Those who have fallen helplessly under the magical spell that the “Harry Potter” franchise cast on the big screen in 2001 don’t have to anxiously await the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, much longer. The movie hits theaters on July 11, and ComingSoon.net got a behind-the-scenes look at the highly-anticipated film when Warner Bros. graciously invited us to hang out on the set last August in London.
The set visit lasted about 10 hours and the publicists from the film were very accommodating in showing us around the sprawling sound stages and letting us talk to the cast. Like the rest of the “Potter” films, “OOTP” was also shot at the historic Leavesden Studios, which is located about an hour outside of the city.
In this film, Harry Potter and his friends are starting to transition into adulthood and are dealing with some rather dark and serious issues. Not only does Harry have to stand trial for using magic outside of Hogwarts, his classmates as well as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Dolores Umbridge give him a hard time and Voldemort is back. Since most are skeptical of his return, it’s up to the teenager wizard to convince them otherwise.
While on set, we watched Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint shoot a crucial scene in the movie. The three best friends lead a group of students as they cross the bridge which goes to Hogwarts and Hermione convinces Harry to create and lead Dumbledore’s Army in preparation for Voldemort’s return.
Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright) questions: “What if Umbridge finds out?”
The second scene is a continuation of the previous bridge scene and was shot in the “flight shed” at Leavesden. The set is supposed to be the courtyard that leads into Hogwarts and is filled with fake white snow.
As the kids walk through to enter Hogwarts, Harry says: “Right. Over the next few days, we should each come up with a couple of possibilities of places we can practice.”
Before we watched the young cast magically transform into their characters, Vanessa Davies, who has been the publicist on all of the “Harry Potter” films, showed us around the set and as we strolled through the different sound stages and into the different rooms, Davies gave us some “Potter” trivia. So all of you hardcore Harry Potter fans get ready to test your skills.
You probably already know that most of the buildings you see in the movies have been around since the first film.
“[We] leave things up until we physically have to take them down. If we need to strike a set because we need space for a new set that’s one thing. But, if there’s no need to necessarily strike it then they tend to keep things up and wait until the next book comes out to see if we may need them,” Davies explained.
But, here’s something that maybe you didn’t. The ever so knowledgeable Davies went on to tell us as we walked into the Gryffindor Common Room that it was one of the original buildings and let us in on some secrets.
“These are photographs of the actual real paintings that would have been on the marble staircase. All of this is original art. You can’t hire paintings with wizards in them so we had a huge team of artists paint them. Again we have our own little jokes here and they obviously need subjects to sit for portraits, a lot of our own crew appear in portraits,” she laughed.
“There are two sets that are original to these films, that have been here since the beginning and this is one of them and The Great Hall is the other one obviously. It’s been here for six years,” Davies continued. “It was one of the first things that we built. Again the portraits are original pieces of art created for the film. The fireplace, as you can just see, behind it is obviously where you see Sirius when Harry is asking what is going on and he’s basically saying your father wouldn’t take this lying down kind of thing. He kind of suggests to him that he should do something. The furniture has been distressed with razor blades and all sorts of things. And then after six years and all sorts of kids, they have their own way of distressing furniture. The tapestry is based on a real tapestry called the Clooney tapestry which we believe is in a museum in New York now.”
Next up was Dumbledore’s office. “This set was built for the second film. Again all the paintings have been painted for the movie. You can see lots of sleeping wizards. All the artifacts, everything you see in the cabinets have been made by prop makers.”
Davies was so accommodating she let some of us sit in Dumbledore’s chair. I was one of the lucky ones and while I was at his desk, I skimmed through a book of magic spells. Too bad I don’t remember any of them.
Another tidbit about his office is that there is a high-tech telescope that you never see on camera, but the production designer thought that is something Dumbledore would have. It’s upstairs and it’s a shame the audience will never see it because it’s the coolest telescope I’ve ever seen.
After Dumbledore’s office was The Great Hall.
“This is towards the end of the film where Umbridge has caught the children. She’s caught Dumbledore’s Army and this is the detention scene that the kids have at the end of the story. The floor is real York stone. Normally everything you see on a film set is plaster. But, the sensible thing being you have 300 kids coming in and out of here over several years. Please look at the point system. It’s just beautiful. That’s a fully operational egg timing point system. That will turn over. As you know from the hall, all the houses are represented by the outside? All the flambos work and they really have flames in them. The fire really works,” Davies told us.
And here’s another item that’s on the set, but something you’ll probably never see.
“The point system has always been in the corner of The Great Hall, but you’ve never noticed it on camera. It’s never been referred to. When we first built this, again six years ago, these are all glass beads,” Davies said. “You know normally they’re done from embroidery. Each one was full. Apparently we created a national shortage of glass beads in the UK because we had them all. So if you were trying to do anything embroidery during the first film, that was our fault.”
We visited The Trial Chamber next and Davies explained how Professor Umbridge is introduced in the movie.
“At the beginning of the film he uses magic outside of the school. He gets brought here to stand trial. All of the art work is done by scenic artists. The gold is real gold leaf paint. All of the art work is based on wizardly mythology. This is a crucial scene. It’s the first time that we meet Umbridge. She gets pinker and pinker when she gets mad. She’s actually in her black robe, but there’s a little bit of pink poking out. It’s the first time we see her in a scene and how she’s trying to discredit Dumbledore and Harry. Real flames come out of the alcoves.”
The Room of Requirement is where Harry has his first kiss and Davies let us in on what takes place in this room.
“As you all know, it’s whatever they wanted it to be. Now I know in the book, it isn’t how you’d imagine it. I believe it’s with lots of cushions and much more plush. This is where they’re leaning to fight. It’s where they’re learning to go to war. It’s just functional. That’s what they need it for. It’s not for any kinds of frills or anything. It’s just here to be functional for what they need. The Death Eaters that they practice on. You saw them in the marquee, that’s going to be here. Then we’ll have one wheel at the bottom. That’s a special effect. Then the ceiling is a floating ceiling. It’s part of the magic of Hogwarts. As you know pillows hold up the roof. That’s part of the magic,” Davies said.
“This room is also where Harry and Cho have their first kiss under the mistletoe. It is a kiss. It’s a proper full on kiss. There were a lot of takes. They were both nervous at the very beginning, but they got into it shall we say and enjoyed it. They did really really well. Obviously they’ve got the whole crew in here. Dan was a real gentleman as well. He really took Katie under his wing because I know that she was nervous. They were both very professional and very good,” she added.
The next room we saw was Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place.
“It’s split into various sections. On the table in the kitchen the plates have the Black Family crest. They could do with a good wash,” Davies laughed. “This is where Harry finds out all about the Order of the Phoenix and finds out that Sirius and Snape are all part of the order.”
“The Weasleys have moved into the house temporarily. This place is supposed to look like it’s really unloved. It’s a very sinister house full of bad, bad vibes. Sirius has now given it over to the order to use as headquarters,” she continued.
While I was on the Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place set, I noticed the tapestry occupied three walls with faces burned out. There was a family tree for Sirius Black’s family, but it also included the names “Potter” and “Malfoy”.
Davies explained more about the significance of the tapestries.
“Sirius is being really reflective about his own life and pointing to his own burned out image and saying, ‘my mother did that. I was 16-years-old when I ran away from home. She did that. It shows you what kind of woman she was.’ You’re seeing a real bonding moment where Harry says, ‘it is always going to be like this’ and Sirius says, ‘Don’t worry once this is all over, we’ll be a family’ which is ironic because of what happens to him.”
Here are a few other interesting facts Davies told us: [There is] “A very touching scene, Matt Lewis who plays Neville, where Neville and Harry get together and Harry realizes Neville has lost his parents too. In a way Harry is not the only orphan. There is a real bond developed between Neville and Harry, Harry is having vivid dreams about Sirius Black being attacked and killed by Voldemort. He’s desperate to get to the Ministry. Dumbledore’s Army has been disbanded now, Umbridge has gone power mad, The Weasleys do leave in this film, to go open their magic shop and they leave in a hail of fireworks. Big special effects scene there. It’s a wonderful moment with a lot of humor in it, Harry and Hermione rush to the Ministry to try and rescue Sirius. The Hall of Prophecies, we did a test to see if we could build a set but as they go crashing through during the big fight, the reset time would take weeks. You’d do one take and then spend weeks reshooting it. This is the first time ever we’ve had a purely visual effects set.”
After Davies showed us around the sets, we talked to cast members Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Matthew Lewis, producer David Barron and production designer Stuart Craig.