neville, here's another short-straw he's drawn: he only has half a bed. The dorm is quite small, obviously only meant for filming one section at a time. If I wrote the order down correctly, immediately on the right of the door is Harry's bed, followed by Ron's, then Neville's (half of it anyway; it goes right into the wall), Dean's and Seamus'. I found it impressive that those associated with the movie even knew the order, or that the beds are actually assigned outside of Harry's and Ron's.
The small four-posters have soft, red, velvety curtains - when you look closely you can see thin gold lions and a constellation pattern sewn into the fabric.
This is another room in which the attention to detail astounds; the kids' trunks sit by their beds, Ron's tattered and grey with "R.W." stamped on its side. Opening the trunk revaled a false top, so that the trunk didn't have to be completely full to look so; it also revealed an adorable drawing of Scabbers, which we assumed was done by Rupert Grint.
And the candy - everywhere. All over Ron's bed; wrappers opened, wrappers intact, Chocolate Frog Cards (actually printed with Dumbledore's bio) scattered everywhere, pumpkin juice bottles (now sort of moldy) with actual plastic pumpkins on their tops, empty Fizzing Whizbee packages and Butterbeer wrappers strewn around. Some even made its way into the aforementioned trunk.
But the real piece de resistance in the boys' dorm, was resting innocuously on Ron's bed, and took a fan to find.
"Martin Miggs!" I yelled.
The designers went so far as to create the "Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle" comic who is represented as a beany French man - beret, black-and-white-striped shirt and all. "Mad" is the right adjective; the comic prop doesn't have a storyline, but does feature Martin shouting unintelligible things, dancing around like, well, mad, and generally having himself a little French heart attack.
Sort of like me. (Minus the French.)